Saturday, June 28, 2008

I want my own book (or when supporting players demand top billing)

So you're writing your novel and a secondary character starts to whisper in your ear. Don't tell me it doesn't happen or there would be no romance single title series set in the same universe.

This particular problem happens to me a lot. I'm writing diligently and my secondary character (usually one of the guys) starts trying to seduce me away from the hero. At the moment I start to feel the lure, I know I need to write faster. I wrote a flash fiction piece about it titled Holding Out for a Hero, right here on our blog. Unfortunately for Gorgeous Godwin, Fierce Falc' presented a little stronger, so Godwin will have to wait a bit before he gets his "happily ever after."

The weird thing is that I don't usually plan it. I'm in love with the hero I'm writing and a bit jealous of the heroine. The action in the story requires a friend or sibling then bam! The minor character will start asking for his own book. Sometimes its MORE than one character who prods me. It's highly disconcerting to have so many voices running around in my head clamoring for their time in the spotlight.

Now, I know some authors out there purposely plant their next hero in the book on which they are working. They want readers to become invested in the character so that when they write "The End" on the current story, readers are looking for "Once upon a time," in the next but I don't do it on purpose. It would be nice if I were that concise a planner, but because I'm more of a pantser (plotting by the seat of my pants), characters step forward to introduce themselves to me as I write.

The hero whose story I just finished started out life as a villain. You heard that right. He was a villain. Why haven't you seen that story somewhere? Because he didn't work as the villain. I kept trying to make him do bad things, then I'd soften him up and give him good reasons for his actions. Why? Because Eaduin kept whispering in my ear. He told me over and over, I'm no villain. I'm just misunderstood. I thought, yeah right, you're a villain and all bad guys feel that way. But no, he told me he knew better. And the sad part is...he did and now I love Eaduin.

Oh, and a word of warning to fellow writers who don't think I'm crazy at this point in the post. Give even your villains names you like. I named Eaduin (pronounced Edwin) because I wasn't fond of the name and I thought to myself - what is the name I would NEVER use for one of my heroes so I don't waste a "good name" on my bad guy? What did I decide? Yeah, Eaduin. Sigh. Now, after writing over 100,000 words about the guy, I'm rather fond of the name. But still... Did I consider changing his name when I made him a hero? Not really. Eaduin is a medieval name and by that time, the name fit him well. Anyway, once I bestow a name it sticks. Not always, but usually.

As I wrote Eaduin's story, two male secondaries and one female secondary started poking me with a stick. As a result, one of the males and the female secondary character will be sharing the next book I work on. Yes, Fierce Falc' and a lady. Godwin will have to stew a bit but then he's next. He's REALLY peeved at me, but it's his heroine's fault. I can't quite get her pinned down, so Falc's story is next.

When you're writing do your secondary characters start asking for the limelight? Do they want to be front and center in a story about them so you feel compelled to make it happen? Or are you one of those authors that plans a story with a strong secondary who will be your next book after this one is done? Share your opinions, cause I wanna know. :-)


  1. Most often my secondary characters who steal the limelight would NOT be the hero or heroine of a romance novel but more like some bizarre piece of Southern fiction... which is even harder to sell than romance! So I've resisted.


  2. Yep, this has happened to me. Good post!

  3. Jody, I'd love to read the bizarre piece of Southern fiction featuring some of your weird secondaries. :-)

    Brenda, I'm so glad I'm not alone. Sometimes I talk about a character and people look at me like they'd like to recommend a good therapist. Of course, those folks aren't writers...

  4. Yup. It happens. I really like interlinking stories. Ala "Heroes" and "Lost" so I love it when secondary characters want stories of their own.

  5. That's happened to me. A character from my first book demanded his own story, nearly taking over the book. He was so charming, he almost succeeded in stealing the heroine away from the hero and I didn't even see it coming! But since that book is keeping the dust bunnies under the bed company, his story may never be told. *sigh* I solved the problem in my second book by pretty much killing off all the secondary characters by the end. *hee hee* Now with my 3rd book, I've got a cocky secondary hero who really needs to be taken down a notch...and the perfect heroine to do it has been tapping me on the shoulder, wanting to get in on the action. Now, if they'd only tell me what their story is...

  6. I had a character, the hero's twin, who I planned on making the bad guy, but boy did he start kicking and screaming. By the end of the book, he was not only a wonderful person, but loved the heroine enough to let her go.


  7. I've had to beat back a few uncooperative minor characters--or try to at least. Once I finally gave up and let the "best friend" become the lead.

    I've also written in minor characters who will have their own books (provided my publisher agrees).