How To Write a Novel — Secondary Characters

Day 11 of writing my novel in public

Photo by Dim Hou on Unsplash

I’ve started something scary here on Medium. It’s something I’ve done before, but never in public. I have a process that I’m going to follow, and I’d like to share it with you.

If you want to follow the journey from the start, go here.

If you missed yesterday’s, you can find it here.

Day 11 — Secondary Characters

Before I get into secondary characters, I want to revisit the story spine that I was working on yesterday. After sleeping on it, I have some more ideas about how the story will work and so I’m going to have another go at the story spine. These are the ideas that might come into the spine:

  • After winning the baking competition, Charlie refuses to give Miasmus the recipe — he doesn’t work from a recipe, he works instinctively from the smell of the ingredients — and so Miasmus persuades Charlie’s dad to let him and his sister work in The Smell Tower during the school holidays. He has the launch of his latest smell (maybe called Whiff or Gag?) coming up and wants cupcakes to celebrate it.
  • Miasmus has Charlie create his cupcakes in a small bowl that is hooked up to a giant one that copies his movements to create a huge batch.
  • Charlie’s sister Sandy can understand animals. Early on, she tells Charlie a birdie told her and later she knows what the captive animals are thinking. Although she tells everyone she can hear what they are saying, nobody believes her until the end.
  • Miasmus uses a stink spray when he wants to punish someone
  • Charlie’s mum has gone off to find herself by travelling the world. She sends postcards back to Charlie and Sandy.
  • Charlie’s dad is in a low-paid job and Charlie has to save up to buy ingredients for his cakes.

Not sure exactly where this will all fit in, or even if I will use all these ideas, but I will have another go at the story spine.

Story spine, take two

Once upon a time, a boy called Charlie can ‘see’ smells, but he hides this from everyone.

Every day, he saves for ingredients and secretly works on his baking, hiding it from his dad and his younger sister Sandy, who annoys him.

But one day, he enters a baking competition. He is too young, but fools the security guard to get in. When he wins, Miasmus, the competition sponsor, demands he give him the recipe, but Charlie works by instinct and smell.

Because of that, Miasmus persuades Charlie’s dad, an old school friend, that Charlie and Sandy should work in The Smell Tower during the school holidays baking cupcakes. He locks them up and punishes them with stink spray.

Because of that, Charlie and Sandy try to escape and discover Miasmus is creating some sort of stink bomb before being recaptured by the security guard who doesn’t believe them.

Because of that, at the launch of Miasmus’ latest scent, Charlie discovers the ‘stink’ bomb, and persuades the security guard to check it out, but it explodes with petals.

Until finally, Charlie realises the stink bomb was a distraction and the real threat are the cupcakes which are laced with something that makes everyone stink. Everyone is about to eat their cupcakes when Sandy calls the birds to come and snatch them out of everyone’s hands.

And ever since then, Charlie owns his own bakery with his sister and their animal workers.

I’m happier that the story spine is more cohesive now, there is a better cause and effect throughline. It still needs work, but for now I’ll move on to the secondary characters.

Guidebook secondary characters

I’m using two guidebooks to refer to in writing my book. They help when I’m stuck and need some direction, and to see how books I love have done it. These two books are The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis and Gangsta Granny by David Walliams. I’ll look at their secondary characters before working on mine.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

I have identified the main character Edmund, the antagonist White Witch and the ally Aslan.

The secondary characters are the other siblings, Peter, Susan and Lucy. Out of these, Lucy has the most significant role as she is the first into Narnia where she encounters Tumnus the fawn, and is present when the White Witch kills Aslan and when he comes back to life.

Lucy is warm, honest and forgiving.

Susan is tender-minded, dutiful and practical.

Peter is straightforward, brave and assertive.

More minor characters include Tumnus the fawn, Maugrim, Mr and Mrs Beaver and the Professor.

Gangsta Granny

Ben is the main character, and Mr Parker is the antagonist with Granny herself as the ally.

The secondary characters are Ben’s parents. They always appear together and have similar personalities.

They are self-serving, attention-seeking and imaginative.

More minor characters include Raj, Flavio Flavoli, PC Fudge, Granny’s cousin Edna and the Queen.

My secondary characters

Charlie is my main character, Miasmus is the antagonist and Charlie’s sister Sandy is the ally.

My secondary characters are Charlie’s dad and the security guard.

Charlie’s dad is opinionatedtraditional and hard-working.

The security guard is suspicious, arrogant, and straight-forward.

More minor characters include Mr Needem the baker and Charlie’s mum.


I have revisited the story spine from yesterday, and added some extra elements. The story is taking shape. I have explored the secondary characters and have two to work with — Charlie’s dad who is opinionated, traditional and hard-working and the security guard, who doesn’t yet have a name, who is suspicious, arrogant and straight-forward.

Tomorrow I will explore the first of the genres I am working with — adventure — and what reader expectations come with that.

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If you want to try the process with me and write your own novel, I’d love to have you join me on this journey. Put in the comments on how you went with this step.

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