Where would we be without love and, most importantly, support in our lives? I could get all intellectual and look up the word support, but, nah, I'm too damn lazy right now and, besides, what if Mr. Webster doesn't “support” the idea I'm trying to convey? So, anyway, let's just run with the hypothesis that we all know the real definition of support.
Okay, okay, I'll define it for you - the person(s) who has got your back. However, beware of said person(s) who is all about shoving knives in the back, or the person(s) too damn busy worrying about their own backs. In other words, these people look to either hold you up, tear you down, or keep you fully entertained (i.e. distracted), while life feeds you crap pie.
Now, if you’re willing to accept my revised, remixed and redistributed definition of support, then how does it apply to creative writing and character development? Is this even an issue? Well, those Oscar people thought it important enough to give a little statue man to the sidekicks, villains, and comic reliefs who help round out the leading man/lady, so why don't you? How much attention are you paying to your supporting characters? Are you just throwing in caricatures and stereotypes to fill up the pages and cover up plot holes?
I see stories (films, novels, plays, etc.) as a microcosm of the world we live in, even if the world on the page, screen and stage are original fantasized entities - and one of the things being mirrored is the fact that we can't go it alone. Sure, there are some of us who try, but the phone keeps ringing, the pesky neighbor keeps knocking at the door, and the stalker keeps ignoring that order of protection. If we think about sports, and forgive me if I get the following metaphor wrong because I know absolutely nothing about sports, every star player has a support team. There was Jordan, who played for the Bulls (I think) - and who had his back? Pippen, Grant, Paxson and the other players who rounded out the team (don't ask me who; I think I did pretty darn good coming up with three names). And what about those rivalries - Magic and Bird, Wilt and Russell and, of course, Shaq and Kobe. You take away one and the other is less interesting, less spectacular and, maybe, even less worthy of being great. But what do I know about football anyway?
Stop and think about the supporting characters in your own life. Are they just flat, one-dimensional snore bores? If so, you need to get out and make some new friends. But chances are they're vibrant, colorful people who say more about who you are for having them in your life - even those you consider enemies. When we write, we are pulling from our own lives - all the good, bad and ugly. Sometimes, this is done subconsciously, as we play out on the blank page our own struggles, issues and demons. There are times when a character doesn't even represent a living, breathing human, but more so an idea, issue and/or problem we are struggling to get right in the real world we fall back to when we lay down the pen or turn off the computer. Look closely at those characters who just popped up at the last minute. Where did they come from? Why have you given them life? What can they tell us about the people and the world that you’ve spend countless hours building, and rebuilding, and rebuilding?
I have always loved writing and creating my secondary characters more than my hero, just as many actors jump at the chance of playing the villain. Why? Because it's so much freakin' fun. Because, while the spotlight seems to always be shining on the protagonist, the supporting characters can let loose and maneuver in and out of places and situations often times forbidden to our hero. Where would Neo be without Trinity, Morpheus and good old Cypher - and let's not forget Mouse and his lady in the red dress? Everyone needs a virtual pimp. Sure, Dorothy taught us there was no place like home, but we got our true understanding of wisdom, courage and heart from those who had her back. Take away Kobayashi, Keaton, Agent Kujan and the rest of the gang, then who gives a crap about Keyser Soze?
Maybe every movie is an ensemble run amuck with screen divas puppeteered by the overruling box office. So to all those secondary characters, I thank you for your support.