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Swoon Author Sandy Hall: Bucky Barnes Gives Me Life, or Why Side Characters Are Important

Confession: I love Bucky Barnes.

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This realization didn’t exactly come as a shock to me. I’ve always been partial to side characters, particularly of the brooding variety.

Main characters are great. I understand why people love Thor, Captain America, and Black Panther, but we know a lot about them. They have whole movies written about them!

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To me, side characters, the people in the background, make the world of a book, movie, or TV show seem richer and more realistic. I love side characters so much, I basically wrote a whole book about them. In A Little Something Different, Gabe and Lea are the main characters; all of the POV’s are just there to let you look into their lives.

The lesson I’ve learned over and over again about writing good, solid side characters is that they all need an arc. They all need a beginning, middle, and an end. They need a purpose and a reason for being a part of the story.

When I began writing A Little Something Different, there were 23 character POVs in the first draft. My editor and I whittled the character list down to 14. Some of those characters only had one or two scenes, so they were the first to get the ax.

Some of those scenes were given to other POV characters, but some of them were all thrown together and given to one new character, like Frank, the Chinese Food Delivery Guy. He started out with only one scene of his own but took over for a few others. I did this with other characters, too. In the first draft there were three different baristas, but in later drafts, all of the barista POVs were given to Charlotte.

Sometimes, side characters shine so brightly in the first draft that they’re promoted to prime time player in the next draft. This happened to Paisley in A Prom to Remember. When I first wrote the book, she didn’t have POV scenes of her own, she just floated around in the background of other people’s stories. But she was such a strong side character, I realized early on that she deserved POVs of her own.

On the other end of the spectrum, there’s Perfect Boyfriend Jamie. While he doesn’t have his own POVs, he does have a beginning, middle, and an end. When we’re first introduced to Jamie, he’s walking down the school hallway with Cora, but quickly drifts away to hang out with his friends. His middle is taken up with a promposal and a few minor arguments with his girlfriend. His end. Well, his end isn’t great. But I won’t say anything else about that and spoil the story.

Basically, for me, side characters are just as important as main characters. I want to populate my story with real people, ones you could easily imagine meeting in the real world.

As an author, I just have to do my best to make their scenes in the book really count. Because all of the characters in a book deserve a beginning, middle, and end.

In conclusion, here’s one last gif of Bucky for the road.

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Sandy Hall


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