For years, my secondary characters lacked depth, voice, conflict, and purpose. While my main characters were complex and their words were strong, my secondary characters fell flat in comparison. This was a problem that I didn't realize my story had until I was reading through the third or something draft.
"Your secondary characters are the main characters in their own minds." I honestly cannot remember where I read or heard this advice, but it has drastically changed how I write secondary characters. The advice doesn't take much more explanation to draw a practical application for writing. Secondary characters have problems, goals, desires, quirks. They make mistakes, put their foot in their mouth, and forget things. Those characters weren't there to just tell my main characters what they wanted to hear. It wasn't their job to sit in silence and wait until the main character needed them. I realize I'm talking as if secondary characters make these choices willingly, which they don't. But, I know I am guilty of writing characters that do exactly that.
The realization that every person in your story is under the impression that the story is about them, their life, their choices, their own story, changes everything. Why does this make such a difference? Why does writing a character that thinks everything is about them automatically make that character stronger, more realistic? Could it be that the more characters act as if their life is central to the story, the closer the book gets to displaying reality?
Do we go through our day and act as if we are the main character? Do we subconsciously or consciously believe that we are the most important person in the world? Do we treat those around us as the secondary characters of our story and of lesser importance to the plot than us?
To be perfectly honest, if I were the main character of my story, the book would be extremely disappointing. I make decisions and speak words that are worded in pride, yes, but if I really think about it, I can't accept that I am the best person to be the main character. In fact, none of us would. Fiction tales, even with all the orchestrated obstacles, describe characters that in some way represent a fantasy of ourselves we will never be able to reach. There is a part of us, a nature that tries to convince us that we can become good enough to the main character. We will never be, and were never created to be, the center of the story. The story was never about us at all.
Whether you believe in God or not has no influence on the fact that God exists and He is the main character of the story of the universe. Everything that happens, happened to bring Him glory in some way. We sit here and believe that we are the main characters, and we miss that the very real God wants to draw us to Him and make us his heir. We miss so much of who God is and what He sent His son to do for us when we are content with believing the lie that the story is about us. We are not the main characters. God is, and He provided us a way to share in His authored story, the eternal chapters that take place in heaven.