Found this on Alicia Rasely’s site when I was looking for a link for a longer entry on craft I’ll be posting later. I find her stuff really helpful and like everything she talks about on this page, except I’m not sure if I agree with this:
from Top Ten Plotting Problems:
6. Tumors and Parasites– The cast of thousands: Secondary characters are distinguished from major characters– the protagonist(s) and the antagonist usually– by their lack of a story journey. That is, they exist to make things happen in the plot, but their own conflicts and issues shouldn’t be part of the story. (If they’re that interesting, let them star in the sequel.) Every person with a story journey (described progress towards a significant change in their life) dilutes the impact of the major characters’ journey. In some books (family sagas, for example), this can work. But in most protagonist-centered popular fiction, tracking the secondary characters’ lives and loves is going to waste time and confuse the reader. Watch out for long passages in a secondary character’s viewpoint which dwell on his problems and not on the protagonist. And keep count of how many subplots you’ve got– make sure each one supports the main plot in some way.
I know she says cast of thousands, but I get the feeling she means that even delving into one or two secondary psyches is a problem. But I think secondary characters in a Single Title can have their own conflict that supports/mirrors the main romatic/action plot. I don’t like secondary characters who are just there taking up space and announcing their part in the next book, who do the minimal work to support the main characters and that’s it. I like it when the secondary characters do enough to make me want to read more about them – I like to be left thinking – they’re so interesting I WANT them to have their own book. I’m thinking Suzanne Brockmann as a prime example here, although I have heard complaints from readers who feel her secondary characters are sometimes more interesting than the main characters. And her secondary characters do get lots of airtime.
Thoughts, please, as I wander into secondary characters in my own WIP who definitely have their own internal conflict and problems, although their portion of the book is considerably smaller than the main plot. Do you mind readng about secondary characters who have their own journey? Do you like writing secondary characters who have their own arc?
Did this make sense? It’s early. *heads for coffee pot*