Wherein I Attempt to Explain the Significance of Secondary Characters

Tuesday, June 7, 2016
Secondary characters. We don't seem to notice them much, unless they're so horribly written that we want to scream. Or maybe that's just me. What I'm trying to get at, however, is that I always seem to underestimate the power of a good secondary character. At least the "good" (in the sense of good vs. evil ones), anyway. I can always appreciate a well-written villain, no matter how much page-time they get, but I always seem to overlook other developed secondary characters in books.

Of course the development of the main characters is more critical in a story than the development of the secondary characters, but secondary characters are still important to the overall flow and plot of the story nonetheless. Because the thing is, no matter how minor a character is, they need to have depth: I don't want minor characters to be clones of each other or have no personality. That would defeat the purpose of having secondary characters. They need to have a guiding role, whether it be to disrupt the main character's path, to be the support system for other characters, provide a different outlook on the story, or something else entirely.

I noticed recently, however, that if the main characters aren't the best, I do start to pay more attention to the secondary characters. Obviously I want all characters (major or minor) to be significant, diverse, and three-dimensional, but I often struggle to recognize the lesser ones when the main characters overpower them.

If you've been on Literary Legionnaire recently, you may have read my review of a book that didn't have the most interesting protagonist out there. However, I still loved the story because it had so many incredibly unique secondary characters that really made the story special. Without these secondary characters, although the plot was interesting in and of itself, I definitely would not have enjoyed the book as much as I did. In this case, the secondary characters really made the story for me.

So, what do you all think? Do we underestimate the power of secondary characters?


  1. Actually I notice secondary characters a lot, and some of my absolute favorites are secondary, like Lupin from Harry Potter :-) And in one of my favorite series, a secondary character is my favorite one lol. They definitely flesh a story out and make it feel so much more real and interesting when they're all three-dimensional and have personalities and growth and seem like they have their own lives going on, even when you don't see it happening.

    Some authors just excel at it more than others though, so sometimes they do go unnoticed. But I feel like the stories that really shine often have great MCs AND secondary ones!

  2. I love secondary characters! Especially when they influence the main character to be someone better. Some secondary characters are also the ones who bring humor, which I like. I always pay attention to them for some reason, because most of the time, there will always be a secondary character that'll touch my heart throughout the book/series. <3 (Oh, and there are also times when I hate the main character but still stick around just for the secondary characters. xD)

    Great post, Alexandra!

  3. Haha yeah I only really notice them when they're badly written (like you mentioned), or really really well done. I agree in that when a main character is really well developed, it's hard to notice the side characters. Although there are definitely cases where I form attachments to side characters, it doesn't really happen much :( Which is ok...because the story isn't exactly about them, necessarily. But it would be nice if they are well developed and actually play a role in a story!

  4. I think secondary characters are crucial to a story. Not everyone will feel a connection to the main characters and so secondary characters help readers identify themselves with the story. Think of Harry Potter. I know plenty of people who are way more attached to Neville or Luna than the Golden Trio. I think that, as an author, you should care about all your characters. No matter how small.

    x Camila - adevourerofbooks.wordpress.com