Saturday, August 23, 2008

Secondary Characters

I love secondary characters, not only for the insights and richness they give to main characters, but also because of their own personalities. Secondary characters, the friends/relations/pets of the heroine/hero, give the main characters depth and a sounding board for events during the story.

Often, though, a secondary character is intriguing enough to warrant a storyline, either within the ongoing novel or in a follow up novel. These days, I read the JD Robb “In Death” series as much for the secondary and minor characters as for the story. I know Eve Dallas, with Roarke’s help, will solve the murder and put the killer in a cage. But I also want to know what Peabody and McNab, Charles and Louise, Mavis and Leonardo are doing.Sometimes the secondary character tries to take over the whole book.

The first time it happened to me was during the writing of what eventually became Less Than Perfect Family.

In an original draft, Sam’s financial adviser, Martha, began to take over more and more of the book. Finally, I cut or copied all the scenes with Martha and put them all into a folder with Martha’s name. “Back off, Martha. You’ll get your own book.” When I started Martha’s story, I needed a hero for her and there was Sam’s best friend Phil suddenly telling me, “Martha’s my ex-wife and I still love her. I want her back. Please?” Hurmph, not Martha, Phil, or even Sam had told me during the first book Martha and Phil had been married to each other. Martha and Phil’s story became Balanced Heart.