April 1, 2020

Creating Memorable Secondary Characters

By Natalie Walters, author of Silent Shadows

If there’s one thing that almost always draws me into a story it’s the characters. I’m not just talking about the hero and heroine. I’m talking about the supporting cast, the secondary characters, the snarky barista that has one or two lines of dialogue as the hero gets his morning cup of joe.

These characters are just as important as the main characters and often times I’ll find that these “minor” players make an unexpected impact on myself and readers that I soon begin imagining a future story just for them.

Here’s how I create a memorable supporting cast:

1. Study the relationships in your own life. Have a friend that makes you laugh every time you’re with them? A kind neighbor with an annoying habit? A co-worker who secretly thinks your boss is an alien? Look at what makes these relationships stick out to you and incorporate bits and pieces of them into your characters.

2. Flavor your characters with quirks, nuances, mannerisms, and well, character. When you begin writing and a secondary character appears give them something that makes them standout. It doesn’t have to be big, it could be the portrait of a cat tattooed on the back of a soldier’s leg—this is a true story! I couldn’t help noticing the tattoo and thinking, oh, this guy—this tattoo—it means something and now I can’t forget it. And now, you probably can’t either but that’s the point!

3. Do a little bit of background story on your supporting cast. It doesn’t have to be in depth but give them a little history. I created a group of fishermen who frequented a cafĂ© in my Harbored Secrets Series and there’s only one who really stands out—Ducky. Nicknamed because of his bad luck hitting ducks when he’s out fishing on his boat. That little bit of background helped plant him firmly in my mind and hopefully in the mind of my readers.

A developed supporting cast will not only add a level of depth to your story, it will also make the story come alive in the mind of your readers—we all have that one person in our lives that makes us cringe when they come around the corner. Use them! Find a secondary character in your story that will cause the same reaction for your heroine and then trap them in an elevator. I promise you, your readers will not forget those pages or that character…and will probably begin taking the stairs!
Natalie Walters is the author of Living Lies and Deadly Deceit. A military wife of twenty-two years, she currently resides in Hawaii with her soldier husband and their three kids. She writes full-time and has been published in Proverbs 31 magazine and has blogged for Guideposts online. In addition to balancing life as a military spouse, mom, and writer, she loves connecting on social media, sharing her love of books, cooking, and traveling. Natalie comes from a long line of military and law enforcement veterans and is passionate about supporting them through volunteer work, races, and writing stories that affirm no one is defined by their past. Learn more at


  1. Natalie thank you for this post. First I agree with you about the secondary characters. Many times when reading a book, I find myself gravatating to a secondary character, and wondering why the author doesn't write a story with them.

    I also want to thank you for sharing with us how you create a supporting cast.

    Just read your book Silent Shadows. Loved the characters you created and how you took problems people had and showed us how we can overcome. Enjoyed the book.

  2. Ducky. What a creative idea! Yes, that would stick in a reader's mind, as well as the cat on the leg. :-)