Monday, May 2, 2011

Take A Walk In Their Shoes: Secondary Characters

There are times in our lives where we have to walk in someone else's shoes for a bit. Our eyes see life from their perspective for those moments, and we feel like we know them deeper, or we empathize with them more.

An example in the life of a stay-at-home mom:
Mama takes a much needed weekend, and Daddy gets the kids!

All three of the rug rats' energy levels are busting the shingles off the roof one by one.

Daddy gets to wipe noses, make breakfast, clean up messes, entertain, discipline, wipe more noses, and administer the daunting task of bedtime...all...by...himself!

What happens when refreshed Mama walks through the door on Sunday?

“Wow, I know why you needed that break, Mama. Can I have one?”

Daddy is exhausted!

It's always nice to have someone understand what your life is like, and appreciate your time. And the same thing goes for characters in your wips...if you walk in their shoes a bit, then you get to know them better.

This happened to me on accident. The other night, I began to write from my hero's perspective...thinking I might actually use it in my wip. I had written a whole 165 pages in my heroine's perspective...first person, and then had a not-so-great idea to switch pov's... Even though I didn't stick with it, I realized it would seriously hurt my story, it did give me a chance to step into the shoes of my hero. I learned more about him, and even found a way to step up the tension in my novel, after learning about his own fears.

Even though writing time is precious and, sometimes rare for some of us, step into your secondary characters shoes every once in a while...it will open your eyes to a whole new perspective.

What are your favorite “oops” moments in writing, that have enlightened your writing journey? Several of the Alley Cats have mentioned techniques to develop your characters like interviews, journal entries...do you have a sure way to develop your characters?

12 comments:

Joanne Sher said...

Stepping into ALL your characters' shoes at some point can make SUCH a difference in your characterization - at minimum! Great post, Angie!

Keli Gwyn said...

I have fun developing my secondary characters. They can be quirky in ways the main characters can't. Sometimes, though, they can take over. I had to rein in one minor character because she was upstaging my heroine. Since her job is to enhance the heroine and not draw attention to herself, I had to remind her that she wasn't the star of the show and tone her down.

Casey said...

I actually have to put more into my secondary characters. I have invested so much time in my MC's, I have needed to go back and read over my secondary characters and make THEM more three-dimensional. :)

Sherrinda said...

Like Casey, I struggle with secondary characters. I just want to focus on the MC's and that's not good! The secondaries add a lot of depth to the story world.

Angie said...

I have had that happen too, Keli...a secondary character taking over my mc. It's such a balancing act sometimes.
I didn't realize how much secondary characters matter until I had crit partners ask about their motives, or ask to see more from that character...at first I ignored it thinking, "they aren't the mc...doesn't matter", but it makes the story so much more believable when they are three dimensional like Casey mentioned!
Thanks ladies!

Julia M. Reffner said...

I'm reading a book where there are too many secondary characters and they are not developed well. Sometimes reading provides that gentle reminder for me of things I'm not doing so well with in my own MS.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Stepping into your characters shoes is always a great idea. I love well-developed characters, so I'm always looking for ways to improve mine. Sometimes, when I'm doing my daily tasks around the house or running errands, I think about my character and what they'd be feeling or thinking at that moment. Would they be admiring the flowers on the side of the street, or mumbling to themselves about yet another load of laundry? I try to hone their personality through simple things if I have a chance.

Mary Vee said...

Great idea Cindy. I hadn't thought about inviting my characters into my daily tasks. Sure is easier than sitting down and trying to drum up a conversation with a secondary character. Secondary characters can be quite snobby, most likely because they're jealous about not getting the mc spot. Brother.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Ha! Mary, that made me laugh. You're right, secondary characters CAN be quite snobby sometimes. Maybe if we give them some special one on one time, they'll be more cooperative :)

Sarah Forgrave said...

Ohhh Angie, can I just say how jealous I am of your weekend alone?! How wonderful!

As for secondary characters, I like to write a short synopsis of the story from their POV before I start writing the wip. It helps me make sure they've got a goal and motivation just like the main characters.

Pepper said...

Great post, Angie.
I wrote a backstory part from my villianess' perspective and it completely changed the rest of my story. It made her three dimensional. Wonderful experience.
I started working on a diary from different characters' perspectives. That really helped!

Beth K. Vogt said...

I had one character in a book stay pretty quiet all the way through several revisions of my WIP. Then. when my revision letter arrived from my agent. She requested more from this character--and he finally started talking. He ended up being a third POV in the book. And, yes, it took time to get to know him. I had to delve into all the "whys" to figure out more about him. But it was worth it because it deepened the book and increased the tension.