Secondary Characters

Cross posted from PepperWords.

This bloghop (go here to join) is about those characters that steal the show from the main act, either in books or movies. Which are your favorites?

I'll start with the easy ones, by which I mean ones I wrote. When writing The K-Pro I originally only conceived of Alfred, Mac, and Craig as so much wallpaper, and Liz in particular was only going to be "in passing." But they took on lives of their own! Alfred laid the groundwork for his own plot twist long before I consciously realized who he really was. And I was amazed when, in feedback, my readers loved Craig.

It's happening again in my current WIP, St. Peter at the Gate. A character that would have been someone Peter just passes in the lobby has become central to the story. It can be fun when these things happen, but frustrating too when they necessitate major changes . . . Though I've found more often than not that these characters step up to give the story depth and actually make things easier in the long run.

In terms of others' work, I think the examples are legion. Snape and Dumbledore in the Harry Potter books are just two. It's interesting to me the way people sometimes rally around potential villains like Snape, or Moriarty in the Sherlock Holmes canon. Well, and Anne Rice's Lestat is the supreme example of the villain becoming the hero. In Interview with the Vampire, he's certainly not sympathetic (though at the end he is pathetic), but he refused to leave Anne alone until she told his story . . . Many times over.

But this isn't meant to be an academic exercise, and if pressed to name my favorite secondary characters, I would say Louis (from Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles) because, though he was central to the first book, he was sidelined most of the others, and I always loved him best. And, oddly, Polonius from Hamlet, whose homilies were amusing even if his character on the whole was a bit irritating. I also always wondered how fucked up Horatio must've been after all that . . . I like Marcus Brody (played by Denholm Elliot) in the Indiana Jones movies, too. And the romantic figure of Ashley in Gone with the Wind as the sort of grail Scarlett could never obtain, though that makes him more of an object than a character. Prince Lir in The Last Unicorn. Jareth in Labyrinth.

I don't know that I'd say any of the above "steal the show," though. Lestat does in Interview, certainly; Moriarty as depicted by Andrew Scott tends to take over any scene he's in, as does Rickman's Snape. It's easier to steal a scene when you're a villain. You've got a bit more freedom to act (though Snape goes the other way in being repressively cold).

I suppose the pinnacle of this would be Ricardo Montalban as Khan in the second (classic) Star Trek movie. I watched that film over and over as a kid, that one and #3 (which I also loved for some unaccountable reason, or maybe those were the only two we had on tape). No, I haven't seen the new film. Yes, I know the "secret." Which makes me slightly more reluctant to see it, actually, since Montalban looms so large in my childhood memory. He was, for me, the ultimate scene-stealing secondary character.

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