I’ll Take a Side Character With My Heroine, Please

Lately, in all of my writing and reading travels, I’ve been paying more attention to the side characters. You know, they’re not the hero/heroine or main protagonist, they’re the coleslaw to the fried chicken. Mmm..now I’m hungry. But you see? If you just get the chicken, and nothing else, it’s boring! You need the mashed potatoes and gravy, mac ‘n’ cheese, coleslaw and so on. Plus, who can resist a piping hot biscuit oozing with honey? Wow. Not sure how I got onto that tangent.

Kristin "Pam" Bauer of HBO's True Blood

Deal with it – you can’t have a fully realized story without fully realized side characters. It’s super easy to have a clear picture of your main protagonist, what their conflict is, how they change from it and the final resolution. But ensuring that your supporting characters are just as interesting and experience their own conflicts that affect and play into the main character -phew – that’s true storytelling!  This is especially true when your reader (or watcher) becomes just as emotionallyinvested in the side character as they do in the main ones.

Right now, my partner and several other friends who are fans of the True Blood series, (and alternately, the Sookie Stackhouse novels – not necessarily the same creature anymore) are having small meltdowns because A. The series finale is this Sunday (Boo! Hiss!), and B. It looks one of the side characters might be biting the big one – at least this has been the buzz.

Nelsan "Lafayette" Ellis from HBO's True Blood

Does this mean that we might be losing our beloved Lafayette, the smart ass grill cook at Merlotte’s? Or, has the sexy Pam disobeyed Eric one time too many, and has now sealed her own fate?  Say it isn’t so! I don’t want to lose either one of them. As much as the books started out being about Bill & Sookie’s love story, and then morphed into Sookie and Eric’s love story; what kept me reading, and now watching, is the extra spice the sides added.
I’ve noticed this a lot in book reviews as well. The books that get the strongest raves are the ones that have lovingly and thoroughly fleshed out all of their characters; even the grimy, nasty ones. Although this goes back to another T.V. show reference, I have to say I was blown away by the back story to Giancarlo Esposito’s character, Gus, on Breaking Bad this past Sunday. Holy Stunning Revelation, Batman!  No spoiler here, but I have been itching to know this guy’s situation for a while

Giancarlo "Gus" Esposito of AMC's Breaking Bad

cold-hearted bad guy is at such a perfect pitch, that even though you should hate the vicious bastard, something inside you screams, “There is so much more to this guy!”  Turns out there is, and when the truth about him is peeled back – whoa – almost as good as the scene with Eric and Sookie in the woods. Almost. For VERY different reasons. I know, I know, completely different shows. It’s the characters we latch onto though kiddies – the characters.
Stories, like our everyday lives, are filled with many different characters. Boy, do I have plenty in mine – ha!  But seriously folks, any plotline worth getting lost in needs plenty of colors and variations. They need smart-ass gay cooks, sarcastically hot lesbian vampires and seemingly heartless drug dealers barely concealing a cauldron of emotions.
Who are some of your all-time favorite side characters, and what was it about them that pulled you in?

6 comments on “I’ll Take a Side Character With My Heroine, Please

  1. While I am much of a book snob most of my literary plate consits of Horror, fantasy, mystery and science fiction. One of my favorite “side dish” charateters is from the Outlander Series. The character Geillis/Geilie Duncan. She is complex, witty, is a realist, and has a mean streak a mile wide. Without her the story of Claire and Jamie would not be compelte she is the glue that holds it all together.

  2. Totally agree. No-one believes they are a side character, everyone is the star of their own show. I think what I’m trying to say is that side characters shouldn’t act only like side characters, to further the adventure of the hero, they need their own story.

    My fave? Anya from Buffy. 🙂

  3. Don’t know if they are my “all time” faves but a few come to mind at the moment (and considering it has been a long day and I am beat, the fact that anything comes to mind right now it nothing short of a miracle). Sirius Black from Harry Potter…he just makes me think of the good looking bad boy type. Liked him in the books long before I saw him in movie (Gary Oldman). Capt. Barbossa from Pirates…ok not a book but what a commanding presence and personality that he has. Rasputin..ok maybe not a side character to Nicolas and Alexander but again, another presence that demands attention. Merry Brandybuck and Pippin”Took, from LOTR..ok they were just cute, but so was Aragorn and Legolas…lol I am sure there are more interesting characters but that is all my brain can handle right now.

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