Monday, November 28, 2011

The Importance of Secondary Characters

What a wonderful feeding frenzy last week and now I'm trying to put in some good writing time until the next phase of the holidays sidetracks me.

Back in 2010 I began a Young Adult mystery/suspense novel and blogged about the creation of the characters here. This completed draft is now being critiqued and hopefully will be ready for submission in 2012.

One of the things that made creating the characters so much fun in that novel was the brilliant idea that Susan Fields blogged about and I mentioned in the other article. She suggested googling for pictures of people that fit the characters. This jewel of an idea worked amazingly well for me so I had to do it again.

For a change of pace, I began planning an adult cozy mystery novel that involves some senior ladies and gentlemen. I started googling character actors and actresses from the old days.

I found the most delightful character actors that I grew up watching on television and in the movies. I did a lot of oohing and ahhing, even chuckling, from remembering the parts they played that made me love them. It dawned on me that all these television shows and movies were successful because the supporting cast of character actors did just that--they supported the stars in making the show/movie successful.

It gave me second thoughts at how important I considered those secondary characters in my own writing. Were the majority of them cardboard characters?

It was so sad to see that most of these talented individuals have passed on but, even though I didn't know most of their names, I will never forget their faces and some of the roles they played. It's such a shame that only celebrities get mentioned on the national news when they pass away.These truly talented people deserve so much more of a tribute than to just fade away.

I decided to mention just two of my favorites that you might remember, depending on your age :)

Burt Mustin played Gus, the fireman, on Leave it to Beaver and Jud on The Andy Griffith Show. He seemed to be in everything and I noticed his absence before learning of his death.

Reta Shaw, two of her many roles was the housekeeper/cook in Pollyanna with Hayley Mills and an escaped convict in The Andy Griffith Show. I mentioned these roles because both shows were televised over the holidays and you might have seen them.

From now on I'm going to give my supporting cast just a little bit more attention and respect. They deserve nothing less.


  1. I google pics of my characters too! I've been spending more time with them as well. They do deserve some attention.

    Oooh, I love mystery and suspense. Good luck with your submissions in 2012. :)

  2. Great news about the YA/mystery completed draft, and much good luck for the 2012 submission!

    Love your Google search to put a face on secondary characters. What a great idea to use supporting actors from the past. (I DO remember your two favorites!)

  3. Thanks, Karen, I'm so glad you like doing the pic thing, too. It has really made a diffence for me!

    Andrea, I'm glad someone else remembers them :)

  4. What I find amazing about secondary characters is how they show up, and sometimes steal the scene from the main character. This has happened in every book I've written.

  5. Anne, that would be fun to experience. It hasn't happened to me ... yet.

  6. A few of my secondary characters came from real life people I knew growing up. I don't know if that's good or bad sometimes.

  7. Supporting casts do deserve attention. I love my MC's best friend. He's probably the best character I've ever written.

  8. Rena, I think it depends on whether you liked them :)

    Alleged Author, are you thinking of giving the best friend his own novel?

  9. What a great post about the importance of these characters! My favorite character I'd written up until this new wip, was a secondary character. Now it's a toss up for which is my favorite. :)

  10. Kimberly, I don't have a favorite secondary character yet. Some I like more than others but maybe that will change with this one.