Penguin Random House Editor Offers Tips on Beefing Up Supporting Characters

Don’t let your supporting characters get lost in the crowd. Photo: sonstroem via Visual hunt / CC BY

Have you thought of making the supporting characters in your novel the stars of their own lives? It’s the key to developing more interesting secondary characters, according to a Penguin Random House editor.

“Turn each character into the main character…of her own book,” writes Phil Stamper-Halpin, senior manager of publishing development and author platforms at Penguin Random House. It’s at the top of a list of writing tips from editors at the publishing house about strengthening secondary characters. You may not use all the details about every supporting character, but knowing them will make it easier to flesh them out and make them more real to the reader.

Secondary characters who simply exist in the background should be a red flag. Perhaps you don’t need all of them. “If you have side characters who enter early in the manuscript but disappear abruptly, never to be seen again, you might be able to combine multiple similar characters into one,” according to Stamper-Halpin.

One of the best writing tip in the article is probably something familiar to writers who have worked with professional editors. If a character isn’t working, cut it. “It’s hard to say goodbye to any characters, but if you’re getting hung up on their scenes or you believe the pacing slows down whenever they enter the story, it might be time to say goodbye,” says Stamper-Halpin.

Fleshing out secondary characters will not only make your novel interesting, but it may establish the beginnings of another story. If they could stand alone, then who’s stopping you from writing a sequel?

For more tips, read the entire article:

6 Ways to Strengthen Your Supporting Characters 

Read another article about supporting characters:

Top 9 Supporting Characters in Literature

Photo credit: sonstroem via Visual hunt /  CC BY


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1 Comment

  1. I like this idea . my thinking is that if I write even a flash fiction story about a supporting character, perhaps the original story will benefit


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