The supporting cast of secondary characters
Her: I’d like a bigger part.
Me: I spent the last part of the book on you.
Her: I feel you’re sidelining me.
Me: I am, you’re not the protagonist.
Her: I’m her sister, surely that’s important.
Me: Yes and no, that relationship is not a huge part of this book.
Her: I don’t feel you’ve tackled all of the issues between us, delved into our gritty sibling lives, nor explained how that was pivotal in shaping our subsequent personalities.
Me: I have to a degree. I covered some of your early years and the readers can infer how that led to your future lives. Not everything needs to be spelled out.
Her: There’s so much more I have to offer. Does it always have to be weighted toward her?
Me: The main character is called that because she’s the main one.
Her: I’m afraid I’m being typecast and I don’t think you’re exploring my full range. I’m quite deep. I have hopes and dreams, wants and needs, philosophical ponderings.
Me: I included a little of that.
Her: Not in pages and pages, only in short paragraphs of dialogue. I think you could drop into my head and do that omniscient thing with me, not just with her.
Me: I might in another story, just not this one.
Her: But you won’t cast me in that other story. You’ll choose someone else, someone with edge and gravitas. I’m stuck here. You’ve got to help me out. I need to reach the audience. I need to find MY people.
Me: I’m the writer so I make the decisions.
Her: Oh right, play the autocrat then. Swipe your pen, cut out my significant contribution, destroy my chance to round out the main character through vibrant and critical familial interaction, a theme central to this book.
Me: You have your chance and you do expose your true nature.
Her: I can change. I can be nicer.
Me: It’s too late because we’re at the end. You flew your flag. All is revealed.
I step away from the desk, run a hand through my hair and stretch. I rock my head from side to side and slip a sideways glance at the screen. It’s eerily silent.
I call my sister.
‘Annie, hi. Are you okay? The writing’s got to you again, hasn’t it? You want to come around and chat? Great, see you in ten.’
I hadn’t uttered a word. She heard me swallow, caught the thickness in my throat as I cleared it, then, when one or two sobs escaped, she nailed it.
Your secondary characters will reveal themselves over time. Every one of them wants something. The audience should be moved to understand, empathise with, and appreciate their particular relationship to the narrative, whatever their nature. They should be as real as your protagonist, no matter how small their role.