Select Secondary Characters Wisely

New Bern, N.C. suspense novel author Phil Bowie recently spoke at my regional writers’ group, Carteret Writers. Phil is an interesting character–   motorcycle rider, instrument-rated pilot, Coast Guard-licensed master mariner, astronomy buff, and fiddler. Lots of fodder for writing there!

The major character in Bowie’s John Hardin series is also a pilot, but with a rough past that landed him in the witness protection program.

When I started reading Bowie’s books, what struck me was how much his secondary characters bring to his work. Far from mere sounding boards for the protagonist, they add much to the plot and color of the books.

Kitty Birdsong, Hardin’s independent motorcycle-riding Cherokee girlfriend, adds all sorts of possibilities for plot. Beyond her cultural background providing a different point of view, her tribe’s reservation could be a place to hide, seek alternative medicine, or share survival skills unknown to most of us. Those are only a few of the possibilities.

Hardin shares his home with an octogenarian couple who escaped from a depressing rest home. Yet another point of view or two to enrich his books!

In my novel-in-progress, American Gold, some secondary characters add  tension and conflict or provide comfort for my main character, but Bowie’s example showed me I can make them work harder to earn their place in my story.

How about you? Are you getting all you can from your secondary characters?


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