The beginning of summer contains a lot of different things at WeGeekGirls but one of our favorite things is being a part of our friend and fantastic author Gail Z. Martin‘s Hawthorn Moon Blog Tour.
Blog tours are a great way to find out a little more about your favorite books, characters, book setting and also to find out a bit more about a particular author’s writing process.
In the past, Gail has talked to us about what it’s like to write stories and create characters in 6 different series and also how she gets book setting inspiration.
Today we get a special treat in that not only has Gail chosen to share a little about writing secondary characters, she is also giving us a sneak peek excerpt from her latest novel Scourge, to be released on July 15th.
Take a look…
Creating Secondary Characters that Feel Real
By Gail Z. Martin
Who are the people in your neighborhood? If you grew up with the Mr. Rogers TV show, the answer comes to mind immediately—‘the people that you meet each day.’
Books contain whole worlds—certainly whole towns and neighborhoods. And so they must also have ‘neighbors’, people who aren’t the major characters but who interact with them in ways big and small to make the world feel populated. Unless your story takes place on a deserted island, small ship or remote estate, your main characters are likely to run into dozens of people as they go about their daily business—merchants, postal workers, teachers, baristas, police officers, clerks and more. Not having your protagonists interact with other people makes your world feel unnaturally empty—unless there is a good reason for it to be so.
There are two types of secondary characters: those that are background scene dressing, and those who play a crucial part in the plot.
Background characters have limited interaction, but they either help the reader better picture the world or help them gain insight into the main characters. The waitress herself might not be important to the plot, but seeing a character speak rudely to her or behave with condescension reveals much. Knowing that your protagonist is the type who knows the name of the grocer and is greeted by him as a friend reveals the main character to be friendly, egalitarian and maybe even a creature of habit in a way that feels natural and flowing.
Likewise, the people whom your protagonist encounters—chimney sweeps, pickpockets, assassins, shop clerks, urchins, soldiers, beggars and others—tell the reader something about the world in which the story takes place without requiring an infodump. Background characters help paint a picture and reveal facts of personality and setting.
Sometimes, secondary characters become recurring, or grow into a bigger part. In my Chronicles of the Necromancer series, a squire named Rhistiart was only supposed to be in a few scenes. But he wouldn’t go away, and ended up playing an important (yet still secondary) role in two books. The bard Carroway plays a fairly small part in the first two books of the Chronicles series, yet emerges as a key figure in books three and four. In my new Darkhurst series, a kitchen wench named Polly unexpectedly took on a much greater role, and becomes a viewpoint character in the sequel I’m currently writing.
How does a background character grow into a larger role? Sometimes it’s the chemistry that arises between him/her and one of the protagonists. It could be that as the plot evolves, the background character is in a role or location that suddenly becomes more important. Perhaps they represent a group or viewpoint that becomes essential to a new plot development. Or maybe they’re just comic relief.
When you create background characters, you don’t have to do a data-dump of their entire life history. Pick a mannerism, or perhaps describe something unique about their looks, speech, or way of dressing. Give the reader a mental ‘hook’ to remember them by, and expand that a little in subsequent interactions. Make them unexpected—feisty in a role where subservience would be predicted, clever in a position usually thought to only require low skills, kind or brave or helpful when one would expect something else. Then you’re free to explain as much or as little as you want to as the book progresses.
When you create interesting background and secondary characters, your world comes to life, and feels like it’s populated by real people instead of cardboard cut-outs!
About the Author
The Hawthorn Moon is the annual summer blog tour for Gail Z. Martin, and features guest blog posts, giveaways, surprises, excerpts and more on eighteen blogs worldwide. Find the master list of posts and goodies at http://www.GailZMartin.com
Gail Z. Martin is the author of Scourge: A Darkhurst novel, the first in a brand new epic fantasy series from Solaris Books. Also new are: The Shadowed Path, part of the Chronicles of the Necromancer universe (Solaris Books); Vendetta: A Deadly Curiosities Novel in her urban fantasy series set in Charleston, SC (Solaris Books); Shadow and Flame the fourth and final book in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga (Orbit Books); and Iron and Blood a new Steampunk series (Solaris Books) co-authored with Larry N. Martin.
She is also author of Ice Forged, Reign of Ash and War of Shadows in The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, The Chronicles of The Necromancer series (The Summoner, The Blood King, Dark Haven, Dark Lady’s Chosen); The Fallen Kings Cycle (The Sworn, The Dread) and the urban fantasy novels Deadly Curiosities . Gail writes three ebook series: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures, The Deadly Curiosities Adventures and The Blaine McFadden Adventures. The Storm and Fury Adventures, steampunk stories set in the Iron & Blood world, are co-authored with Larry N. Martin.
Gail is also the organizer for #HoldOnToTheLight, authors blogging about depression, anxiety, PTSD, suicide, self-harm and other mental health topics to encourage inclusiveness in fandom and stand in solidarity with fans. Learn more at http://www.HoldOnToTheLight.com
Find her at http://www.GailZMartin.com, on Twitter @GailZMartin, on Facebook.com/WinterKingdoms, at DisquietingVisions.com blog and GhostInTheMachinePodcast.com, on Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/GailZMartin and free excerpts on Wattpad http://wattpad.com/GailZMartin.
and for the second helping of awesomeness, here is the INCREDIBLE cover of Scourge and an excerpt from it!
Remember you can get your hands on it July 15TH!!
Thank you Gail for once again making us a stop on your tour! We look forward to all of the exciting things the rest of year holds for you!