This month we are looking at how important Character Arc is to our stories and how it ties into the plot or story arc, and do you usually give some time and story to character arcs for secondary characters?
A story without a good
character or story arc is like a straight piece of string. Boring.
Uninteresting. Then tie a few knots in it here and there, and it becomes a
different beast. Why is the knot in that place rather than in this
place? Why is that knot bigger than the others? Does its size mean something
important in the plot or an ‘aha’ moment for the character? And what does that
squiggly little knot between two bigger ones indicate? Could it be a red
herring slipped in there to catch the unwary?
The plot arc is the story’s
shape, while characters have internal and external arcs that can create
conflict. At the beginning of the narrative, Character A may be lacking in
confidence. He or she thinks they are useless, unlovable, and ordinary. Then
events test them as the story progresses, and we see that character overcome
their ‘negative press,’ the false image they have of themselves, and by the end,
they see they are useful, lovable, and extraordinary.
Secondary characters in
a story are there to bring out the best in or give support to Character A, which
doesn’t mean that they are less critical. They still need a good backstory, and
the author needs to make them as well-rounded as Character A and not a
caricature. They need names, strengths, and weaknesses, the same as Character A.
While we might lay out every aspect and nuance of Character A for our reader to
get to know and understand him or her, we don’t need to see that for the
secondary character, even though the author will know it. Secondary characters
are great for discovering facts, as Lord Clifton instructs his secretary Edward
Pargetter in my book His Dark Enchantress.
Lucius tapped his forefinger against his
lips, his eyes narrowing as a scheme began to form in his mind.
“That could be most fortuitous, as long as
the under-secretary is not one James Horace.”
“If you wish, I could make enquiries as to
whom exactly my cousin is attached.”
“I do wish, Edward, and it must be done as
discreetly as possible. I also wish you to discover who else Lady Darnley has
invited to dinner. Now, will I be signing my life away if I do not read these
“You’ll never be sure, Sir.” Edward handed
him a freshly trimmed pen.
Because Edward has been employed by his lordship for
some time, they have developed respect and liking for each other, as indicated
by Edward’s quip. In the same book, Lord Clifton relies on his head groom, Mr.
Noble, and coachman, Mr. Tockington.
“We’ll do the same as in Folkestone.” Determination
made his voice grim. “Noble, I want you and Tocky to make enquiries at the Full
Moon and the Flood Tide. Edward, find the White Horse and hire a horse for me
and a carriage for you three and our equipment. I’ll ask the landlord here for
the quickest route to Lille.”
Edward was the first to return and he and
Lucius waited impatiently for Noble and Tocky.
“Perhaps they are unable to make
themselves understood,” suggested Edward.
Lucius shook his head. “I doubt it. Noble
speaks passable French and Tocky appears to be able to make himself understood
anywhere. Plus, with coin available to pay for a round or two of drinks, they
may be gleaning more information than we expect.”
Secondary characters will have a different perspective
on Character A, understand and maybe appreciate their likes and dislikes. They
can help the reader build up their image of the main protagonist, like peeling
an onion in reverse. They might be more like the person on the street, someone the
reader can easily relate to, rather than a lord of the realm, hot-shot sports
hero, billionaire, or whoever your Character A might be.
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