Friday, July 07, 2006

Lesson 10: Creating Secondary Characters

TGIF...Thank God It's Friday! Although I don't have much to complain about work-wise. I haven't worked at my job since the flood last Wednesday. They say it may be Monday or Tuesday before the electric and phone are back on...but I like Friday night TV on the SciFi channel! LOL!

Let's get back to our regularly scheduled programming. Okay...Today we continue with Donald Maass' Writing a Breakout Novel.

In case your just joining us...What I am attempting to do here is present truncated versions of each of the lessons in the workbook. Today's lesson is in Section One: Creating Secondary Characters.

Novels are full of as many people as the world. but how believable are the secondary characters who fill novels out. Many are here today and gone tomorrow, and then they act in only one way.

Secondary characters don't have to act like that! They can be as strong as primary characters. when that happens it's because the author has deliberately made them multidimentional, conflicted, or surprising. And that's tough to do in limited space, but it can be done.

How much attention have you given to your secondary characters? Have you taken the time to give them extra dimentions, inner conflict, and larger than life qualities? If not, why not give it a try?

Step 1: Pick a secondary character who aids your protagonist.

Step 2:Create an extra dimention: Write down the character's defining quality. Write down the opposite of that. Now create a paragraph in which this character demonstrates the opposite quality that you have identified.

Step 3: Create an inner conflict. Write down what this character wants most. Write down the opposite of that. How can this character want both things at the same time? How can they be mutually exclusive?

Step 4: Create larger-than-life qualities. Write down the things that this character would never say, do, or think. find places where this character can and must say, do and think those things!

Note: Secondary characters can be the most vibrant and active in a manuscript. They can also be lifeless and cardboard, mere props for the hero...that's a shame!

Follow-up: follow the steps above for a different minor character who supports your protagonist.

Conclusion: You may wonder if the secondary character will get too strong for the story. Don't worry. If your secondaries occupy less page time and do not enact the novel's most significant events, they will add luster to the novel without blinding your readers to your stories true hero.

Here are a few things to think about that you probably never thought about before;

Can you cry under water?

How important does a person have to be before they are considered assassinated instead of just murdered?

Why do you have to "put your two cents in".. . but it' s only a "penny for your thoughts"? Where's that extra penny going to?

Once you're in heaven, do you get stuck wearing the clothes you were buried in for eternity?

Why does a round pizza come in a square box?

What disease did cured ham actually have?

How is it that we put man on the moon before we figured out it would be a good idea to put wheels on luggage?

Why is it that people say they "slept like a baby" when babies wake up like every two hours?

If a deaf person has to go to court, is it still called a hearing?

Why are you IN a movie, but you're ON TV?

Why do people pay to go up tall buildings and then put money in Binoculars to look at things on the ground?

Why do doctors leave the room while you change? They're going to see you naked anyway.

Why is "bra" singular and "panties" plural?

Why do toasters always have a setting that burns the toast to a horrible crisp, which no decent human being would eat?

If Jimmy cracks corn and no one cares, why is there a stupid song about him?

Can a hearse carrying a corpse drive in the carpool lane?

If the professor on Gilligan's Island can make a radio out of a coconut, why can't he fix a hole in a boat?

Why does Goofy stand erect while Pluto remains on all fours? They're both dogs!

If Wyle E. Coyote had enough money to buy all that ACME crap, why didn't he just buy dinner?

If corn oil is made from corn, and vegetable oil is made from vegetables, what is baby oil made from?

If electricity comes from electrons, does morality come from morons?

Do the Alphabet song and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star have the same tune?

Why did you just try singing the two songs above?

Why do they call it an asteroid when it's outside the hemisphere, but call it a hemorrhoid when it's in your butt?

Did you ever notice that when you blow in a dog's face, he gets mad at you, but when you take him for a car ride; he sticks his head out the window?


  1. Soul Reflections said...
    bonnie, bonnie, have too much time on your hands. Get back to work!
    Bernita said...
    Anonymous said...
    Denise McDonald said...
    I love secondary characters - a lot of times you can add so much floavcor to your story w/ them when your H/H have very specific agendas and goals and whatnot your secondary can say what they want to...
    David Meigs said...
    I love stories with multiple, personality rich characters. But, a complex secondary character also adds depth to the protag. The same can be said for secondary antagonists. It makes for a fun read.
    Georgiana Daniels said...
    That's too funny! But the baby oil, I don't know....
    Elizabeth Krecker said...
    No wonder I'm broke, I've been putting my two cents in all these years and getting just a penny in return!!
    M. C. Pearson said...
    Did you ever see the movie, Failure to Launch? I couldn't stand the main characters but LOVED the two secondary characters. I wished it were about them instead! I only kept watching because of the secondary 'love' story.
    M. C. Pearson said...
    Okay, so I sang the songs. Sheesh!

    Love the astroid vs. hemeroid! LOL
    Sandra Ruttan said...
    "Why do you have to "put your two cents in".. . but it' s only a "penny for your thoughts"? Where's that extra penny going to?"

    The government, obviously!
    Mirtika said...
    Donald Maass is gonna thwap you. :)

    Actually, I need to get back to the workbook.

    (Before I saw that secondary character thing, I had planned to have her do the exact thing she said she'd never do.)

    Rulan said...
    This is great food for thought.

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