When we're writing, it's easy to focus on the main characters. I don't know about the rest of you, but it's usually the main characters who inspire me to write the book in the first place. I get attached to their story and
Except there's, you know, that whole story thing. And story typically involves a few more characters.
The truth is, it's hard to see who the main character is when we've got her by herself. But when you let her interact with other characters, we begin to see the way she changes (or doesn't change) to fit with them. And maybe we know she's going to behave one way with the love interest because she's got the hots for him, but we see more sides of her when there are supporting characters around. Not just the side she wants to present to the love interest.
They give the worldbuilding depth and the story scope. Secondary characters do jobs in the world, like run businesses or teach the main character an invaluable skill. They keep the world from toppling over. It's hard to believe an entire complex society might exist if there are only two or three people in it.
And their stories influence -- and are influenced by -- the plot the main character is dealing with. Secondary characters can get in the way of a car chase, or help out. Their minor crisis at home might escalate and cause them to do something crazy in the main character's path, causing the main character to deal with the fallout from that.
There are lots of opportunities for secondary characters to shine. It's easy to overlook them, especially when we're writing and not quite as in love with them as we are other characters. But take a moment to think about your secondary characters. What can they do today? How can they help or hinder your main character? There's a lot of untapped value there.
Jodi Meadows is the author of INCARNATE, book one of the Newsoul Trilogy. (January 31, 2012 - HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books.)
She lives and writes in the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia, with her husband, a Kippy*, and an alarming number of ferrets. She is a confessed book addict, and has wanted to be a writer ever since she decided against becoming an astronaut. You can find her on her website and blog.
*A Kippy is a cat.