Wednesday, October 14, 2015

My Guest: Stefania Mattana

My Guest this week brings with her a host of other characters. Yes, they are the ones we may often forget, yet without whose presence our protagonists and antagonists would not be who they are. Ladies and Gentlemen...

Stefania Mattana

Secondary characters in fiction: 
why you can't neglect them

Every hero has a sidekick supporter. Here are some vital reasons the secondary characters development in fiction is so vital.
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There's no Batman without Robin, no Harry without Ron & Hermione, no Sherlock without Watson. In fiction, there are endless examples of minor characters who are not less important than the main ones. Let's see in depth why readers love them (sometimes more than the heroes!) and why plots can't exist without them. 

Sometimes Secondary characters are the core of the stories because they provide conflict.

Yes, the main character is the hero and/or the recurrent one in a book series - but what about the dark side of the plot? In mysteries, for example, there are killers to catch, and even if sometimes we don't know their identity, killers are ipso facto secondary characters, and everything turns around them.
Background characters can be also not likeable, on the other hand.
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Readers need someone to love, but also someone to reverse their hate to. Secondary characters fulfill that need. There are rare occasions where the main character is unlikable, and most of the times he's flanked by a positive character anyway - think of Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, for example.
Secondary characters protect and back up the main characters.
Think of the most iconic couples or trios in the fiction literature: minor characters are often friends of the main hero and help him out in time of needs - or the other way around. In my mysteryand detective book series, the main character, Chase Williams, is a former Scotland Yard detective relocated in Italy, who helps his friend Inspector Angelo Alunni solve some murder cases happening in town. No matter how hard the main character(s) tries, nothing can be done without the support of the secondary
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characters, though. Unless you are not reading The Odyssey.
Secondary characters provide tridimensionality.
My mystery stories would lose their genuine nature if I haven't develop my main character's neighbourhood, which is populated by typical Italian inhabitants and gives the reader a truly experience of Italy. The world around Chase Williams takes life not only with descriptions and colours, but also thanks to the background characters who talk and interact with him.

The only danger here is to fall into stereotypes, but that's easily fixable by spending a bit of time defining the minor characters in details - doesn't matter if you include all their specifications in your stories; once you have sketched the characters, you know what to say about them and what to elude.

Consequently, secondary characters bring new plot and sub-plots on.
Each of them has a story that can be told, and can also cross the main plot.
New points of view are pulled by secondary characters.
My readers will never forget the moment when Chase and Inspector Alunni had an
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argument so bad that it brought even worse consequences - but at the same time that helped solve a murder case. Minor and background characters can show different perspectives of the same topics or situations to both readers and main characters - giving to both of them room for considerations and changes.
Animals can also work out very well as secondary characters.
Who said humans have to be the sidekicks? Chase solved some unusual mysteries thanks to his neighborhood dog, Luciano. If Luciano wasn't there, my readers would have less stories to enjoy! (not to mention the fact that Chase doesn't have Luciano's smell skill!)
A quick note for the writers to conclude my examination.
It's the author's responsibility to give secondary characters enough space on any plot. Readers needs minor characters as much as the main hero. Many readers can relate much more with secondary characters and find in them relief if the plot is getting too stressing or some sparks of curiosity or interest if they don't fancy the main plot (or the main character) very much.
In two sentences:
Sometimes, secondary characters hold up the whole novel and go outside the story. That's how spin-offs are born, but that's another story for another blog post.


Stefania Mattana writes mystery and detective novels because she's a snooper. She and her main character Chase Williams, a former MET officer, have swapped locations, so she now lives in London while he enjoys the Italian life. 

Stef is an avid reader and a keen runner. Ever present on the internet, has written many nonfiction and fiction books, but she's having a blast with the Chase Williams Murder Mystery Book Series. When she's not writing or practising the dark art of SEO, she stalks dogs. 

Stef's relevant websites/social media hubs:

Chase Williams:
Stefania Mattana:
Mailing List (for news and exclusive content):

Thanks you, Stef, for your comprehensive review of the importance of our support characters which I'm sure will help readers and writers alike to appreciate their understated role. Best wishes for your novels.

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