Minor Characters--the Fred and Ethels in your StoryCan you imagine Lucy and Ricky Ricardo without Fred and Ethel Mertz? In every story you need your Fred and Ethels—someone for your hero and heroine to interact with. Nobody can live in a vacuum for long, even fictional characters. They need advocates and opponents that help define who they are.
Think about your characters' flaws and strengths. Then think about the story question you have set up in the opening. In my story, WALTZING WITH ALLIGATORS, a small town Alabama girl finds out she's the kidnapped daughter of a New England financier and has just inherited an enormous fortune. She's grown up without means and has been looked down on all her life by the wealthy members of her community. The inciting incident throws her into a moral quandary. The story question is: Will Gracie accept her inheritance? My job in my story is to setup situations and find secondary characters who will force Gracie to examine and change her attitude about her unexpected windfall.
Have you chosen secondary characters for your story who will force your main characters to grow and change enough during the course of the story so they will deserve their HEA at the end of the story? Look for allies, mentors, and enemies who will complement as well as oppose your hero and heroine's personality traits.
Mentors will force the hero and heroine to look within themselves and acknowledge their flaws and failings, then challenge them to overcome their weaknesses. The enemies will strike at those weaknesses and try to bring your hero and heroine to their knees. Their attacks will cause your hero and heroines to find the inner strength he or she needs to triumph and grow. The allies are the hero and heroine's support group—the best friends—someone to keep them on a steady course when the going gets rough.
The very nature of a hero or heroine makes them prone to perfection in our minds, while our secondary characters are often handicapped with interesting flaws and quirks that add color and humor to the story. Janet Evanovich's character from the Stephanie Plum series, Grandma Mazur, is one such character. If the story gets too dark, she's there to lighten it up. One of my favorite uses for minor characters is to add humor when the hero and heroine begin to take things too seriously.
Just one caution about these interesting sidekicks: If you're like me, you might fall a little too much in love with your secondary characters. You may have to watch that they don't steal the spotlight from your hero or heroine and run away with your story. For me, the risk is worth the gain. Give them jobs and make them work for their glory. They won't disappoint you. Secondary characters are the way of the Force.