Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Film Writes: Strong Secondary Characters (Part I)

WARNING: The following post contains plot spoilers for the movie Frozen.

The Stephanie Plum series, by Janet Evanovich, has an extraordinarily rich cast of characters. If the protagonist (the title character, in this case) isn't colorful enough, the secondary characters are wildly interesting. And the whole series is more memorable for it.

It’s easy to put lots of time and imagination into creating your primary characters. Often, though, secondary characters — that entire supporting cast, unless you’re writing a short story or flash fiction — get overlooked.

Why not spend a few extra minutes developing even secondary characters into unique individuals with their own wants?

For Instance

Besides Anna and Elsa, Disney’s Frozen offers an exotic array of three-dimensional characters with fleshed-out desires.

> Kristoff is practical, consistent, and sacrificial, if a little difficult to get along with at first, with a dry, tongue-in-cheek sense of humor. He counter-balances his love interest’s flighty enthusiasm. He wants his ice business to succeed (a little hard when the entire kingdom is frozen) and, as time goes on, Anna to be safe (a little hard when she’s in love with another man).

> Kristoff’s reindeer pal and sidekick Sven is melodramatic, easy-going, and loves carrots, which puts him at odds with other carrot-loving (and –wearing!) characters. He wants … carrots, which is an issue when Kristoff angers the merchant who might have sold them more carrots.

> Olaf, a snowman Elsa created and brought to life, is na├»ve, upbeat, literal, childlike, and filled with the best intentions. His ability to misread situations combined with his tendency to state the obvious make him thoroughly unexpected. Olaf especially wants to experience summertime (in an ironic twist) … an issue with Arendelle frozen solid and given his own elemental makeup.

Stay tuned for more secondary characters in Part II.


What secondary characters do you have in your story? Are each of them as fleshed-out and three-dimensional as they could be? What do they each desire most of all?

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