Friday, May 24, 2013

Building Secondary Characters

A huge thing I'm struggling with in my writing is building my secondary characters out. I'm all about my hero and heroine, and I'm afraid that everyone else in the book will come out looking like the two-dimensional people that populate the scenery in video games. Not notable, no personality and doing the same things over and over again. And a lot of character development articles focus on the main characters.

Right now, I'm working on Julian. He's a good friend of Lucky, my main female character and is a motivating force in my story, Lucky in Love.

Want to meet Julian? Here's an excerpt.

Image Credit: The Sartorialist
“Oh, don’t worry about me, chickie,” Julian assured me as he rose to his feet. “I’m saving room for dinner. They’re serving Salisbury steak tonight back in heaven’s waiting room.” He patted his belly and wiggled his shaggy eyebrows.

“I really wish you wouldn't call it that, Julian,” I chided, shaking my head. “You’re only 72. God’s going to be waiting on you for a long time yet.”

The only reason Julian wasn't still living on his own was that his rotten excuse for a son had shuffled him off to a nursing home so that he and his greedy witch of a wife could sell his house for some extra cash. Julian had just lost his wife, Dot, to ovarian cancer and was deep in grief and battling severe depression, so his son had him declared incompetent.

Julian didn't fight the ruling. At first it was because he was too deep in mourning to care, but later, I think he was having too much fun breaking the all the rules of the nursing home.

He liked "sticking it to the Man" by sneaking out whenever he felt like it and smuggling in pints of Grey Goose vodka to make martinis with in one of the janitorial closets. Mostly, I think the employees there just turned a blind eye to his antics because he was charming with the staff, the little old ladies all adored him, and he made a damned fine martini.

Julian's pretty easy, since he's a likable guy and plays a big part in the action, but what about those characters like the gas station attendant and that lady who would have been billed in the movie credits as "Snobby Restaurant Diner?" They don't need to be superstars but they shouldn't be cookie cutter characters either.

I found a few sources on secondary character building:

So what about you? Are your secondary characters giving you fits? Are you more of a broad stroke, stereotype writer or a nitpicky everyone's-got-a-backstory writer, or do you fall somewhere in between?

Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend and happy writing!


  1. Secondary characters can be a lot of fun. Sometimes, though, they outshine the hero and/or heroine. I have to rein in mine. LOL

    Good post, Kristen.

  2. That just means you're great at character development - not a bad problem to have! Thank you for commenting, Diane! :)