Friday, November 4, 2011

Tis a Writer's Life for me!

In the last couple Friday's I've discussed how I create my hero and heroine for each book. But what about all those pesky secondary characters? I usually have quite a few in my stories. Where and how do I come up with all of them?

Naturally, as part of your storyworld, your hero and heroine will come in contact with many other people. The first thing I do is make a list of the normal people they might know. For instance, if my hero is the captain of a ship, he'd have a first mate, second mate, quartermaster..etc.. in other words, a crew!  Even if he's a simple farmer, he will have a family, farm workers, friends. Usually, my heroine will live amongst relatives such as parents or cousins or an uncle. These are all people who are normally a part of their lives. I write them all down on a list and give them names and occupations and how they relate to my hero or heroine.

But here comes the fun part. (And sometimes, a very complicated part), I need to choose the dominant secondary characters, assign them a role, and plan how they will either assist or deter the hero or heroine from achieving their goals. Not all of the secondary characters in a book will be dominant. Most will be what I call fillers. They merely exist in the story, are part of the plot, but they really play no role in moving it forward. The dominant ones are very important because they will play a part in moving the main characters forward through the story, both physically and spiritually.

Here are the roles I assign my secondary characters. These are taken from the book 45 Master Characters by Victoria Lynn Schmidt. (Highy recommended book)

1. Magi – voice of wisdom/ been there, done that. Often unwilling to help hero and prefers to be left alone.
2. Mentor – more like the hero and closer to level. Can be negative or positive
3. Best Friend – Hero’s confidant
4. Lover –

1. Joker – troublemaker with a sharp wit
2. Jester – funny but usually means well most of the time
3. Nemesis – a friendly troublemaker just trying to mess things up for hero for the fun of it
4. Investigator – butting in when not wanted or needed. Insecure. Tries to control
5. Pessimist – constantly disapprove of hero
6. Psychic – know it all/superior attitude power hungry
7. Villain - the antagonist

1. Shadow – mirrors the hero’s flaws or shortcomings
2. Lost soul – symbolizes hero’s past
3. Double – a role model – who the hero wants to be


I don't use them all in each book, but I choose those who fit my plot and purpose. Let me give you some examples from my last book, Surrender the Dawn

Abner Tripp

    Cassandra's mother

    Margaret Dayle
    Biron Abbot
  • Villain - Abner Tripp- trying to ruin the hero, Luke Heaton, because Luke humiliated him in the past
  • Pessimist - Cassandra's Mother who tried to discourage Cassandra from her goal and turn her onto the wrong path.
  • Mentor - Reverend Drummond - gives spiritual advice to both hero and heroine
  • Role Model - Margaret Dayle - Cassandra's maid who provides an example of a woman who completely trusts God
  • Investigator - Milton Crane who tried to get Cassandra for himself and was always butting into her business
  • Best friend to Luke - Noah Brenin
  • Magi to Luke - Biron his first mate who is a godly man and is always giving Luke good advice
There's more, but you get the point.  After I create these characters and give them roles, I must decide how they are going to help or hinder the hero and heroine.. .but that's for another week.


  1. Fri Nov 4th,
    "Morning, MaryLu."
    ..... And that is why, my dear ... "you" are doing the writing !!! My hat is still off to you ! Assembling the story with the message(s) you want to put across, along with developing all of the characters (flaws and strengths) and the role they each play out, etc ... this takes -- time, committment, focus, perseverance, faith, patience, and ... the love of what you are doing !!!
    And now I believe undisputedly ... that I, am meant to be "the reader" (not the writer) !!!
    Thank goodness you do what you do, so very well !!!
    Take care, and, God Bless,
    In Him, Brenda Hurley

  2. Awesome! I got the 45 Master Characters book from the library last weekend because you mentioned it a few weeks ago and I certainly plan to use it in the future. It is very helpful! Thanks a lot for posting this.

  3. Writing is a lot of hard work. Mostly because the author has to keep tabs on all of the characters in the story. I admire that you are able to do this with great efficiency MaryLu! Its obvious in your books that you take great care with your characters and plot line. Its why I'm such a big fan. :)

  4. I love seeing how you created your characters! I got the book, and I plan on reading it as soon as I have time. I did skim through it, though, and I can see how many of your characters follow the different models. By the way, that's almost exactly what I imagined Cassandra's mom looking like!

  5. Hi Ladies, thanks for your comments! Brenda, yes, there is so much to put together and remember.. sometimes my brain feels like it will explode. Thank you for your kind words.

    Great, Heather! You'll love the book. It will really help you.

    Eszter, You're so sweet, thank you!!

  6. Absolutely wonderful post! I loved when you touched on secondary characters during the NextGen writer's conference! I had never thought of them in such depth before but I'm printing out this list (and putting that book on my to-read list) to use in my current WIP! :)

    Thank you,

  7. I'm so glad I could help you, Rachelle!! May God Bless your writing. :-)

  8. Thanks, MaryLu! Great list, I'm definitely going to use it as a reference!