I suffer from Secondary Character Syndrome. Never heard of it? I’ll explain. It’s the tendency to introduce minor characters and forget their names, thinking they aren’t important. Okay, usually, this isn’t a problem, until one of them turns up again. Believe me, these little, inconsequential people still have stories they want told. They want their 15 minutes of fame.
I try hard to write these people down. Really, I do! Mostly I’m good about it, but once in awhile…. Well, you know how that goes. I remember they exist, then I have to go back and find their names so I can add it to the character list.
Sometimes, and this happens a lot more than I like to admit, I don’t give them a name at first. I think they’re so minor, they won’t ever come back. Or I give them a designation, like ‘hungry actor’, later deciding on a name. They don’t much like that, insisting upon coming back into the story to gain a proper name.
The ones that are really bad are the ones I name, forget to write down, they come back and I give them another name. Don’t think it doesn’t happen. Yes, laugh at my pain! Can’t tell you how often I’ve done that. It’s embarrassing.
The worst minor characters are those who somehow end up with the same name. Not overly sure how or why this happens, but two totally unrelated people will pop up in a story with the same name. Yes, it’s possible for the characters to meet more than one person named Michael, David, Peter or Joseph. However, for the readers, that gets complicated. Is this Mike the Cab Driver, Mike the Bartender or Guitar Mike at the restaurant?
I went through an entire novel calling two separate characters Mickey. I changed the name of the murder victim in a short story from Jay to Jeff less than three pages later. I’m still not sure I’ve got that right. I named my ‘hungry actor’ David and forgot and called him Sam. I even went back and checked my character list for him, missing him completely. There are only 12 other names on the list. There’s no excuse for that!