Sunday, November 4, 2012

Build a Cast of Supporting Characters in Your Next Romance

Hi everyone!
This month, I'll be sharing a bit of everything on the blog - writing tips and advice, my newsletter, bits about my books, and whatever else pops into my head. Today, I'm offernig advice on how to create great supporting characters!
Supporting (or secondary) characters are sometimes overlooked by writers and can be overshadowed by “larger” (or more interesting) main characters. But, if developed the right way, they enhance a story and make the hero and/or heroine shine.

Almost every main character needs a secondary character to “play” off of, whether it’s a meddling nosy neighbor (remember Mrs. Kravitz from Bewitched?), a trusty sidekick (Batman’s Robin), or a friend (Hermione from Harry Potter). Supporting characters help move a story along by giving out information, getting themselves or other characters into (or out of) sticky situations, showing up at the worst (or best) moment, or just by being a sounding board.


Another advantage to using supporting characters in a story is that you can have them misbehave, be socially inappropriate, and shake up the story in ways that your well-behaved main characters can’t. For example, in my book, Dalton’s Temptation, Prince Allan was introduced as a hedonistic, selfish secondary character. He caused all sorts of trouble, and yet he served an important role in the story.


Like any character, secondary characters need to have a purpose for being in the story. Sometimes they are introduced to move a story along or to provide comic relief, but they have to do something. Dave in Trust with Hearts acted as a sounding board for Sherrie and Curtis, offering each of them advice they wouldn’t listen to.


If you’re working on a story now, take some time out and identify the supporting characters. You should be able to answer these questions for each secondary character: What are their roles in the story? Are they important to the plot? If you removed them, would the story still make sense? If they’re not there for a reason, either give them one, or see if your story works just as well without them.    


How developed are your supporting characters? They need to be as “real” as any other character, but on a smaller scale. Each one should have a backstory, a history with the main character(s), a physical description, and a personality. (Preferably one that stands out or contrasts the protagonist.) Don’t just “drop” a character into a story and call him the “quirky” neighbor—flesh him out and let him come alive. Make sure the reader knows why he’s important to the story, even if he just has a small role.


One note of caution: watch out for secondary characters who try to take over the story. Sometimes they become “too big” to remain supporting players, and they could detract from the main characters in your story. If this happens, scale them back a little. If you’ve created a fantastic secondary character who absolutely demands time on the page, save up some of his adventures and let him run free in his own story. (When I was writing Dalton’s Temptation, I knew that Prince Allan needed his own book. Now he has one, The Pauper Prince.)


Secondary characters are a great way to enhance your writing, create unusual personalities, and, if, done right, they can jump off the page and remain with readers long after they’ve finished your story!


Happy Reading!
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