Friday, 30 July 2010
Nell Dixon's Talk on Believable Secondary Characters
Sorry for taking an age to finally post about the second talk I attended at RNA Conference several weeks ago. This is mainly due to so much activity with family visits, school holidays, and editing.
The second talk I attended was given by Nell Dixon. I've read Nell's Little Black Dress books and reviewed a couple of them for Novelicious, and I have to say how much I loved them. So, when I saw she was giving a talk on creating believable secondary characters - she is brilliant at this - I knew I had to go.
The lovely Liz Fenwick introduced Nell, who told us that secondary characters depend on the type of book, ie Mills & Boon, sagas, and many more, regarding the subplots. The Secondary Character has to have their own arc, whereas minor characters don't contribute to the main story, ie think of a minor character like an extra in a film, where they make an appearance, but don't have their own story arc.
Secondary characters mustn't be given too big a role, and can be different in each novel, ie they can be a mentor, the comic relief, or the catalyst for some of the action, ie the best friend, who encourages the heroine to make a decision she doesn't really want to make. They can also be the competition, ie the heroine's competition.
Nell went on to tell us how they don't even have to be human. The Secondary Character could be a pet, a setting, or an inanimate object.
Do make sure the Secondary Characer does what you want them to do and that you need them to forward the plot in some way, but don't forget to make it believable and to have their own storyline that feeds into the main storyline. Make sure they earn their place in the book and that they complete their own story arc. Although remember not to let them take over from main characters, or be stereotypes.
I'm sure there was so much more in the talk, but I've recently had to clear out the shed (needed one of the tables for a party) and so have had to take this from the notes that I've managed to find from the Conference. Naturally, any mistakes are my own, and going by the confusion in my brain right now, mainly thanks to an endless stream of washing - just call me The Launderess - and my irons (yes, there are two) tripping the electrics when I try and use them, I'm slowly, very slowly, catching up with all I should be doing.
All in all, Nell's excellent talk showed me how very important secondary characters are, and also how easy it is to confuse a minor character with a secondary character.