Secondary Characters Have Rights, Too
Dear Secondary Characters,
I’m sure you must know by now. The way people write articles, speak, or write about you, it’s like you’re not important. Authors ignore you, or pull you into the story and then throw you out again as soon as they’re done with you. I know some among you have tried to stop these acts, and some have succeeded.
But some have not.
I admit, two years ago, I would have done the same thing. I didn’t care for any secondary characters; you all only served your purposes, and then left the novel, presumably to go back to your lives and be forgotten. I cared naught for your plights, your stories, even who you were. You were tools.
Then I met a young man named Swithin.
Perhaps it was the calm, cool way he gave orders, or the way that he was in the antagonist’s forces, but he did not follow the antagonist’s orders. Perhaps it was the way he treated his men, like they were more than he, or the way he stepped in and did the right thing when it needed to be done, and then, even when I tried to have him fade back out of the story, he refused. I decided to look into him. The deeper I dug into him, his character and his past, the more I found.
From that moment on, I realized (though there have been times when I have relapsed), you secondary characters are not tools. You are people. You are characters. You are the responsibility of the writers.
And we, most of the authors of this world, had failed in representing you correctly.
When you receive this letter, I don’t know what you’ll think–I’m sure that, some of you, will be glad and joyfully tell each other, “Finally! This is what we’ve been waiting for!”
Some of you, though, will look at it and shake your heads. “How will they manage that?” You’ll say, amusement evident on your faces. “No more secondary characters? They’ll be busy. How do you suppose they’ll find time to write the full stories of every character they come across?”
Truth be told, secondary characters, we won’t. I know the look you’ll be giving me, so, before you write back and say so, I’m not betraying you. I’m not going back on what I just said, nor do I suggest that any other authors go back to using you as only “minor characters.” Yet while some of us, as authors, would be able to write all of your stories, or show all of your personality, those are the super-heroes, the best of the best. Unfortunately, there’s not many of those, so we must come up with a compromise.
“A compromise?” You might say, so before you stop reading, let me continue. You might not be too pleased with what you see, but you might not hate the idea, either.
What if we stopped using you as tools? What if we stopped using you as the people to support the ideas of our main characters, or be those with their arguments shot down? What if we, as the authors, stopped treating you as nothing, and started treating you as characters?
Your stories are just as important as the stories we’re writing. Even though you star as supporting characters, you aren’t worthless, you aren’t simply there as a brief person we’ll use, and then throw away.
We’ll write you as characters. We’ll write you as people, as deep and real as our main characters; we just won’t be able to tell your story. We can’t show you as everything you are, but we can put work into you, because you’re worth it.
In return, you’ll be good to our stories. You won’t take over (not without permission, anyway), but you will be our main character’s support. You will play your part, willingly now, for from now on it will be your part. You won’t be portrayed as a cardboard cut-out. You’ll be there to add to the story and to assist or hinder the main character, but, whether we tell our readers or not, or whether you tell us or not, you’ll be people.
Don’t ever let your authors tell you that you aren’t.
(Writer and President of The Association for Protection of Character’s Rights. (AfPoCR))