Original Artwork by pedlag
Your protagonist can’t be all things. She can’t be the antagonist for sure, she can’t be a foil for herself, hmmm… maybe I’m on to something here, a story with one character playing all roles. ::Laughs:: Nah..sounds either too hard or just plain boring.
So what does that leave you with? Support characters! Everyone else the protagonist meets or interacts with. Some secondary characters are going to do some heavy duty, like Watson to Holmes. He is not only the foil and partner to Holmes, but the narrator as well. Some are not even going to be named. Ever looked at the credits to a movie? Guy with knife, 3rd girl screaming, 5th dude that gets blown up. They are on screen as filler. What I’m shooting for here is somewhere in between.
There are events that need to be accomplished by you the writer and they require a secondary character to do them. What I've discovered in my writing is that I like having characters that have more than one dimension. I can’t speak for everyone but I think most people like characters that are fully formed (Maybe there are some people that like card board cutouts.) How do you add facets?
It’s not as hard as you might think, and what I've discovered in my recent WIP is how satisfying it is to have a character really come to life. The trick is to have them do double or triple duty for you. What I mean by this is you have them responsible for doing multiple items on your list of events that need accomplished. I don’t want to give too much away from my WIP but I had a character that was almost completely peripheral. He was a spouse and I named him for simplicity, but as things developed I wanted to twist things up a little more so I took this character and gave him a behind the scenes roll that he didn't originally have, and it opened up numerous plot veins that I could mine. I've done that with other characters to. One guy was just a coworker that opened a door for the protagonist. Later I added a scene where he did some research for her, and even later I embroiled him in some bad juju that really made him a much more interesting character. You will have to read the book to find out. =)
If you are going to name a character it's almost like a promise to the reader that this person has an important role to play. Giving them important stuff to do, repeatedly, really makes them come to life. I could have had three different people do the three different things, but it would feel more hollow. This way I get to keep my promise to the reader.
When your reading your next book see it this rings true.
Good luck in your writing.