The Role of Secondary Characters
Unfortunately, most budding writers do not fully understand the importance of the role of secondary characters in a literary work. They either forget about the supporting roles or pay too much attention to them. The information below will be helpful for all beginners who want to write consistent and well-balanced stories.
I encourage you to work out the characters to the smallest details as I believe that’s the image of the heroes that largely determine the success of the book. Either you share or abandon my thoughts and suggestions (and until interested in the accurate portrayal of the characters), the paper will be useful to you.
For the sake of better understanding and structuring the material, I should announce a couple of general truths. Clearly, these are the famous axioms, but being unaware of them, you can’t cope with portraits of the secondary characters:
- Not all the characters are equal. Indeed, they can be conditionally divided into major and minor. And if the protagonists are always given a lot of attention from the authors that are trying to disclose their nature and the depth of inner feelings, secondary heroes sometimes suffer from lack of attention. However, supporting roles are no less important than the main!
- The author and the readers must clearly distinguish between the main and the secondary characters. If the public got confused, that’s always the result of the writer’s incompetence. You should clearly separate the characters, expressing the main ideas through protagonists and making them the subjects of interest and empathy.
So, if the action does not take place on a desert island, the main characters are usually surrounded by a lot of people who have no special influence on the course of history. In fact, they are only part of the background. They can perform some minor functions – report news, bring the hero to the place of action, steal his wallet, etc. – but then invariably disappear from the view.
The main character can’t be in an absolute vacuum; there are always people around him who create the moving background and dynamic environment. Otherwise, the happening just would not be realistic. As a writer, you should make sure that secondary characters do not attract too much attention and interfere with the perception of events and the hero himself.
However, sometimes it’s very hard to sustain the right balance between the main and secondary characters. Sometimes the image of a minor person becomes so bright that it begins to dominate, distracting the reader from the main direction of the story. In this case, you should try to define the reason and afterwards,
a) reduce the influence of this
b) completely remove him from the story
c) change the plot, highlighting the image of the secondary hero or even making him a protagonist.
Somehow or other, you have to choose the most appropriate solution on the base of the ideas you want to convey o the reader.
In general, the main role of secondary characters is to create a vibrant background.
In most cases, the main difference between a protagonist and an ordinary person is the ability of the latter to act the way that an everyman would never dare. On the other side, the hero can demonstrate his heroism only against the background of the common people with all their tameness and inability to move away from the usual rules and regulations.
Accordingly, another role of the secondary characters lies in demonstrating the stereotypes of society. The secondary characters are always typical representatives of the society, the so-called carriers of the stereotypes. And as soon as one of the characters breaks those stereotypes, he unwittingly attracts the attention of the reader. Be sure to account this point when working on the protagonists.
Well, these judgments don’t mean that secondary characters must be faceless or look alike. They can also break the stereotypes, but do it one at a time rather than all at once.
Eccentricity and Humor
Small but vivid details make the story more interesting and complete, set the mood and sometimes add humor. It is no secret that not protagonists but the secondary characters are the main pranksters.
Readers traditionally expect seriousness, worlds saving and beautiful maidens from protagonists while the element of surprise may become a breath of fresh air in the history. Therefore, the eccentric behavior of supporting heroes in episodic roles is the resource to make your text more vivid and interesting.
I should also mention an obsession as an extreme form of eccentricity at which a minor character behaves too intrusive and emotionally when responding to events. Hence, the one more role of the secondary characters is working on a short-term entertainment. The author has a freedom to make the minor character as eccentric as he wants since
a) in fact, the supporting hero doesn’t affect the development of the plot
b) vivid images make the text more interesting and memorable.
As I already said, episodic roles should add some entertainment to the narrative, creating bright emotions that are not directly related to the main idea. The basic method here is a deliberate exaggeration of certain traits of the supporting characters. It may be cruelty or kindness, spontaneity or prudence.
Well, you may fairly ask: "Why use an exaggeration for this purpose? Why not attach these features to the protagonist?"
The fact is that the hyperbola allows focusing precisely on the desired line, distinguishing it from the crowd of mediocrity. How can this work?
- For example, you can turn an innocent and gentle secondary hero into someone else – for instance, a prudent man – thereby playing on contrast. And the greater the contrast, the stronger the effect on the reader.
So the basic functions of supporting characters are:
- Creation of the background.
- The depiction of stereotypes.
- Entertainment through eccentricity and humor.
Hope now you’ll be treating the problem of drawing supporting characters more thoughtfully. I’m awaiting your comments and opinions! See you soon!
Lucy Adams is an outsourcer from a leading writing website for students. She’s a generalist able to bring to life your craziest ideas. Lucy is interested in a wide range of topics, including marketing, blogging, education, writing, etc. Feel free to contact the diligent author and be sure, you’ll get high-quality research very soon.
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