Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Secondary Character Appreciation...Few Weeks (3/3)

Good Wednesday,

Thanks for sticking with me the last few Wednesdays. I put a lot of work into this teaching presentation, and I hope it’s been helpful.

Thankyou Smiley

And now for a few more things.

Secondary Characters from Multiple POVs

This is something that’s come up quite a bit in my thesis. I have three POVs (heroine, hero, villain), and each comes into contact with many of my secondary characters. It’s been a task making my secondary characters different in each POV characters’ eyes, but here are some handy tricks I discovered.

-Word choice - At first glance, this seems obvious. If a character likes someone, they will refer to that person with positive words. If they dislike someone, they will use negative words. This is true, but let’s take this a step farther into the land of uncertainty. What happens if you have two characters who both dislike the same person but in slightly different ways. Here is where word choice plays a bigger role. “Irritates” carries a slightly different meaning than “aggravates,” for example.

-Character descriptions - People see people differently. Let’s take a typical pretty blonde girl as our secondary character. The guy who likes her might describe her hair as “glowing like sunlight” or “sparkling like gold” or, hopefully, some less cliché comparison. By contrast, a girl who doesn’t like our blonde secondary character might describe her hair as “of course, perfect” or “heaven-forbid-a-strand-out-of-place style.” Big difference there.

-Name giving - If it is natural and fits the story, have each POV character call a given secondary character something different. Make sure the given name fits the POV character, too. Example: In my thesis, all three of my POV characters interact with and talk about my heroine’s father—who is Captain of the Royal Guard. My heroine thinks of him as “father” and will refer to him as either “father” or “sir,” depending on the situation. My hero thinks of the man as “captain” or “Captain Rothwell” and will refer to him as either. My villain is a special case (and I don’t just mean that in terms of what he calls people). He has a love/hate relationship with my Guard Captain. He needs the man, but he hates that he needs the man. My villain will think of the man as, well, “the man” (sometimes), “the captain,” or “Rothwell,” (the last-name treatment). By contrast, villain almost always addresses him as “Captain” with the respect implied. Confusing, maybe, but it helps remind me (and hopefully the reader) that Captain Rothwell, though a secondary character, is a person of many facets.

Try this on your own.

Describe a girl’s father from the perspective of both the girl and the girl’s love interest. Use word choice, character descriptions, and name-giving to differentiate between the two POVs. Again, feel free to leave your response in the comments.

Want more?


I love your enthusiasm.

Check out these links for some more about secondary characters and/or well-rounded characters in general.

-Ten Secrets to Creating Unforgettable Supporting Characters
This article from IO9 gives some great additional information about making secondary characters really come alive.

-Suzette Saxton Character Interview – querytracker
This is meant for main characters, but it can be used for secondary characters as well. If you know all the answers to these questions, you can pick and choose what goes into the story. Character creation is much like world building. There is more to the characters than may make it into the book.

-The Crimson League – blog post
And finally, here are some additional, interesting tips.

Now go forth and create many great secondary characters!

Have questions, concerns, or deep thoughts? Drop a comment. I’d also love to hear other techniques you’ve discovered for making characters feel real.

Thanks for reading.

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