Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Obsession Factor: Supporting Characters

There's only so much writing, waiting, and nail-biting those of us in the querying trenches can do to sustain our passion for the craft. Eventually, one has to turn to daydreaming.

Sometimes I like to daydream about When I've Arrived. What does that look like in my flighty head? For some people, it would be signing a book deal with a Big Six publishing house. Maybe it means having all five-star reviews on Amazon (miraculously.) Maybe hitting the NYT bestseller list.

Know how I'll know When I've Arrived? Fanfiction.

I mean, seriously. All those other factors mean that people want to buy your book. Hopefully the read the whole thing, and you pray they like it. But you really don't know those things, do you? No. Not unless some obsessed fan is writing fanfiction about your story and characters.

It all comes down to the Obsession Factor. Do people close your book and wish there was more? Do they wonder what your main character wore on his first day of school? Do they imagine themselves living in the world you've created?

 And, the sub-factor I want to talk about today - are your supporting characters so awesome and fascinating that your readers can't stop thinking about their stories?

Raise your hand if you loved TWILIGHT. Go ahead, this is a blog, no one can see you. Okay. Now put your hand down if you didn't give two figs about Alice and Jasper or Carlisle and Esme. That's what I thought. You're arm's starting to ache, isn't it?

How about Ron and Hermione? Don't tell me you've never thought about how Ron would propose to her. Or what about Ginny? Did she really go for that last year at Hogwarts? Neville and Luna? They totally got together, right?

I'll tell you, my phenom-of-a-CP Chessie does an awesome job with this. I mean, her main characters are great, blah blah, great story, etc., but know who I really love? Two of the supporting characters. I wish they were in the book more, which says a lot. The boy is so cute and the girl is so kickass and they are so sweetly in love that I just squee every time they show up on the page. (My other CP, Gina, does a bang-up job too.  Mmmm....Jeremy....)

When Chessie drew this picture of them DANCING! Geez. I almost wrote some fanfiction. (But I didn't. I swear.)

Maybe that's because I'm lucky. If I beg Chessie for scenes from future books enough, she gives them to me.  If only that worked for every other story that grabs us with the supporting characters just as much as the main ones (or sometimes more?)

Your turn! What is your favorite book that has the Supporting Characters Obsession Factor?


  1. That photo is sooooo adorable! I don't know how far you are into the ms, but there was a scene around Ch 30 with the two of them that had me using excessive capital letters and exclamation marks... killed me!

    I fall in love with supporting characters too... hence the fact that I've outlined an entire novel for Jamie and Jeremy. I feel like they deserve it. And I love that I have my own label tag on your blog!

  2. Hmmm.... I really had to think about this because it has been a long time since I've felt very connected to secondary characters. In looking over my reads for the year--although I loved some of them--I haven't been all that interested in the secondary characters. I guess I just feel that there isn't any mystery there--any backstory that I'm dying to learn.

    So the last series that really did that for me, that I can think of, was the Hunger Games. And maybe the Skinned series.

    And you are so right--those strong supporting character do tie into whether or not you imagine yourself in the created world. Because as much as I loved Matched and Divergent, I never imagined myself there. And I think it does have to do with a kind of flatness in the secondary characters and the world not being real enough because of that.

    Well, now I'm just rambling.

    But Gina! A novel about Jeremy and Jamie? Awesomeness!

  3. You are totally right! I just scratched out Big Six on my "How I'll known when I've arrived" list, and replaced it with people writing fan fiction! *daydreams a moment*

    I did get a bit of a moment, though. A moment that told me that if my WIP never gets bought, It'll still be totally worth it. A teacher I worked with read it to her fourth graders. I was with them at recess, gathering them to come inside, when two girls came up to me and told me about the game they'd been playing all recess. The game was my book! They had each been playing one of the main characters. Yes, they are now my favorite kids.

    But yeah. Secondary characters make ALL the difference in a book. I think they're what make people obsess! And we like obsessing. :)

  4. This is a great question. Secondary characters do often get short shrift, possibly because we're afraid they'll walk away with the story! I've been told many times that the "little sister" supporting character in my WIP is the reader's "favorite," which always gives me pause--because what if she's more likable than my MC? I think it's always interesting to give the supporting cast their own issues and conflicts, in ways that dovetail with the main storyline and underscore it in subtle ways. A great secondary character in YA fiction (realistic contemporary) BTW is the gay best friend in Margetta Geerling's "Fancy White Trash."

  5. I think Rowling does one of the best jobs at secondary characters. Not only did I care about Ron and Hermoine, but one of my favorite characters of all time is Hagrid. And don't even get me started with Snape.

    I also think Chronicles of Narnia is one that I love all the characters in, and The Hunger Games trilogy.

    Love the pic.

  6. @Gina - OMG I almost forgot about that novel. Must. Have. It. Now. Also I think I know what Viv and Ror scene you're talking about. Mmmm.

    @Heidi - Exactly! That actually was my big problem with both those books. But still, Divergent can do no wrong in my world. FOURRRRRR

    @Peggy - Your book as a playground game? Coolest thing I've ever heard. You've arrived for the little people. :)

    @Gail - That's exactly the balance you have to strike - and I think the SC's don't get their own story because it's not enough on its own. My CPs' main characters are totally RIGHT to be the main characters, make no mistake. And I love them too.

    @Jenny - Oh, Snape. *sigh* I was actually pretty obsessed with Tonks and Lupin. Sad.

  7. "I almost wrote some fanfiction."


    *cough* But I know you're a busy lady, making' cookies and takin' names. So I'll settle for this blog post. ^_^ And I obsessed over Tonks and Lupin so much that I made very loud scoffing sounds when all their good scenes were cut out of the movies.

    (Also-- did you notice the heart in the middle of the picture? Because I didn't until just now. CRAZY RANDOM HAPPENSTANCE.)