Making Secondary Characters Significant

Making Secondary Characters Significant

It’s essential, too, that secondary characters do something significant. For instance, what meaningful thing might a minor character do or say to impact the outcome of the story? Find several places for this to occur in your manuscript—and make sure one of those places is early on. Characters that are inactive in the opening scenes tend to remain so. In general it’s far more effective to have fewer characters do more.

Another way to better utilize secondary characters is to be sure they influence your protagonist in a meaningful way. Ask: How can this secondary character actually change your protagonist?

You can also use secondary characters as connecting threads among the questions, ideas and issues presented to readers. Involve them in crisis and change. Explore who these characters are outside of their relationships to the protagonist and in relation to the message you want readers to take away from the book. Make room for that, and you’re on your way to telling a story that’s working 100 percent.

Secondary characters are most memorable when they have unusual motivators, harbor hidden agendas, or themselves struggle with multiple conflicts. Give them that scope, and they’ll make multiple contributions to the story, too.

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