How important are Secondary Characters?

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Louise Wise

How important are secondary
characters? Put it this way wouldn’t a novel be flat without them? Who would
your character fight against? Fall in love with?

Ellen Semple or
Ellen Simple, as
main character Valerie Anthrope calls her, is far into middle-age, has
no interest in fashion, wears bobble hats and long woollen scarves, calls everyone ‘dear’,
and is bossy, interfering and downright annoying! Yet she almost became
the star in my latest chick lit novel 
The Fall of the
Misanthrope: I bitch therefore I am
And I LOVED writing about her! You don’t have
to worry whether your readers will like or dislike a secondary. They can be
hateful, annoying, evil and downright unpleasant. It’s brilliant!
But what is it
about secondary characters that take over? Or try to? Should we have written
THEIR story instead? Oh no, no, no. It doesn’t mean that at all. If we did that
we’d have to make them ‘sympathetic’. That means they will need to have redeeming
qualities and have something that readers can connect with.
Think of all the
secondary characters in books you’ve enjoyed. It’s the MAIN character you
loved, the secondary were either the baddies—and they died or got their just
deserts in the end, or they are someone your MAIN character bounces off. In other
words, we need strong second characters to carry the main one, without them our
characters become flat and one dimensional.
So what is it about
Ellen Semple that I loved? All she wants from life is to help people. She and
her husband went to places like Ghana and Afghanistan to help
build hospitals and schools. They were the type of people to march the streets carrying banners for
better sanitation in prisons or stop animal experiences. They’d tie themselves
to railings for their beliefs. When her husband died she vowed to carry on his
life work. It took her away from home for long periods, so when she discovered
her nephew (she never had children of her own) had split up from his wife and
she didn’t even know, she was horrified and came home
immediately. She decided she’d stay home and keep an eye on her beloved nephew,
Alex. But, and it’s a
big but, she couldn’t’ stop ‘helping’.
spotted Valerie putting flowers on a grave when she was there visiting her
late husband’s resting place. She saw her again the following month and the
next. Valerie looked so lonely, Ellen thought, and so decided to help her.
By chance, Valerie
was looking for staff for her brokerage and Ellen bustled her way in and practically
employed herself. She decided that Valerie was poor and needed financial help,
so she coerced Alex into buying insurance from Valerie’s brokerage, but didn’t envisage him
falling for her!
He’s one of those
rich playboys and one of the reasons why his wife divorced him, Ellen thinks,
and she worries that Valerie will get hurt and become even more damaged
than she already is.
Ellen brought them
together but now she has to part them! Sometimes it’s hard being a busybody.
The Fall of the Misanthrope: I bitch therefore I
am is out 

NOW on Kindle: Amazon.UK and

Paperback coming SOON

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