Isn’t it interesting that very rarely in any book is the main character actually our favorite hero?
Frodo is supposed to be the main character of The Lord of the Rings, yet I invariably discuss, think about and admire Gandalf, Aragorn, and even Boromir more than I do Frodo. When I read Enemy Brothers, of course I love Tony, but Dym is undoubtedly the hero. And who loves Lucy more than Edmund in The Chronicles of Narnia? Even in my own stories that I’ve written, my secondary characters are always my favorites, even though I spend much more time and care developing my main characters.
I suppose it’s because as a reader, I’m inside the head of the main character more. I see their faults and frailties and humanity more than any other character. We readers identify with the main characters so strongly, that we naturally don’t shower them with praise and affection. After all, only a very vain person would think constantly about their own accomplishments and abilities; in general, people tend to admire others and not themselves. (I don’t mean that all people are naturally unselfish. But we don’t tend to necessarily admire ourselves in the way that we admire others. In a very literal sense, we tend to think about other people more than we ponder our own selves.)
So since we usually feel connected with the main characters in stories, we’re more likely to see the other characters through their eyes. When I read, the main character seems to almost fade, and I begin to see the story through their eyes. I don’t spend as much time thinking about them, because I tend to think and feel what they think and feel – and they don’t very often spend time thinking about themselves. I tend to admire the people that they admire. Maybe this is why I tend to think of Frodo (or Lucy, or any other main character) as a character more when I watch the movies based on the books, than when I read the books themselves. In the books, the more I connect with the main character the more they fade into the background of my mind. In the movies, I don’t have the option of seeing through their eyes, so I notice them more.
This may just be the way that I process stories; there are probably lots of people who truly do love Frodo more than Aragorn, or Tony more than Dym. But personally, I’ve recently realized (with a bit of a shock) how much of my reading is influenced by this secondary-character fascination. I’d love to hear what you think about this – do you tend to be drawn to the main or secondary characters when you read?