Recently, I realized that in almost every I book read, I end up liking at least one of the side characters way more than the main chara...

Are Secondary Characters More Interesting Than Main Characters?

Recently, I realized that in almost every I book read, I end up liking at leastone of the side characters way more than the main character. At first, I thought it was just, you know, one of my weird reading quirks, but then I realized that I can't count the amount of times I've read people fangirling about Carswell Thorne or how hard they ship Scarlet and Wolf, yet I can think of only one post that actually talks about Cinder as a character and only two that have even mentioned her. When people talk about Twilight, few say anything about Bella (unless they're bashing her), but everybody loves to debate about Team Edward vs. Team Jacob, or fangirl about Alice, the other Cullens, Charlie, anyone really, except the main character. Even in movie franchises like the original Star Wars, it seems fans tolerate Luke and all--I don't think anyone actually hates him--but it's Han Solo that they actually love.

Obviously, this isn't true of every reader and every fandom, and it may not even be true of most readers or most fandoms. But it's something I noticed in my own reading and saw occasionally about social media and the blogosphere, so I thought I'd propose the question and come up with a few theories as to why those of us who do end up favoring side characters might love them so much.

1. They're More Intriguing

Even if the book is in third person, you as the reader spend a ton of time with the main character: you're constantly inside their head, watching their actions, hearing their thoughts, learning all this stuff about them; by the end of the book, you know it all, or at least pretty close to it. However, with a side character, all that's revealed is whatever the main character needs to know in order for the side character to fulfill their purpose in the story. Most of the time, you get a taste of their history, a feel for their hopes, maybe even a declaration for the future, but you just don't get to know the secondaries as well as you get to know the mains. 

Me, I love that. I love characters with gaps in their stories, with a little bit of mystery as to where they came from and how they became the person they are now. Not that they're untrustworthy,but the writer in me is just fascinated by the extra story I knowis there, and so I always end up speculating, daydreaming, writing fanfiction about just what those side charries' stories might happen to look like.

2. They're Often Funnier

Almost every book has a comic relief side character or a quirky best friend who came along for the sole purpose of keeping us all from getting too serious. These charries may seem cliché, but human beings love to laugh, we love being around people who make us laugh, and often those funny people become our favorite people. The same, I think, can also be said for our favorite characters.

3. They Feel More Human

Debatable point for some of you.

I'm really not sure why this one is, but to me, side characters just feel more real. It might be that they don't have a hero complex, that they're less perfect, they're funnier, or even that they remind me of myself or my own best friends; but whatever the reason, side characters often seem more genuine to me. There's just something about them that almost always resonates stronger and makes them feel more rounded and relatable to me than many of their MC counterparts.

Bonus Reason: They're Tiny And Precious And Life Has Been More Unfair To Them Than It's Been To The MC

We're readers, we're human, we have hearts. These small preciouses continuously break them, and all we want is to wrap the charries in warm blankets and protect them from this cruel, cruel world. </3


In all seriousness though, I don't think side characters are always better or that main characters always fall flat in comparison, but I think it's really funny how the secondaries often do steal the hearts of their fans, and I'm interested: do you tend to find side characters more interesting than MCs, or are the main characters always your favorites? Have any idea as to why that is? Can't wait to discuss this with you, and I'll see you in the comment section! :)

PS: this is really off topic, but I got to do a guest post over on Krissy's blog about my tips for writing dystopian fiction. If you're interested, I'd love it if you guys would check that out and join that conversation. :)

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  1. Writers shouldn't skimp on secondary characters. They really are so important to the whole story and that could be the reason they can steal the show from the MC

    1. *nods* Totally agree! The best books have a well-rounded cast of ALL the characters.

    2. Not always the case, but more than not I relate far more to a secondary character or even a small role than the mc. More real and profound at times. For instance the cop having to guard the slain youth in Patriots Day.
      A big part of it is the mcs are too unreal or unrealistic to me. I'm not the one in charge of everything who has all of the answers or saves the day...
      He/She is many times "so important" and you are supposed to be absorbed by their power and influence and importance

    3. I haven't seen that movie, but I do agree that secondary characters can often feel more real, more down-to-earth than their MC counterparts. Thanks for commenting!

  2. I seriously am a big fan of secondary characters. I do enjoy me some Bella and Edward, but seriously, the Cullen family is everything I want out of the Twilight series. Likewise with Carswell Thorne, that sort of things... I really do love the secondary characters. I think for me the reason is that the characters and their experiences broaden our perspective/understanding of the worldbuilding, and so they really help us fall in love with the universe of what we're reading rather than just the main character. It gives us some perspective, I think. Which for me gives me lots of things to analyze and think about so I end up loving it and really it is all I could ever ask for.

    So. Yeah. <3

    1. Yeah, the Cullens are actually really fascinating. Depending on how it was executed, I think a series about them could actually be really cool.

      Hmm, I hadn't thought about that, but you make a good point. Secondaries show us more than just the MC's experience and that makes the whole world seem richer.


  3. It depends on the book, but I am a sucker for a goofy sidekick.

  4. I really liked Cinder in the Lunar Chronicles, but you're right about the main character being too perfect. Side characters are often much more interesting, but if they were main characters, you'd probably get overdosed on them.
    I've had beta readers say they loved my secondary characters, but didn't care for my main character. Right now, I'm trying to figure out how much of his is due to secondary characters being more interesting and how much is errors on my part.
    Zuko from Avatar is a good example of this. He's really interesting to watch, but if he was the main character, viewers would get sick of him pretty fast.

    In the Green Lantern animated series (A series I highly recommend) Razer was my favorite character. Hal Jordan was the main character, but it seemed like the biggest character arcs involved Razer. (This may have been partially due to Razer being the new guy, which probably gave the writers more freedom.)
    In The Clone Wars, I really liked Ahsoka and the clones, though that series tended to bounce around with who it focused on, so someone might be a main character for one arc, then a minor character in the next arc.

    1. Hmm, that is a hard struggle. Best of luck with your editing!

      YES ZUKO IS ONE OF MY FAVORITES. And I don't know, I feel like I'd enjoy a series about him, especially about when he was growing up.

      I haven't seen Green Lantern, but yeah, The Clone Wars definitely bounced a lot with their main characters. But I guess that may have kept some viewers from getting bored with the same characters over and over, like you mentioned about viewers getting overdosed if the side charries actually became the mains.

  5. Ooh, this is super interesting. I might even do a post on it, if you don't mind. Don't worry, I'll give you cred for the topic and everything :)

    I think the main character is who leads the story and who you cheer on, but a secondary character you usually tend to fall in love with. The main character is the one you relate to. I don't know, that's kind of my interpretation of the whole phenomenon. I loved your points in this post too. I totally agreed to every single one of them.

    1. That's totally fine! In fact, I'd absolutely love it if you did! :D

      Yeah that's normally how it works for me: I want the main character to win and all, but the secondary is the one who actually has my heart <3 I think I often relate more to the side charries too, but that does depend on the story.

      Thank you! Glad you liked it! :D

  6. I definitely prefer secondary characters because.. I dunno... sometimes the primary characters are like myself but the less interesting part? The secondary characters are more chill.

    1. Hmm, I think that can definitely be true of a lot of mains. And yeah, the secondary charries, especially the goofy sidekicks, often have way more chill.

      Thanks for commenting!


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