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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Secondaries: Why do we love them so?

I'm taking a short break from Teen Author Tuesday, but if you are an author who would like to be featured, please contact me, and I'll set you up for when I get going again.

I've been thinking lately on the subject of secondary characters. There are A LOT of secondary characters out there that I absolutely love. In fact, in many cases, I'd say I love the secondary characters better than the protagonist of novels. I also find I'm more drawn to the love interests, as people, than the protagonists in many cases.

And I don't think I'm alone in this.

As way of examples, I could start with the-series-that-shan't-be-named-because-everyone-is-tired-of-hearing-about-it by Stephanie Meyer, and I think we would all agree that the love interests outshine the protagonist in this novel. I also LOVED Alice as a character. The protagonist? Not so much.

There are so many more that I can think of as examples, and I had a conversation with my critique partner, Shana Silver, to discuss this topic, and she came up with several more that I hadn't considered.

I LOVED Kristi and Wes in Sarah Dessen's THE TRUTH ABOUT FOREVER. I liked Macy, don't get me wrong. But Kristi and Wes were unusual and entertaining.

One that Shana suggested was Felicity from Libba Bray's A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY, a secondary character who stole every scene she was in. "She's gutsy and rebellious, and betrays social norms..." says Shana.

I LOVED Teri more than Kate in Laurie Halse Anderson's CATALYST. Kate is a great character too, but Teri was just so different and ballsy.

Shana mentioned Alaska in John Green's LOOKING FOR ALASKA, and I suspect even the publishers knew that she would be the big draw in this book, since she's the object of the title.

Another secondary character who was so good she made the title is the KIKI STRIKE series from Kirsten Miller.

There are many more, but those are just a few we've come up with off the top of our heads. I've been pondering why this is. Is it because a secondary character can be a little more quirky, without getting on our nerves? Is it because secondary characters can hold a bit more mystery? Is it because the main character is so naked before us, showing us their zits and scars, their selfishness and personality flaws? Is it because the love interests tend to get most of the witty dialogue?

I've only received a few reviews for LOSING FAITH, so far, but this seems to be a trend I'm noticing already. People like Brie, but they LOVE Tessa. It got me to thinking more about this topic.

Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of books in which I love the protagonist more than any other character: E. Lockhart's Ruby Oliver, Suzanne Collins's Katniss (though, I admit, the boys make a pretty good rival!)

What are some books that you love where you prefer the secondary character or love interest to the main character? And why do you think this is?


  1. I totally agree with you. I just finished White Cat by Holly Black and while I liked Cassel, I found myself wishing for more scenes with his friend Sam.

    Same thing happened with Will Grayson, Will Grayson. I loved Tiny Cooper more than both Wills.

  2. I love humor and quirkiness and I think a lot of secondary characters can have more of that. I agree with you...they aren't the main focus with everything laid bare. You can just enjoy the secondary characters more.

    Alaska from Looking for Alaska is definitely a good one. Loved her.

    I like Harry in the HP series, but I really do LOVE those around him like Draco Malfoy and the Weasley twins. That's a big one, because there are so many extra characters to love.