By now you have your fleshed-out idea, you've mastered the complex art of creating strong protagonists and antagonists, and you have a summary. Before we get to the outline, you need to determine your secondary characters.

 

Secondaries set the tone of the story, fill out the world, further the plot, and aid in character development. Don't neglect this step!


  

Remember how in your summary some came up, and some became protagonists/antagonists? Well if they didn't become a major player these are going to be your frequent-secondary characters (FSCs), as in they need more thought put into them because they will drive plot more as well as character arcs. Opportune-secondary characters are plot devices in themselves, and usually only show up to further the plot or an arc. Remember that, it's going to be important.
 
Let's start with FSC (frequent-secondary characters). Who are they? To determine this ask yourself first two basic questions: do their actions affect 10%-25% of the plot? Do they affect both a plot point as well as further a character arc? If yes, it's a FSC. If you can't answer those questions, go back and look at your summary. Good rule of thumb: in a 3 page summary if a secondary character is mentioned 2-4 times, they are a FSC.

Now take a moment to get inside a main character's head. Take your potential FSCs and separate them into antagonist-aligned (AA=bad guys) and protagonist-aligned (PA=good guys). For the PA FSCs put yourself into the protagonist's mind, for the AA FSC's get into the antagonist's. How well do they know the FSC? Would they know the FSC's life story? Would they only know what they see or hear? If your pro- or antagonist knows them very well, give them a character bio as well, but keep it very brief. If they only know what they observe about the FSC, create a stat-sheet.



Don't be afraid to take a PA FSC and make them more evil, or an AA FSC and make them good. it makes things interesting



  
 

A stat-sheet for secondary characters is a quick listing of FSC and OSC (opportune-secondary characters) with all the attributes you will need to mention in a story. Good ones are: height, weight, ethnicity, appearance, age, tattoos/markings, attitude, job, feelings towards pro- or antagonist, and what plot point they will bring about.

An example stat sheet:

John
Height: 6'
Weight: 180lbs
Ethnicity: Caucasian/Latino mix
Appearance: Long dark hair/Athletic
Age: 38

Tattoos/Markings: None
Attitude: Optimist and easy going
Job: Professional fighter
Feelings towards protagonist/antagonist: In love with protagonist
Plot point they bring about: Revealing Neit's treachery

As you can guess that's FSC John from The Tournament Stories. What's written there is about all I needed. He's always a cheery, upbeat guy, a hopeless romantic in love with a woman who doesn't believe in love, but it doesn't stop him. The stat-sheet makes it easy to write his dialogue and actions.

Now for OSC's these are the characters that are not frequently recurring but show  up once, twice, maybe three times, and every time they are there only as a plot point or arc. How can you tell which one they affect? Create your stat-sheet and if the entry for "feelings towards pro- or antagonist" is the longest, they are in the story to help with a major character's story arc. If the last section "what plot point they will bring about" is the longest they are meant to serve the plot.

If you have an OSC and both sections are equal...you need to make them a FSC and give them more lines of dialogue/actions. If those last two are equal you have a FSC or frequent-secondary character, a Buzz to Marly Jackson, a Pietyr to Hannah/Anni, C3PO to Luke, Emperor Palpatine to Darth Vader. FSCs support the plot and the character arcs, thus they must recur frequently, and have some personal significance to the protagonist or antagonist.



Craft your FSCs carefully, these are the ones people will remember. Don't forget in a series an OSC can always become an FSC in a later story


  
 
 
 

OSCs, opportune-secondary characters pop up only when they serve use to further a character's development along their arc, or to move the plot along. OSCs are Eddie Harwood to Marly Jackson, Shara to Hannah/Anni, Lando Calrissian to Han, but NOT Tusken Raiders to Darth Vader. You see, even if they come up once like the Tuskens if they they further both an arc (steps 7 {killing his mom = killing the conscience} and 8 {killing all the Tuskens = first capricious act of evil}) as well as the plot (proving Yoda right that young future Darth Vader could not be trusted, setting into motion the future wars) that secondary character, in this case the Tuskens, must be considered FSCs. These once-appearing FSCs may not need a full character bio, but they do need a cohesive stat-sheet.

Any secondary characters that are named but affect neither plot nor arc are considered scenery. These can be coworkers, neighbors, anybody who's just used for fleshing out the world and filler. They need no stat-sheets.

Unlike protagonists and antagonists there are no mathematical bases or limits to the number of secondary characters. From the summary your first FSCs will pop out at you, and maybe one or two OSCs. Start thinking now about adding them. Go back to your edited summary, the one marked in colors to show arcs and plot points. Ask yourself how many secondary characters should be involved at each plot point/arc-development and decide if they are FSCs or OSCs, and make up stat-sheets as necessary.



OSCs can even be off-page or off-screen, such as Vera from Cheers. They still need a good stat-sheet


  
 

This will help you greatly for the next step, outlines, but writing your outline will change up your secondary characters and add to them. Remember that only the FSCs that jumped out from your summary deserve a character bio, everyone else gets a quick stat-sheet. Once you have to edit these after writing your outline it goes much faster.

All along I hope you've been compiling these various pieces of info into one folder. Make sure they are clearly labeled. You can even create one single file of stat-sheets, just organize it alphabetically to make searching easy. Keep going, we're almost there. Remember an organized writer is a prepared writer, and by having all these tools writer's block will be a very rare occurrence.