The Problem with Baby Yoda by Syndi Powell



I don't know if any of you have been watching the Disney+ series, The Mandalorian, but I'm sure you've seen images of Baby Yoda all over social media. While this childlike creature is only a secondary character, he has taken over the show which could prove to be a problem for the popular show.

The Mandalorian can be best described as a western set in space. You have Mando, a bounty hunter, who is hired to bring in an asset. He's not given many details, but because he's known as the best in the galaxy, he takes the job. The asset is The Child (more commonly known as Baby Yoda though he is about 50 years old and is a creature like Yoda but not actually Yoda).  While Mando's original goal is to hand over the Child, things change when he bonds with the creature.

How many times do we read a book where a secondary character sparks our interest more than the hero and/or heroine? This is what has happened with Baby Yoda on this show. The audience is consumed with what will happen to the Child. Mando's life can be at stake, but don't mess with our Baby Yoda.

While I love the cuteness overload of Baby Yoda, it points out something that writers need to be aware of as we craft our stories. The popularity or likability of a secondary character can influence the story line in ways the writer might not want. If a reader is rooting for a secondary character but isn't invested in the main character, it's easier to put down the book or turn off the show.

Writers have even had to change major story points in order to pump up the secondary character who then steps into a starring role. Lost was like that. The character of Ben was only meant to be a short term role for one season, but audiences loved to hate him so much that his role was expanded in the subsequent seasons.

So how do writers tread the line of making interesting characters that stay secondary? How do we create memorable main characters who can hold the story on their own? It's a careful balancing act. The goals and motivations of the main character should be strong enough to make us root for them. They need to be heroic, yet flawed. Secondary characters should be there to support the main characters, but not take over the scene. 

I'm struggling with this very thing right now in my current work in progress. Great Aunt Sarah is a feisty matchmaker who is working hard to bring the hero and heroine together. I enjoy writing scenes with her in them, but my hero and heroine should be able to hold scenes on their own that are just as fun and move the plot of the story forward.

The current popularity of The Mandalorian may be due to Baby Yoda, but the longevity of the series will depend on audiences getting behind Mando for the long haul. 

Can you think of any other books or shows where a secondary character stole the show?

PS - I would have loved to include pictures of Baby Yoda, but due to copyright issues I'll just urge you to search for images yourself.


  1. A very interesting post, Syndi, and you’re so right about making sure the secondary character isn’t more interesting or nicer or quirkier than the hero and heroine. I seem to prefer (unwittingly it seems!) to use older secondary characters for their humor, insight and sometimes, wisdom. My main characters are always so serious and that’s something I still struggle with. As for Baby Yoda....:)

  2. This is very interesting! I love secondary characters and give little thought to their strength. Although I'm always aware of who the MCs are, I like when a story reads like an ensemble. I must admit, as a writer, I've been dinged for this--not by readers, but by editors.

  3. Thanks for the post, Syndi. I haven't seen The Mandalorian, but I've heard a lot about it. Your post about secondary characters reminded me of Fonzie and Happy Days and how Henry Winkler's character, The Fonz, became the breakout star of the show. You've created some interesting questions for me about balancing secondary characters with the other characters and how they all come together to move the story forward.

  4. I see what you mean. Many times I've seen the secondary character become the main character in future books, but that doesn't mean they should take over the present book. I think a strong point of view can help, so that the main characters are reacting to the secondary character. If some scenes are written in the secondary character's POV, then they should probably be short, just to set something up. I'm looking forward to meeting Great Aunt Sarah.

  5. Love those secondary characters--the real reason behind the popularity of series, I sometimes think. Or, the popularity of a secondary character in one book meant creating space for her in a second and third. I like the ensemble approach to TV series and movies, and it seems I like the same approach in books! Thanks for this post. Thought provoking!

  6. I love it when a secondary character steals the scene in a book, but not so much when it's my book. lol It is hard sometimes to dial a character back and save the material for another book where the secondary character becomes the main one. Love this post.

  7. I love this post. I haven't watched The Mandalorian yet but I was a huge fan of LOST. I always rooted for Jack, but many of the secondary characters were much more interesting, Ben especially. Another show that comes to mind is Hot in Cleveland. I believe Betty White was only signed on to do the pilot (she didn't want to do the series) but she was so darn funny they begged her to stay on with the show.


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