Thursday, July 31, 2008

Thirteen Questions Writers Would Like to Ask Their Muses

Muses are odd creatures. Writers generally have a love/hate relationship with their own muse. In spite of the way movies portray the work of writing, real writers don’t just sit down and type wonderful prose without effort. In reality, writing is a very hard job—whether the muse is cooperating or not.

Today I’m offering a list of questions I think a writer might want to ask his or her muse. Writers will likely understand where I’m coming from, and readers will get a peek into the dark and mysterious world of how writers do what they do. Enjoy!

I’m in the shower. Why couldn’t you wait until I can write things down?
If men are from Mars, and women are from Venus, where the heck are you from?
I’m tired of staring at this blank page. Where are you?
Are you really a Greek goddess?
I have to get up early tomorrow. Why do I feel an overwhelming urge to go work on my manuscript?
Why don’t you go hang out with Nora Robert’s muse and take notes?
Will you tell me a story? Now?
You gave me the idea, would you please come back and help me write the dang thing?
Why does the word “deadline” scare you away?
Why in the world did you think I could write this story?
My boss is giving me my yearly review. Why are you telling me what a great werewolf victim he’d be? Even if it is true.
Can I bribe you? Please.
I’m on vacation. Why are you giving me a great story idea right now?
I have to get up early tomorrow. Why do I feel an overwhelming urge to go work on my manuscript?

Whatever artistic endeavor you like to indulge in, may your muse always be there for you.

Wait a minute. There’s my muse. Where’s she going? Hey, come back here! I have a deadline.......

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Conversation with the Muse

Like Francesca, my muse is very big, very male and very hot in a 1940's kinda way. He has two weaknesses that he admits to: garlic bagels with a schmear of cream cheese The big guy aka L. (identity protection here) is an independent man who has a habit of taking off for regions unknown for undetermined periods of time. No phone call. No note. Just "poof!" He's gone.

Over the years I've tried to curb his wanderlust. Trust me, silk cords, chains, and duct tape don't make him to stick around. Nothing works. But I did get him to agree to a mini-interview in exchange for a homemade cheesecake. (You do know that muses are tough, right?)

Anyhow, the following is a true conversation between me (author) and L. (muse).

Talia: Thanks for sitting down and talking with us, L.

L.: No problem. As long as the cake is baking. It is baking, right Tali?

T: Um...sure. Sure. In the oven. In that other room. The one we're not in.

(Talia offers the bear of a man her most endearing smile. L. shakes his head.)

T: Let's get started. Sooo tell us, what does a muse do?

(L. slumps in his chair and rolls his eyes.)

L.: Come on Tali, you can do better than that. If all you want is the official job description, put in a request to HQ like everybody else. Jeez. If you want the inside scoop, it'll cost ya. (He leans forward, reducing the space between them to inches as his lips lift into a wicked smile.) Wanna deal, doll face?

T: (feeling various parts of her anatomy tingle) Um...okay.

L: Ten pages written. Flat out. No moaning. No groaning. No excuses. You in?

T: That--er depends. You planning on sticking around?

(L. sits back, crosses his well-muscled legs and laughs.)

L: Maybe.

T: Fine. It's a deal. Now spill.

L: Well, every muse is different. Just like every writer, I might add. Some writers prefer chicks helping them, some prefer guys, and some people like Stephen King...hell, you don't want to know. Anyhow, when headquarters sees that creative spark burning, some lucky muse gets the job and off he goes.

T: It's that simple?

L: Hey, I never said it was simple. I just said that was the process. Simple, it ain't. With a bad match nobody wins. If a writer stops writing...a muse dies from neglect. (L's smile dissolves.) It ain't pretty, doll face. Don't stop writing, kiddo. No matter anyone says.

T: There's no chance of that. I've got too many ideas and not enough time!

L: Heh. I aim to please. That's the reason, you know. Why I leave. I go and round up new ideas. Writers always complain up the wazoo when we disappear. You'd think someone would get a clue about us goin' MIA. Newsflash! We ain't on vacation. We're checking out new inspiration--for you!

