How should one go about building secondary/supporting characters? Is it too distracting if they have their own story lines? Can an MC’s best friend be caught in a love triangle even if that isn’t the focus of the novel?
Of course, the effect doesn’t have to be this big or obvious. The secondary character’s story line might just affect the MC emotionally or even teach her a lesson. But it shouldn’t just hang in the story unrelated to anything else.
I hate it in books when the secondary characters exist just to show that the MC is ‘normal’, or has other relationships in their life. If your secondary character isn’t important to the plot, and doesn’t undergo some sort of growth or transformation, what’s the point of having them around?
For really significant secondary characters, you need to flesh them out like you would a main character. They need motivations, likes, dislikes, and desires. Then there’s the ‘gun on the table’ principal: I love it in stories when information is relayed about secondary characters in the beginning, then we don’t see them in the middle, and at the end that information comes back and is significant to the main plot. I’ve been watching the SAW series lately, and if you’ve seen even a few of the movies you’ll know what I’m talking about. Characters you think unimportant are actually incredibly significant to the main plot line, even if they aren’t MCs.
Harry Potter is another great example of non-MCs significantly influencing the story, but I’m sure I don’t have to give you any specific examples of that 🙂
How do you go about developing your Secondary Characters?