Secondary Characters Get A Second Glance

Would the movie Tombstone have been the same without Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday? Wouldn’t J. R. Ward’s BDB series lose something if you eliminated Fritz or even Boo?

Every hero and heroine needs a supporting cast, and sometimes the secondary characters can be the best. They don’t even have to be human.

Before he was Monk, Tony Shalhoub made a successful career out of being a character actor. Remember the cab driver in Quick Change? Jeebs in Men in Black? How about Fred in Galaxy Quest? Those movies wouldn’t have been the same without him. Stanley Tucci is another great character actor. He was Muerte in Undercover Blues, the assassin in The Pelican Brief, Dave in America’s Sweethearts, Julia Child’s husband in Julie & Julia, and Arthur Herk in Big Trouble, to name just a few.

Secondary characters are no less important in novels. The cat, Galahad, helps save Eve’s life in J. D. Robb’s In Death series, while Mira and Feeney play parental/mentor roles. Summerset certainly adds another dimension to the books. Nix plays a huge part in Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark series, and Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Acheron has Simi and her voracious appetite to deal with.

Taking a look at my own books, I have lots of secondary characters. In Switching Positions, Radek has Aster to talk to, though he doesn’t always understand the Pandoran man. In Mating Season, Koll not only has Greyfell, his sled hound, for company when he’s alone in the frozen landscape of planet Jensen, he also has his buddy Gilby, who always speaks his mind. Both the hound and the man back him up and help him fight his enemies so Koll can keep Shila safe.

The hero and heroine don’t live in a vacuum. They need secondary characters to bring them to life, to add depth and dimension to the stories. And sometimes, when a secondary character is really interesting, he or she gets to play the lead in a sequel.

Who are your favorite secondary characters? What do you like about them?

2 responses to “Secondary Characters Get A Second Glance

  1. I’m reading George R. R, Martin and I swear there are no main characters. There are at least a dozen point of view voices so far. I like the variety, I’m constantly being surprised. Yet I miss the strong connection to a single protagonist. One of those, there’s no wrong way to go, questions. 🙂 BTW Koll was definitely my favorite in Mating Season.

    • Now see, that’s really interesting that there isn’t a single main character who really stands out. Sort of like a band without a lead singer.

      Thanks, Evanne. I don’t like to play favorites among my imaginary children, but Koll was extra special to me.

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