T(confused): But I thought you were my inspiration, L.

L: Only for the love scenes, angel. Only for the love scenes.

Have you hugged your muse today? Or at least fed him cheesecake?


Talia (and L.)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Muse at the Beach

By the time you read this post, I’ll be sitting on the beach, sand in my toes, a margarita in one hand and a juicy romance novel in the other. My muse should be on vacation too. She’s worked hard enough. I’ve finally typed THE END on the dragon manuscript-that-would-never-end and sent on its merry way to my agent (*fingers crossed* he likes it and can sell it). I should be relaxing and catching up on my TBR pile. If I was being a really good girl, I would be studying up on griffin mythology (since that’s the shapeshifter of the next book in the series). But what is my muse going to be doing in this relaxing ocean side setting? More than likely she’s going to be taking me off on some tangent about pirates or swashbucklers or mermaids (or mermen). The last wouldn’t be a bad thing, since a mermaid/man shapeshifter character could figure somewhere in my bestiary series if it gets that far. But that’s not what I need to be itching to write about now. Not that my muse will listen to me. You see, my muse has a tendency to take a bit of inspiration and run with it. The smell of ocean, the feel of the sun and sand, the sound of the waves--she’s just not going to be able to help herself. I can’t blame her. She doesn’t get much stimulation considering my home office is the sagging corner of the couch. Not a terribly inspiring location, what with the kid’s toys covering every available surface, dust bunnies multiplying by the dozen under my feet and laundry piling up like mini-Everests in the hampers of each bedroom. So when she does get out, she goes wild. Who knows, I may come back from the beach with the brilliant idea for a story about a pirate mermaid who falls in love with a seagull-griffin shapeshifter. Stranger things have happened. *G*

Saturday, July 26, 2008

A Muse By Any Other Name Would Still Smell Like Mansweat...

I've talked to many writers who swear their muses are female. In classical mythology the muses were women. BUT... My muse is male. Absolutely and completely male. Not only is he male, but he is an alpha male. Dominant. Fierce. Passionate. Oh, yeah.

Often my muse bears an uncanny resemblance to my latest hero. Usually he is tall, dark haired, dark eyed, with large expressive hands, full lips, and a killer bod. Hey, a muse is supposed to inspire you know.

Most of the time my muse hangs out in the living room or the bedroom. Why the bedroom? Girls, I write erotic romance. Where else should he be? Unfortunately, when he's in the living room he tends to watch guy movies and NASCAR. Worse yet, I think he likes football. Yeah. Just like a real man.

I mean, he's my fantasy, ya know? He's supposed to think like Alan Alda but look Kevin Smith and make love like my favorite porn star.

So why does the guy have a mind of his own? I mean it's just not fair. Yes, I'm whining, but why shouldn't I? After all, last year he went on a road trip to tropical climes and left me home. I was NOT happy with him when he deserted me. Of course I made him pay when he finally returned. I'm a bitch that way.

This year my muse has been a pretty good boy. Not a lap dog, by any stretch of the imagination, but he's stayed pretty close. I don't know - maybe it's the price of gasoline.

Actually, I think it's because he likes being viewed as my "knight in shining armor." Literally. Since, I've started writing medieval I think he may have been giving me back rubs and kissing my neck. What pleases him so? I asked too, and I think a muse really likes it when you find your voice and with my medieval paranormal erotic romance, I think I found mine. It felt comfortable. It felt right. Such a feeling is rare, so at this moment in time my muse and I are in harmony and working well together.

The one problem? Football season starts in about a month. Be afraid. Be very afraid. I am.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Absence (of Children) Makes the Fingers Type Faster!

This week at the Diner we're going to be talking setting -- setting for the writer, that is. How and where do staffers at the Diner write? What do they need in order to achieve maximum velocity on the keyboard or legal pad or whatever their choice of medium may be? Do they have a specific muse, and how do they feel about the whole bichok (butt in chair, hands on keyboard) theory in the event their specific muse is on vacation without them?

