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When planning a novel, it’s easy to become a bit obsessed with your protagonist. They’re the ones leading your plot after all, so it’s important that you get to know everything about them and understand how their wants and needs change through the novel.  

...But what about those secondary characters? Although they’re in the background, they’re vital for jogging the pace along or perhaps offering help to, or hindering the success of, your protagonist.  

Some authors like to ask all their characters the same questions they’re asking their protagonist, and you can tell when that happens (think of the Harry Potter series for example – it seems every character in those books has a complex backstory). But I’m lazy. I don’t really care what the shopkeeper on page fifty of my book ate for breakfast. So how to I make him appear real?  

My trick is to give him a memorable trait. Something removed from cliché that sets him apart from everyone else. It could be anything from the way he looks to the way he engages with the protagonist. It could be an unusual tattoo, or a tic. Whatever it is – keep it relevant to your character’s situation. 

So – how do you create secondary characters? What are your favourite characters from the background of other books? What do you think makes a character memorable? Share them below.

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