Bio: Jaye Wells is a USA Today-bestselling author of urban fantasy and speculative crime fiction. Raised by booksellers, she loved reading books from a very young age. That gateway drug eventually led to a full-blown writing addiction. When she’s not chasing the word dragon, she loves to travel, drink good bourbon and do things that scare her so she can put them in her books. Jaye lives in Texas.
Main characters get a lot of attention. Makes sense, I guess. But some of my favorite characters in fiction have been secondary players. Ones who walk into a scene and make it leap off the page.
In my own books, I have heard from lots of readers who want to know more about these characters. Most notably has been Giguhl, the Mischief demon sidekick from my Sabina Kane series. He provides a lot of the comedic relief in the series, so it’s easy to understand why people love him.
But Giguhl’s role in that series wasn’t just to be a jester. To me, he was an agent of benevolent chaos. His job was to force Sabina Kane, the main character, out of her comfort zone and not take herself so seriously. In short, he was an active agent for change. If you paid close attention, he also had his own story arc in the series.
The best secondary characters are three-dimensional—meaning they have their own goals and obstacles and backstories. But more than that, they have to be believable products of the world they inhabit.
I write speculative fiction, which means I play fast and loose with magic and monsters and add with glee to our world. While all of my characters have to have identifying and empathetic human traits (even if they’re demons or faeries), they also have to have believable issues that someone living in a world where the arcane and paranormal are commonplace. That impacts the types of characters you’ll create. A world where magic is used by most people will produce different personality types and archetypes than our own mundane world. Use that.
The best example of what I’m talking about is from my new Prospero’s War series. Little Man and Mary are technically two characters, but since they’re conjoined twins they’re also kind of a single unit. Mary is a large woman who has the mental capacity of a child. Her bother, Little Man, is a homunculus who grew from a mole on Mary’s chest. Fully grown, he is carried around in a custom-made baby carrier by Mary, who protects him. Little Man, despite his size, is the brains of this operation.
Little Man and Mary are the way they are because their mother was addicted to fertility potions. She died in childbirth because Mary was so large. And then, later Little Man came along and Mary never had to be alone again. After surviving a screwed up foster care system, they became hustlers of a sort—trading information for money. IN fact, they are the go-to informants for the cops in DIRTY MAGIC.
Little Man and Mary aren’t just memorable because they’re disturbing. They’re memorable because they deepen the reader’s understanding of the world. They also are victims of their world, which makes them more empathetic and sympathetic even if their choices are not always good.
So my advice to you, if you want to create awesome secondary characters is to really think about how the world they live in and their personal stories have shaped who they’ve become. Try to play with tropes and combine ideas in new ways. Also think about the kind of people your main character needs around them. What kind of lessons do they need to learn and what kind of people can best force them to learn those lessons?
But most of all, try to have fun. The more you enjoy your characters, the more your readers will. Happy writing!
MAGIC IS A DRUG. CAREFUL HOW YOU USE IT.
The Magical Enforcement Agency keeps dirty magic off the streets, but there’s a new blend out there that’s as deadly as it is elusive. When patrol cop Kate Prospero shoots the lead snitch in this crucial case, she’s brought in to explain herself. But the more she learns about the investigation, the more she realizes she must secure a spot on the MEA task force.
Especially when she discovers that their lead suspect is the man she walked away from ten years earlier – on the same day she swore she’d given up dirty magic for good. Kate Prospero’s about to learn the hard way that crossing a wizard will always get you burned, and that when it comes to magic, you should never say never.