Where would Spongebob be without Patrick?

Secondary characters add a touch to your story, be it comedy, raw emotion, conflict, or whatever else.  Take TV shows, for example.  Sometimes the characters we enjoy most aren't even the main one, yet their personality shines through almost more than the main character's does.  

Being as my three girls watch a lot of Nick, I've clocked in many hours of listening time on the old tube.  I say listening instead of watching because, for the most part, the shows they watch are background noise while I'm working, cleaning, ect.  

But there's one particular character on the show iCarly that will pull me in front of the TV almost every time.  He's not one of the main characters, who are two girls, but actually the Carly character's older brother,  Spencer.  (If you aren't a parent like me who is "lucky" enough have this show practically playing 24-7 in your home or on your computer, feel free to view the link in order to get an idea of the Spencer character's personality, who is played by Jerry Trainor.) 

Jerry Trainor makes the show, in my opinion.  Those two girls' lives would be boring without him.

Some books have characters you don't pay much attention to - your sole interest is invested in what happens to the MC, and that's about it.  Maybe you skim through that part of the book, in order to get back to whatever got you sucked in to begin with, or maybe you even find them a distraction.  

Others, however, are unforgettable.  They may make you laugh, shake your head and wonder why they do the things they do, or even think they're just plain weird.  (A lot of times the MC wouldn't be who they are without them.)  And they stay with you, long after you've stopped reading, sometimes longer than the actual story replays from memory.

Not too long ago I made myself laugh out lout at something an MC's father had said.  He wasn't in the book a whole lot, but it was enough to where even quite a while after reading it, the line came back to me again.  

I would love to be able to write like that.  I try to write like that.  

Do any of you have a favorite secondary character in a book?  And if so, who are they in relation to the MC, and why did you like them?


Leigh Hutchens Burch said...

Cute blog! I'm just stopping by because I saw you were following me on Twitter.

I'm a huge fan of THE GIRL WHO STOPPED SWIMMING, and one of my favorite secondary characters ever is from that book -- she is the free spirited sister of the mc.

Cassandra Frear said...

For me, enjoying a story is ALL about the characters. Period. So yes, it matters very much to me that I can believe each person is real. None of us live in isolation, after all, but in a world filled with others who have agendas, dreams, disappointments, and secrets.

Lila Swann said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lila Swann said...

What a great topic...

For my book, and for many of the books I've been reading lately, they're written mostly in 1st person. In this situation, the "side" characters become even more important. Most of our characters have no reason to sit and describe themselves or their backstory (unless it's an exposition info-dump), so BECAUSE of that we get to learn more about the side characters, from their appearances all the way down to the funny faces they make. Through the first person experience, it makes it impossible to know whether my MC smiles crookedly or straight, for instance, because she can't really see herself smile when she's doing it.

My favorite side characters, as vain as this is to say, are definitely my own. I'm sure it's because I like them as characters already, but then when it's filtered through my MC's perspective, she likes them too, so I end up with a double-dose of the side character adoration. Oftentimes, it's those two that motivate me to write a scene, even moreso than my MC. (One of them is a romantic interest, and the other is the best friend of the MC.)

PS - sorry for the double post...I typo'ed too often to simply leave it.

Anita said...

I just finished reading "The Help." I loved the "trailer park" Celia Foote! The way she naively dressed somewhat slutty, and tried to fit in with all the stuffy sorority girls, made her character stand out and gave the book another soap opera edge in addition to it's seriousness on the subject of civil rights.

Robyn Bavati said...

I agree that secondary characters are crucial. Whereas the main character is generally the one the reader identifies with, secondary characters are often outrageous and bring life to the novel. In Harry Potter, for instance, they're much more interesting and entertaining than Harry himself. I'd never write a book without a great secondary character. And I agree with Lila - they shed light on the main character in wonderful ways. Jessica, thanks for following my brand new blog!!!