As for me, my "muse" is simple, so my blog entry will be short. To write, to really write, I need a functional computer with a Word processing program, the absense of my children in such a way that they are still safe and cared for, and no other pressing obligations like overflowing toilets or completely empty pantry shelves. I can ignore the toilets and pantry sometimes, and my poor husband--I certainly can ignore him--but not the kids. That way lies ruination, experiments in cleaning products, illicit toddler haircuts, escaped felines, destructive rampages, broken lamps and maybe even broken bones.

Unfortunately, my life rarely if ever supplies what I need for a good, hearty writing session. So I, like most writers, have to work around my challenges in order to make the magic happen. I am not as skilled at this as I would like to be and thus my production ebbs more than it flows. I plan for this to change once both kids are in school, but that's several years off, and somehow, in between now and then, I have to keep myself afloat!

What do you need in order to have a good, hearty writing session? And what do you do when you can't get it? Is your head above water or do you feel like you're going down for the third time?

Jody W.
SURVIVAL OF THE FAIREST--Available now, Samhain Publishing

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Thirteen Fictional Villains


In no special order, I give you a baker's dozen of the most famous fictional villains of all time. There are, of course, many more.

1. Professor Moriarty. Possibly the first supervillain, Sherlock Holmes’ arch nemesis is the epitome of intelligent evil.

2. Dracula. Say the name and a chill skitters up your spine. This character turned blood sucking into entertainment.

3. Brutus. Who doesn’t know the line, “Et tu, Brute?” from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar? Though based on historical events, the play has given Brutus a life of his own.

4. Moby Dick. A man and a whale, an epic struggle, a classic novel.

5. Hannibal Lecter. Creepy in the books, creepy in the movies. What more can you ask of an evil villain?

6. Lex Luthor. Speaking of characters who transitioned from page (in this case comic book) to screen. He gives Superman a run for his money.

7. The Joker. Yet another comic book to screen character. This time it’s Batman who has to work to come out ahead.

8. Darth Vadar. Who can forget the sinister sound of his breathing?

9. The Master. Doctor Who’s arch nemesis and a threat to the entire universe.

10. Borg queen. There are fewer women supervillains, but there are some. The Borg are almost invincible villains, and there queen is both beautiful and frightening. Resistance is futile.

11. Drusilla. Buffy fought many villains, but Drusilla is probably the most interesting. Beautiful, evil, insane; she’s fascinating to watch.

12. Catwoman. Another character to make the transition from page to screen. My vision of Catwoman is from the 1960’s television version of Batman. Even at a young age, I wanted to be her—and I wanted to be with him. Sigh.

13. Tom. Who? The cat, of course. The one who’s incessantly after Jerry the mouse. What, you don’t think he’s a supervillain? Ask Jerry what he thinks about that.

Who would you add to the list?

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The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Villains - Tough on the Outside, Mushy on the Inside

Villains, yes, the evil doers in our stories who piss off the main characters and make their lives a living hell. Well all love to hate them and, really, what would our stories be without villains? Nice, sweet tales that are boring as hell.

But let's remember, villains are people too. They're not warm-fuzzy types everyone wants at their party, but they did have hopes and unrealized dreams, just like us. The difference is, while we got over it, villains stomped their feet and became psychotic.

I love a good villain, but to have a truly good bad guy or gal, it's not enough to just accept that they're evil. I need to know why.

In my paranormal romance, the villain is a nineteenth century ghost, hellbent on killing my heroine. Why? Why try to murder a perfectly lovely woman? I needed to explain her descent into darkness.

She had been in a loveless marriage and the only joy in her life, her daughters, she had to disown. The villain turned bitter and eventually murdered an innocent woman.

