Xlibris Writing Tips| 2 Tips for Writing Secondary Characters

The secondary characters. For every Robin Hood there is a Little John. For every Spiderman an Aunt May. Distinct from the Main Character due to differing focus and importance within a story, the secondary character is nonetheless vital to a story, still having a role to play. But it can be easy to treat them otherwise. In this entry of Writing Tips, Xlibris Publishing will share 2 Tips for Writing Secondary Characters.



Firstly, Secondary does not mean Minor. A scene from the popular sci-fi show Doctor Who, has the titular Doctor stating, “I have never met anyone who wasn’t important.” So long as a character has a role to play, performs an act, or imparts knowledge that progresses the story, then they are far from minor or inconsequential. Much as there are no small roles in plays there are no small characters in stories.



Xlibris Writing Tips| 2 Tips for Writing Secondary Characters
Little John is Robin Hood’s reliable friend and ally. It is almost impossible to have Robin Hood without Little John.

There are various roles Secondary Characters can play. They can provide brief alternative perspectives of main characters or situations, sometimes positively and sometimes negatively.  Other roles include being a source of vital information, an ally, or even an obstacle. Secondary characters can have a role just by interacting the main characters, as how a main character treats specific secondary characters can be an indication of who they are and the kind of person they are.



However, it can be far too easy to write Secondary Characters as plot devices with name-tags, all the while forgetting about the character.



Secondly, write your secondary characters as living their own lives. When the main characters or the plot does interact with a secondary character, the secondary character is in the middle of going about their own life. You do not have to write or exposit the whole life stories of your secondary characters, but you can share bits and pieces as feels suited for the circumstances. Treat your secondary characters as characters fully within their own right, just not the characters who are the focus of the spotlight. You never know, you might end up making a secondary character into the hero of their own story in the future.




A great example of a secondary character is Neville Longbottom of Harry Potter fame. While not the main character, Neville is introduced in book one and takes on increasing prominence and importance as the series goes on. Initially Neville Longbottom highlights the positive traits of the main characters (the heroes) as well as the negative traits of others (the bullies), all the while having traits that override his fears and seek to obstruct the main characters (albeit briefly). Over seven books, readers become almost as acquainted and fond of Neville Longbottom (more in some cases) as they are of the three main characters. While still a secondary character by the end of the series, Neville’s character arc culminates in him playing a vital part in destroying the villain Voldemort once and for all.



Xlibris Publishing trusts this helps

Please make sure to check out the Xlibris Publishing site for more advice and blogs, and be sure to follow us on Xlibris Publishing Facebook and Xlibris Publishing Twitter. Get your free publishing guide here.