I recently sat through a second (or third?) viewing of "Fifty First Dates." It is not the best movie ever made -- not by a long shot -- but it has a fun and interesting premise, a fascinating setting (if you weren't already in love with Hawaii, you certainly are by the time you've watched this movie), and some fascinating characters. The secondary characters in this movie are worth a mention.
I've never been a fan of Rob Schneider, but his Hawaiian sidekick character is outrageous and just the right touch of funny. Sean Astin, far from his Sam-wise wisdom, is hysterical in his role as the heroine's lisping, iron-pumping, steroid-swilling brother. Blake Clark is great as her well-intentioned, clueless dad.
Nick and Sue, the couple who run the Hukilau Cafe, are full of love for Drew Barrymore's Lucy character and threats for anyone who threatens her. Dan Aykroyd has a splendid minor role as her physician.
But some of the best, most easily overlooked characters in this movie are the animals at the aquarium where Adam Sandler plays their veterinarian and everyday buddy. A penguin and an amorous walrus are two of the best secondary characters in recent film.
A look at this movie, especially since it is interesting but not too deep, can teach us a great deal about using secondary characters to bring out the best and the worst in our primaries. They give us background, fill in details, and help us to better understand the hero and heroine whose successful happily-ever-after we are cheering on its way.
I loved writing the Rainbow Rock series for Avalon because a secondary character in one book, maybe even one who had little more than a mention in the story, could easily become the primary love interest in the next book. Conversely, those I had loved and carefully planned for in earlier books became secondary characters for later ones, so I didn't have to give them up when I keyed in "End" on their stories.
Have a look at the roles of your secondary characters. You may be surprised how much you are learning to love them all.