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  • Writer's pictureRachel Demeter

How to Write Believable Secondary Characters

Updated: Sep 9, 2023


Olenna Tyrell from Game of Thrones sitting like a boss

Secondary characters play a vital role in enriching the tapestry of your novel's world. They provide depth, context, and often act as catalysts for the main plot and character development. Creating secondary characters that feel authentic and engaging can elevate your fiction piece to new heights. In this blog, I delve into top tips for how to write believable secondary characters.


Tip 1: Diverse Personalities and Motivations


Just like in real life, secondary characters should possess distinct personalities, motivations, and backstories. Avoid one-dimensional stereotypes by giving them a range of traits and desires.


Example: A secondary character with conflicting motivations: Sarah, the enigmatic café owner, harbored a secret desire to travel the world. Her yearning for adventure clashed with her commitment to the café, adding depth to her interactions with the protagonist.


And remember: Every character thinks they are the protagonist!


Tip 2: Unique Dialogue and Voice


Ensure secondary characters have their own voice and way of speaking. This helps readers distinguish between characters and adds authenticity to their interactions.


Example: A quirky artist's distinctive way of speaking: "Oh darling, life is but a canvas waiting for our bold strokes," Evelyn said, her words a blend of elegance and eccentricity.


Tip 3: Relationships and Dynamics


Secondary characters often have connections to other characters that shape their role in the story. Explore these relationships to showcase their impact and influence on the main plot.


Example: A mentor figure's influence on the protagonist: As Dr. Wilson shared stories of her past adventures, Emma felt a growing sense of inspiration. The mentor-student bond evolved from skepticism to trust, driving Emma's journey of self-discovery.


Tip 4: Balancing Screen and Page Time


While secondary characters contribute to the narrative, remember to balance their presence. They shouldn't overshadow the main characters or distract from the central plot.


Example: A charismatic bartender's intermittent appearances: Mike, the bartender with a heart of gold, popped up during pivotal moments, offering advice that nudged the protagonist in the right direction without becoming the focal point.


Tip 5: Serve the Plot's Purpose


Secondary characters often fulfill specific roles in the plot, whether as allies, foils, or sources of conflict. Ensure their actions and decisions drive the story forward.


Example: A conniving antagonist's impact on the protagonist's choices: As Maya realized Daniel's true intentions, her determination to outsmart him fueled her actions, culminating in a thrilling showdown that brought her character growth to the forefront.

Tip 6: Background and Context


Even though secondary characters aren't the main focus, they should have a context that makes them feel like they exist beyond their interactions with the protagonist.


Example: A town historian's ties to the story's setting: Old Mr. Thompson's tales about the town's history added an atmospheric layer, enriching the narrative with the echoes of the past.


Tip 7: Evolve and Grow


Secondary characters should change and develop, just like main characters. This growth can be subtle but should contribute to the overall themes of the story.


Example: A reclusive neighbor's transformation: Over time, Mrs. Henderson's icy demeanor thawed, revealing a softer side as she forged unlikely friendships with the children next door, highlighting the power of human connection.


Conclusion: How to Write Believable Secondary Characters


Incorporating well-crafted secondary characters not only makes your novel's world more immersive but also enhances the reader's emotional investment in the story. By treating these characters as individuals with their own stories and arcs, you'll create a narrative tapestry that captivates and resonates with your readers!

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