Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Secondary Depth

I was over at Karen Woodward's blog the other day reading about the depth behind some of the characters we write, and it got me thinking.  We concentrate so much on the depth we put into our protagonist(and hopefully our antagonist as well), but how much thought do we put into the secondary characters we write?  And has there ever been a time when a secondary character has developed unexpected depth?

I must confess that I give little developmental thought to secondary characters.  I view them as a vehicle that helps me advance the story, as well as someone for the main character to bounce off of.  They become throwaways, and their loss rarely rankles the soul.

On occasion, however, they surprise me.  When I wrote Salvation Day, I included a character named Gary.  This guy was a lab partner of the main character and was meant to draw stuff out of the hero that he had to realize in order to grow into the story.  As I wrote, though, Gary had a surprising amount of depth - he acted as conscience and foil for Mike Faulkner, and he also provided a window into what Faulkner's life could've been like if he hadn't been so focused on his work to the exclusion of his wife.  I found myself wondering how Gary would act in certain situations, and what impact he would've brought to the rest of the story.

Unfortunately, once Faulkner succumb to temptation and accepted Hell's offer of near godhood, Gary fell off.  I don't mean that he became less and less important to the story - I mean he never made another appearance.  Ever.

This unnerved me.  How could a character so integral so early just disappear?  I've re-read Salvation Day a number of times, and the story works after Gary goes away.  In fact, I can't find a place to wedge him in anywhere - he would just seem out of place.  That doesn't mean I've forgotten him.

As I've played around with stories that are part of that universe, I haven't forgotten Gary.  I want to find a place in the next novel where he makes sense.  He was such an impactful character that I almost feel guilty about his disappearance.  This man deserves to be included in future works.

That thinking also got me wondering what other secondary characters I need to take a second look at.  I've written several novels at this point, so there are surely other characters that deserve more prominence.  Who else might I find that I wrote off too early because they weren't part of the cool kids clique?  Perhaps this will make me pay more attention to those who enter my stories in the future.  Only time, and more writing, will tell.

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