I was supposed to mow my front lawn today today, as well as go out to my Dad’s ranch and weed eat his front lawn: it’s covered with eight-inch plus weeds. But this is the first day in two weeks when I could get back to working on my new novel.
Two weeks back, I wrote eight chapters. The next week, I had to be out of town almost every day. It would’ve been nice if my destination were several hours away, then I could’ve stayed there. But all my meetings were only forty miles away. That’s a lot of driving and a lot of hours away, and when I returned, I had too much else to do.
Same with this last week, when it mostly rained. Yet, two days ago there was a dry spell and I mowed my back yard (an hour and half of mowing) and spent about four hours pulling up weeds. When the ground is soaked, it’s easier to pull up weeds rather than dig them out.
In between, I did a boatload of research to continue writing my new novel. I had previously done enough work to write the first ten chapters. I had been wanting to get to it for six months and couldn’t wait and longer, so I started without having finished my work, including creating the rest of the characters for my story.
I try to create more secondary characters than I really need. Mostly I don’t need them, but sometimes I need one or two more secondary characters here or there. Even though I know where my story’s going and what’s going to happen next, sometimes I find that an additional character will make it stronger. It’s a whole lot easier to have them pre-created than to make one up on the spot, though that often works, too.
Sometimes, I give tertiary characters some lines, making them secondary characters.
What’s the difference between secondary and tertiary characters? Let’s say you’re standing in a crowded mall. You see a woman struggling to keep her little kids close together. A woman is cuddling a baby. Two gay men are angry with each other but you cannot hear what they’re saying. A couple is kissing. Some teenagers are laughing at something. Someone has fallen and several people are helping the person up. All these people are tertiary characters.
If you don’t know them and don’t interact with them in any influential way, such as their giving you information important to what you’re doing, then they’re tertiary. If you’re shooting at them or brawling with them or watching them, they’re still tertiary. Even if you do talk to them, but at the end of the day you’ve forgotten who they are, what they said to you, or what you said to them, they’re still tertiary.
Secondary characters range from close friends to casual acquaintances. They have some importance to you.
In the recent X-men movie, “Logan”, Charles Xavier is important to Wolverine and important to the story line, while the albino isn’t. The albino is secondary, Xavier is primary. So, too, is the main bad guy, he’s primary. And the young female mutant with an adamantine skeleton, she’s primary. (Trying not to give too much away if you haven’t seen the film yet but are planning on it.)
So, in “Logan”, you have four main characters and everyone else, EVERYONE, is either secondary or tertiary.
You don’t need to know every secondary person’s name, nor every tertiary character’s name. However, if it’s important for them to have a name, you should work out a name before hand.
And that’s why I work so much on figuring out characters. Once you’ve figured out a name for them, you’ve already started on figuring out who they are and where they fit in.
Writing is puzzle work. Figuring out characters and their motivations is puzzle work, too. And the more you put into it, the better the resultes.
See you out there.