Upstaging for Beginners – Secondary Characters’ Round Robin


Upstaging for Beginners is something all eldest children know about. I’m an eldest child – what do you mean, you knew that? There you are in a neat little bubble of loving relatives, doting friends and neighbours and admiring strangers when it BURSTS.

After the Night Before

New Baby

A sibling has arrived. They don’t have to do anything to attract all that wonderful attention that was hitherto yours and yours alone. They just are Secondary Characters and they’re upstaging you.

Secondary Characters should support the heroine or point up by their failings and villainy how sparkling, intelligent, beautiful… Okay, I think we all know what we want the secondary characters to do. Unfortunately, as in The De’il has all the best tunes, the villain often has more of the colour and a writer needs to take enormous care to avoid making the good pale and uninteresting by comparison.

My favourite Secondary Character from my own writing is Reuben Longreach in


Reuben arrived on the first page of the new story fully formed and snapping at the heels of the man I had thought was going to be the male interest. He was certainly a surprise and I loved him from the first words I ‘heard’ him say.

DAISY herself was a secondary character in MARIAH’S MARRIAGE I did have to tone her down in one scene to allow Mariah to flourish.

There are many classic secondary characters such as Dr Watson & Captain Hastings. The reader comes to love their contributions. Clever readers might even solve detective mysteries through their pointed mistakes (I can’t ). And there are many small, almost cameo, characters who live on in the memory. A recent, and in my view brilliant one, was Lowrie the taxidermist and artist in the television serial Shetland, BBC 1

So, in conclusion, I love secondary characters. Visit some of my blogging friends to find out what they think by clicking on any link below from Saturday 19th. My post is up early as I’m off to the Scottish Association of Writers’ Conference – more of that later.

I’d love to know, dearest reader, who your favourite secondary character is from my three published novels, Mariah’s Marriage, BELLA’S BETROTHAL and Daisy’s Dilemma. Leave a comment, please.
Skye Taylor
Beverley Bateman
Judith Copek
Connie Vines
Victoria Chatham
Helena Fairfax
Marci Baun
Rachael Kosinski
Hollie Glover
Dr. Bob Rich

Fiona McGier
Rhobin Courtright


16 thoughts on “Upstaging for Beginners – Secondary Characters’ Round Robin

  1. Anne, my oldest brother is the oldest of 7 – he’d absolutely love your analogy! I haven’t watched any of Shetland but have heard lots of good things about it. I’ll try and catch up with it! Have a great time at the conference!


    • Hi Helena, just back from Westerwood and the SAW conference. Great time had by all. thanks for dropping in. with 6 of you tripping him up, your brother must have struggled to keep his place, Anne


  2. Anne, it’s always fun to hear about your characters, and I really like the thought of being surprised when a secondary character steals the show. One of my *now* main characters had originally been designed purely to help the heroine out, but then all of the sudden I started to explore where this corny, charismatic optimist of a boy came from and then I had two equally main characters instead of one. Sometimes a super flashy secondary character might just be fighting for main character status!


  3. I love how we think we’re the ones “in control” of the stories, but the characters, in reality, are the ones ordering us around! I think I’m creating a bit, or supporting character for use in one book, then the next thing I know, that character is all I can think about, until I write his/her story!


  4. I love your sense of humor! And isn’t it the truth that we hear our characters, some more clearly than others? I haven’t seen Shetland but will look out for it on Netflix. I just finished watching the series Run and found it interesting that each episode grew out of characters in the previous one.


  5. Loved your comments about being the eldest child–great anology. I was an only child but remember when the 2nd grandchild arrived. Still remember my swift demotion. Isn’t it cool how secondary characters can arrive in the story will a complete personality, quirks and all? 0
    I loved Shetland and hope it comes back. Only caught the last few episodes. The Good Wife (TV) has always had good secondary characters. Thanks for a great post.


    • Hi Judy, Yep, you see it all the time. My Godson’s Granny abandoned them all, the year she could visit two little granddaughters in Glasgow. They were bewildered by such defection. Thanks for dropping in, Anne


  6. Loved your analogy, Anne, though I grew up as the secondary character who didn’t quite manage to outshine the main character, my sister.
    I loved Daisy in Mariah’s Marriage and thought she deserved her own story, so it was nice to see she got it 🙂
    In my own WIP, I’m finding that although I have a very strong main character, Mirabelle, a couple of the secondary ones, Kay and Yvonne, are asking about getting their own novels.


    • Hi Christine, Personally, I think having secondary characters talking to the author in that way is a sign you’ve created someone real. Good luck with the logistics and thank you for the kind words about Daisy. Anne


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