The other day I read some great writing tips given by Josh Whedon, most famously known for creating Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I highly suggest you check them out when you get a chance.
There was one tip I liked the most. This one: EVERYBODY HAS A REASON TO LIVE "Everybody has a perspective. Everybody in your scene, including the
thug flanking your bad guy, has a reason. They have their own voice,
their own identity, their own history. If anyone speaks in such a way
that they’re just setting up the next person’s lines, then you don’t get
dialogue : you get soundbites. Not everybody has to be funny ; not
everybody has to be cute ; not everybody has to be delightful, and not
everybody has to speak, but if you don’t know who everybody is and why
they’re there, why they’re feeling what they’re feeling and why they’re
doing what they’re doing, then you’re in trouble."
I never thought about this in depth before. Usually my focus is only on what my main character wants, his/her goals. I never really explored why my "side kick" was in certain scenes, just that she was the best friend.
Some of the secondary characters I've written about are strong because they came easy to me. I immediately knew them, knew what they would say, what they would do. As for others, I didn't take the time to get to know them, which made them a puppet. A one dimensional character and it shows in the dialogue. I did what Whedon said, created soundbites not actual dialogue. I think this advice is what separates an average book from the kind of book that lingers with readers for days after. I think of the book Hunger Games. Each character had their own motives and they weren't all centered around Katniss. You see this especially as the books progress.
Such great advice from an amazing writer/director. Now I have to go back to my current project and get to know a few characters. I know exactly who they are because at this moment I feel nothing for them, which means my readers won't either.