Today we're joined by author Elizabeth Boyle, whose If Wishes Were Earls has just been released, featuring a woman who can't forget a kiss she shared with a rakish earl—and the earl in question who needs to forget her if he's going to keep her safe. Elizabeth is here to talk about secondary characters, the glue that makes the hero and heroine stick together. Thanks, Elizabeth!
Great secondary characters make a story well decorated. But if you think authors add them for their window dressing appeal, think again. Secondary characters are some of the hardest working people in fiction. Their jobs, when they are added to a story correctly, are complex and more importantly, intricately tied to the hero and heroine’s development, and ultimately, their fate. They are foils, uncannily familiar, and can prod a character’s conscience to move the story and deepen our engagement with the hero and heroine.
One of the best uses of a great secondary character is that they can be both a mirror and a foil to the main characters. I think one of the best examples of a secondary character who acts as a foil is Diana Barry in the classic and beloved girlhood novel Anne of Green Gables. Diana is the perfect daughter, in contrast to Anne, who is an orphan, therefore no one’s daughter and a child no one would describe as “perfect.” Anne’s flaws are amplified when set against Diana’s good example. Diana also reflects the physical characteristics that Anne longs for—dark hair and a fair complexion, when Anne much to her chagrin and despair is known as “carrot top” because of her red hair. As a foil, Diana Barry reveals more about Anne’s character than she does her own, which makes her a perfect secondary character.