This week the Four Foxes and the Hound are discussing their secondary characters….that leaves me a little sort this time.
Most of my published work has been non-fiction and poetry. My only real award came for song lyrics. However, I have a few of works done and a number are perking, so I do have a few things to say.
One of my works is a short story where you only hear about secondary characters. In another, my biggest finished piece of fiction, is a play that I am turning into readable form and you also never ‘see’ any secondary characters. It could be done as a three-person play or short film.
In my others, including my children’s stories, you may not see the secondary characters much, but I see them in my mind and try to give them all the attention that they are due. In one children’s story, they added so much more than I anticipated, they enlarged the story. Sometimes, secondary characters are simply in and out of the story, but their presence in necessary to the story, often to add something to convey it along.
My biggest unfinished undertaking is a romance novel that I have really neglected. It probably has too many secondary characters, but I like them. I have them fully developed in my head I and try to let the reader understand as much about them as I can, while keeping the description of them down to a minimum. Backstories sometimes come out a bit, but in some cases more information is opened up as the story unfolds. And one unseen character plays an important role in that story, too.
I know there will be a lot of editing at the end. In fact, one set of four characters refused to co-operate to let me make their story into a subplot. Perhaps their story will be part of another work, but I don’t know. Another set of characters took a great deal more of time than I anticipated and one set actually invited themselves to lunch with my main characters and took off with the husband for an afternoon of sigh-seeing. Little did I know that they were giving me a perfect opening to one of the situations that I needed for my story to work.
I think the number of secondary characters depend on the story and their placement within the work; there is no set answer as to how many are too many and/or if they are needed at all. Making them as human as possible and fleshing them out with as few words as you can will certainly enhance a story. And sometimes, secondary characters run off with the work.
If you write, do you have ‘off-stage’ characters in your stories? Do your characters cooperate all the time with your plans for them?