I gave birth over the weekend to a burly, 190 pound palace guard named Frieder. Well, to be completely honest, Frieder already existed on one page of my novel, but at Dave Wolverton's urging, he has now become a full-fledged character. And he's cute to boot. I do dig a guy with soft curly hair and a dimple when he smiles (sorry hubby, but it's true).
I'm so excited by this new birth. I get the strangest kick out of creating characters, picking names, dressing them, delving into their pasts to discover hidden dreams and holes in their souls. Unearthing their motivations is like digging up a gem, dusting it off, and holding it up in the sun for all the world to see. It's exciting. It's like finding a new friend.
It's also hard. What if bad things are in store for your cute new friend? Frieder has a sweetheart he longs to wed. He's saved every brass coin he's earned for six years to pay her dowry. And he's going to lose her.
I want to cry for him. How can I write this? How can I cement his future heartbreak with a few strokes on my keyboard? It will be hard, but it must be done, because poor Frieder doesn't know he's merely a side-kick, that he exists to create conflict and tension. To him, he is the main character. His story is just as important to him, as the real main character's is to the reader, and that's why I have to know him. I must know what games he played as a child, what he dreams of at night, his fears, strengths, sense of humor, and especially his weaknesses. And that's why I mourn for him before his pain is even written. That way, when I do write him, he can live in your minds and hearts, too. If I do it right.
That's why I stare into oblivion so often. Playing with people's lives is serious business. Even if they only exist between the covers of a book, they are real when you read them. They are real to their creators. They are real to themselves.
What minor characters have you fallen for in books or movies? Can you tell if the author invested time and love in their creation? Does it make a difference in how much you enjoy the story? What makes a good secondary character?