I saw this idea for a post on Helena Fairfax’s blog – she’s a local writer, I think, and I’ve read her stuff for a little while. It got me thinking: most of my favourite characters aren’t always the protagonist. For me, a secondary character isn’t the primary character or their antagonist – they’re someone who’s an adjunct to the main action, another character who’s got something in their own right that’s memorable and interesting, and they help you as a reader/viewer learn more about the main character. Particularly in series, which I love because you sink into a character for so long, they’re the ones who change the most – and often become the most interesting.
So, in no particular order:
Hermione Granger (Harry Potter)
Not just because she loves studying and doesn’t care who knows it – she’s smart, funny, and thoughtful. She also IS insufferable at the beginning and needs to learn that getting along with people is important too; her major lesson, I think, is that there are different kinds of clever, and that sometimes helping others reach their potential is also awesome.
Lex Luthor (Smallville)
Although Lex becomes the villain, he’s not in Smallville. It’s terrible, because you know what Lex is going to become, but he begins by being such good friends with Clark, and at every opportunity h’s distrusted and held at arm’s length – even by Clark’s dad, who’s also one of my favourite characters in this show. And with every rejection, you can see him becoming a little more like the Lex you know he’ll be.
Herbert Pocket (Great Expectations)
I was a bit in love with Herbert when I first read this for A-Level. He’s so earnest, and thoughtful, and tries to do the best he can. He’s adorably funny when he corrects Pip’s manners, trying to teach him how to live in London as a gentleman, and the relationship between the two of them is wonderfully loyal. When Pip feels he’s revealing his heart and soul in confiding to Herbert that actually he loves Estella, Herbert simply replies “you brought your love for her and your portmanteau here together” – he’s always known that about Pip. Then, of course, he marries Clara and gets to live happily ever after in the profession of his dreams.
Severus Snape (Harry Potter)
Another one who goes through the changes that I mentioend at the beginning – only this time, the changes are in our perspective as we find out more and realise we’ve been just as biased in our opinion as Harry. Yes, Snape can be awful to Harry = but I defy anyone not to cry at the awesomeness of his love for Lily, and what he does in service of the greater good.
Sofia Mendes (The Sparrow, Mary Doria Russell)
I love the whole cast of this book – Sofia’s a proud, fiercely intellectual, curious woman who’s overcome incredibly difficult circumstances with grace and skill. When she’s brought into the group travelling to the new planet Rakhat, she’s sceptical and cut-off, but she gradually allows herself to understand, and accept, love.
Lee Scoresby (His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman)
The bluff, brave Texan who flies an air-balloon with his daemon Hester the Arctic hare. I’m a sucker for all things Deep South, and that’s Scoresby – a full-on Southern cowboy, who loves Lyra fiercely and is prepared to do anything to help her.
Plutarch Heavensbee (The Hunger Games)
Played brilliantly by Philip Seymour Hoffman in the films, Plutarch is the Gamesmaker in the second book, and a key figure in the rebellion. He understands the spectacle, the need for propaganda and how a series of disparate districts can be brought together through the media. But his motives are always unclear; does he want to bring down the Capitol or does he want to be in power? the uncertainty makes him intriguing.
Spike (Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel)
Spike goes through the whole range – a dangerous, sadistic mass-murderer with a sarcastic wit and quick temper, changing through to seeking out his own soul to stop him hurting the one he’s come to love. He’s sexy and attractive in all his different guises, and he’s always more interested in the playful side of life, whether that’s battling a slayer ortrying to save the world for her.
Arya Stark (Game of Thrones)
Another feisty – my word of 2016! – young girl. Arya doesn’t fit the mould, doesn’t want to be the proper young woman that her sister Sansa is, and she’s determined to do things her way. Although I’m intrigued to see what happens to Sansa (I’m not far into the books, really!) because I think she has potential, Arya’s got my heart.
Mrs Darling (Peter Pan)
I find her so very intriguing – she tidies her children’s minds and sorts through their dreams, insists on leaving the window open in the nursery, and has a kiss in the corner of her mouth that nobody can ever quite reach. She’s enigmatic, beautiful and glamorous but untouchable.
So, that’s my list – today, at least! Who do you think is a great secondary character?