So, no matter what you’re writing, you probably have some characters that aren’t as important as the MC(s), but they’re just kinda there. The awesome thing about these seemingly unimportant characters? They can become important. Remember, you’re the author. You can more or less make them do what you want. However, it does sometimes feel like the story has taken on a life of its own. 🙂
There are numerous uses for a secondary character. One of the best, they’re expendable. If you need a character to get killed off, but you can’t bear to do it to a main character, consider fashioning a secondary one for that purpose alone. *wicked chuckle* Make them likable, too. *wicked chuckle*
Anyway, another great use for your secondary characters is how they can subtly influence the plot to steer it in a desired direction. For instance, I once wrote a draft in which an SC caused the main character to end up in this particular situation, which was the climax. She did this unintentionally – it was her presence and what that brought about in the story.
You can also have one or two SC(s) create a subplot. However, be aware that subplots can be used to “kill some time” and not to move the story along. You pretty much want everything – or close to everything, at least – to move your story along.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD A SECONDARY CHARACTER APPEAR ON SCREEN . . . OR PAPER?
It depends on their level of importance. You may have them start out in the first draft as a secondary character and end up by the last draft as an MC. It happens. 🙂 But how often a strictly SC will appear depends totally on the way you’re using them in the story. Typically, these characters in my stories have very important roles, but remain expendable.
DO I RUN THE RISK OF DISTRACTING FROM THE STORY WITH A SECONDARY CHARACTER?
That’s always possible, but if writing a first draft, don’t worry about it. You can edit later. Just remember if you’re bringing in an SC, it is probably to build on or move forward the story.
And now, LET’S CHAT. How do you use secondary characters in your story? Have I left something out? What is your opinion on subplots? Pour yourself some apple cider – or coffee, if you prefer – and I’ll bring dessert. Healthy dessert, mind you. 🙂 Anybody up for carrot cake?