Thursday, October 3, 2013

Leonard Goldberg's Blog Tour with Guest Post

I am so excited to have Leonard Goldberg here at Paranormal and Romantic Suspense Reviews with a Guest Post.

Thanks Leonard and Anne for allowing me to join your Plague Ship Blog Tour!

Please take it away, Leonard!

Creating Secondary Characters

Secondary characters can really add spice to a novel. It’s like sprinkling salt and pepper on a dish to enhance its true taste and flavor. These type characters are of course necessary to enhance and move the story along, but they can also bring out the protagonist’s strengths and weaknesses. They can be designed to have certain qualities or quirks which can be very helpful or hurtful to the lead character, often magnifying the protagonist’s strong points and/or flaws. Allow me to go back in time and show you some striking examples of this.

Let’s begin with Gone With The Wind in which secondary characters have such a powerful impact. In the novel, Scarlett O’Hara is the beautiful but manipulative and spoiled seductress who will do anything to get the man she loves, Ashley Wilkes. But Ashley’s in love and marries Melanie Hamilton, a sweet, gracious woman who sees the good in everybody, even Scarlett O’Hara. So here we have opposites, and when they’re together the differences intensify. The gorgeous Scarlett is jealous, unkind, and forever manipulative, while Melanie is sweet, soft, and forgiving. Whether in the novel or in the movie, Melanie’s softness and gentleness are magnified tenfold by Scarlett’s jealousy and cunning. And vice versa. They bring out each other’s inner qualities in an unforgettable way.

Another example of the importance of secondary characters is clearly illustrated in Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon. If you haven’t read the book, you most likely saw the movie, in which a private detective, Sam Spade, is involved in a murder case that revolves around the Maltese falcon, a precious falcon statuette. Sam Spade, the main character (played in the movie by Humphrey Bogart), is a tough, no-nonsense, cool private investigator. One of Spade’s nemesis is a small-time criminal, Joe Cairo (played in the movie by Peter Lorre), who comes across as being weak, sniveling, and easily corrupted. The difference between the two couldn't be more striking. A whining Joe Cairo makes Sam Spade look even stronger and cooler and more likable while Spade makes Joe Cairo seem even weaker, more cowardly, and detestable. Here again, we have one’s strength magnifying another’s weakness, and vice versa.

Gone With The Wind and The Maltese Falcon are my favorite examples of how secondary characters can enhance the story and bring out the true qualities of our protagonists. But there are many other excellent secondary characters in literature such as Karen Hansen, the sweet, beautiful immigrant girl, who’s viciously murdered by Arabs during the formation of the State of Israel in the novel Exodus. And who can forget Robert E. Lee Pruitt, the kind-hearted trumpet-playing soldier who refuses to box for the Army boxing team, in James Jones’ novel From Here to Eternity, or Yabu, the lying, cunning betrayer in James Clavell’s Shogun? And the list goes on and on.

In all the examples I’ve given, the secondary characters really don’t alter the outcome of the story but they add so much to our feel and understanding of the lead characters and the times in which they lived. They give the protagonist and plot a flavor and tone that adds immeasurably to the story telling. Show me a really good novel and I’ll show you some unforgettable secondary characters.

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