I’m writing a sequel to a book I wrote a while back, and for this one the plot circles around revolution and how the various characters respond to it. For it to work, I need a bunch of fairly well established characters reacting in various opposing ways that still meld with their personalities. Unfortunately, except for the two mains I’m having trouble picking out details for a sequel (which tells me something about how well written those side characters were in the first place).
First problem is my notes are shoddy. I have a vague sense that certain details exist, but I don’t know them so I’ll have to read through the book to find them. Probably multiple times, when I could have saved time by just making note as I wrote it in the first place. So oops. It’s been kind of a long time since I wrote the book, so it’s not exactly fresh in my mind.
Of course, there’s not a ton of the information I need to be gleaned, anyway. These characters tend to lurk in the background, and don’t really have any plots of their own in that book. Which is fine, because too many plots spoil the book and all that. But in my experience and from what I’ve read, well-written side characters might not have much happen on the page itself, but there’s at least a sense they have lives, and rationale for being involved in the plot, and they need to be involved in the story arc in an essential way. As in, you can’t just swap out one person for another and have the story develop exactly the same way.
Not every person needs an essential role, of course, but right now almost none of them do. Which makes them all pretty flat. So now I need to go through and figure out who they are, and maybe if I’m lucky a few subplots will pop up along the way.