August 7, 2013
Several times in my career as I worked on a book, I’ve had a secondary character rear his head demanding more attention. These characters have tried to steal scenes or even divert the focus of a whole book. This can be a mixed blessing. While it is great that the secondary character has a strong voice and presence— always a plus for any character— if he or she is outshining the protagonist, you could have a problem.
I teach a workshop about secondary characters, which I also lead as an online class, and in that workshop I tell students to watch out for these strong-willed characters. If a secondary character’s story seems more interesting to you as you write her, she will likely be more interesting than the heroine to the reader as well. If so, you might consider if you have the right character in the lead role. Would a book about the secondary character be a stronger more riveting read? Or perhaps, you could tell the secondary character to back off and promise them a chance to have the spotlight in a book of their own. Voila! A series is born!
This has happened to me on a few occasions. In DANGER AT HER DOOR, the heroine’s best friend was a spunky, brash, tell-it-like-it-is gal who was bemoaning the dating scene but was ever kind and supportive of the heroine. I fell in love with Ginny and knew she had a story to tell and tell her story I did, in DUTY TO PROTECT. But in Ginny’s book, I introduced a character, Annie, who had suffered spousal abuse for years. As I finished Ginny’s book, I knew I had to give poor Annie a happy ending. The brave girl deserved a good man and some joy in her life. Ta da! TALL DARK DEFENDER was born.
In UNDER FIRE, my heroine’s coworkers on the smokejumping team demanded story lines of their own, and I feel the book is better for having given these characters their page time.
But the guy who stands out as the character who needs his own book is Aaron Morgan, womanizing older brother to Luke Morgan of HEALING LUKE. By far, the majority of my reader mail is asking for Aaron’s book. I saw the need to tell Aaron’s story early on as I wrote Luke’s book, so I set up Aaron’s story a bit in HEALING LUKE, clearly hinting to readers that Aaron would get his turn. But….
The publisher rejected both storyline options I suggested for Aaron. The type book I was proposing wasn’t the “hot” genre at the time and they wanted to focus on what was selling. Okay…Aaron was sent to the corner in lieu of other projects that I had contracts for. Fast forward four or five years…I’m STILL getting email about Aaron’s book. When will I write it? What happened to him. I even had a reader find me at the RWA signing and fuss at me for the delay in Aaron’s story. “Write his book!”
But…but…I have contracts to fulfill, and no publisher lined up for Aaron’s story!
Enter self-publishing. I am determined, and making this public statement to keep me true to my word, to write a novella for Aaron and self-publish it by the end of this year. There. I’m committed. My question for all of you…what kind of heroine would you find the most interesting for a confirmed bachelor, a super hot womanizer who is a daredevil, disorganized, and commitment phobic? Despite his track record with women, Aaron is a loyal friend, loves his family (brother, father and sister-in-law), has a good heart, integrity, a talent for mechanical things. He lives on the Florida Gulf Coast, and when he was a kid his mother abandoned the family— thus the beginning of his reckless behavior and serial dating, acting out for attention and trying to fill the hole in his heart without the emotional bond that hurt too much when severed. Who is his heroine? I’m thinking someone who is the opposite of his typical date…in other words, NOT a bombshell beach babe looking for a one night stand. Someone who comes with baggage, history, maybe even a kid.
What would you, as a reader, find interesting for Aaron? Go!