Sometimes I feel like I blog more about Catherine Fisher’s Incarceron than about anything else. And if I do, it’s definitely for good reason. But while I obviously love the book, I love its sequel, Sapphique, even more. I figure that’s partly because my favorite character gets more screen time (page time?), but also because most of the supporting characters are fleshed out quite a bit.
Throughout most of Incarceron, Finn was the viewpoint character. And that’s great—I love Finn—but in a way, his supporting cast just serve as foils for him. In the second book, Finn gets separated from Keiro and Attia, and I feel like it allows all three of them to grow as characters. Keiro is deeper, more complex and conflicted, than he seems at first—his indifferent cool guy mask slips a little, and he shows some redeeming qualities, even if reluctantly. Attia also becomes less one-dimensional: instead of being some slightly pathetic, awestruck girl dedicated to protecting Finn, she turns out to be clever and resourceful. And now that Finn isn’t always around and Attia’s more exposed to Keiro’s harshness, we get to see that she has more than enough fire to hold her own against him.
Happily, the character development is a come-one, come-all sort of thing. Away from his posse, Finn’s more confident, less self-conscious—even while Keiro’s leaving Finn’s shadow, Finn is able to leave Keiro’s. One of those cheery, “everybody wins” situations, yes?
All in all, I figure that’s the best thing about this lesson in foils. It’s an example we can apply to our own stuff. If you have a secondary character who’s coming off a bit flat, try to find some way to separate him from your MC. Even if it ultimately doesn’t work out plot-wise, it’ll probably teach you something about both that character and your main one, and you can incorporate that later. Rah, character development.
So, what do you think? Have you ever tried an exercise like this before—how’d it work out? If not, do you have any other examples of an author separating her foils for the better?