What does this accomplish? Well, for one thing, it offers a reason for her actions. But it also allows the reader to have just a teeny bit of sympathy for the villain, someone who wanted to love and be loved, but had all the joy sucked out of her life. It shows she was once human which, I think, makes the impact of her evilness that much stronger.

Layering your villains is just as important as layering your protagonists. And if you do it right, who knows? Maybe you'll be lucky enough to have Alan Rickman play him in the movie :)


Monday, July 14, 2008

They Plot. They Kill. They Steal the Show.

Ah, villains. We love to hate them. And while we may not fall in love with the bad guys and most have no redeemable qualities whatsoever, we can’t help but be fascinated by them. It’s only human nature. It’s like driving by a car accident. We feel horrible for the people involved but we can’t help but look. Hopefully we are all non-villains here at the diner, nevertheless as writers we are intrigued about what makes them tick. Many times, the villain is so interesting, so compelling, he steals the show from the hero.

Think Darth Vader in Star Wars or Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca. Archibald Cunningham in Rob Roy or Jack Nicholson’s Joker in Batman. Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest or Hannibal Lector in Silence of the Lambs. They weren’t the stars, but they made the movie.

No actor has brought more life and personality to bad guys on the big screen better than Alan Rickman. While he is a very talented thespian whose range goes from dramatic to comedic roles, it’s his villains that we love him for. The man is an acting genius, bringing a quality and depth to each of his evil characters that captivates us, leaving us eagerly awaiting his next appearance onstage as the drama plays out, while we all but forget about the hero.

He first burst onto the big screen as the merciless German terrorist Hans Gruber in Die Hard. Sure, Bruce Willis was the mega star, but Gruber’s cool sneers and subtle malice kept us glued to our seats. Even as he got his in the climactic end, all of American sat up and said “Who was that guy?” Next came his unforgettable portrayal of the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Can you say Kevin who? While Costner was the box office draw, Rickman’s performance was the one everyone was talking about. He ranted and raved through each of his scenes, his frustration comical as Robin Hood thwarted his best-laid plans. His smarmy Sheriff had so much screen presence and all the best lines that he stole the whole movie out from under Kevin Costner’s nose, earning him the British Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. His next villainous role was that of Grigori Rasputin in the HBO series Rasputin: Dark Servant of Destiny. His portrayal of the mad monk was so convincing, it garnered him an Emmy and Golden Globe award for it.

Then there’s Serevus Snape, a complex character Rickman has portrayed in all of the Harry Potter movies. While technically he wasn’t really a villain, he started out as one. Or did he? His character had us so conflicted, we never truly knew where his loyalties lay until the very end of the series. Some of us still aren’t sure. There’s never been a dark character so mysterious, so misleading, so multi-dimensional and layered, as Serevus Snape. Chalk that one up to the brilliant talent of J.K. Rowling. She took a character from villain to tragic hero on the written page and Alan Rickman brought him to full, vibrant life on the big screen. It’s a lesson we all should take to heart: if you ever think you may want to make your villain redeemable at some point, you might want to start by studying the life of Serevus Snape.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Villains Too Stupid to Live

What was the best spoof of villainy? For me it had to be SpaceBalls. Why? Because the villains were indeed too stupid to live. They deserved to be blown up and land on a deserted planet somewhere.

We all seem to just know what makes a hero or heroine too stupid to live. But a villain? Well, let's just say he (or she) is a cliche of evil and might live in a place like Mos Eisley. Why Mos Eisley? To quote Obi-Wan, "you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy." Great line but can we say....cliche? I knew you could.

Of course Dr. Evil in the Austin Powers movies is a good example of a spoof too - but he's not too stupid to live because he's more than a match for Austin. Through sheer accident, I think Dr. Evil could come out on top. Spoof-yes. TSTL-no.

So how do I know a VTSTL when I see one? He dresses like a villain. A villain should either look cool or fade into the woodwork. The minute one sculks around in black, he's done for.

If a villain believes his own press that he's the scariest guy around - then he's definitely TSTL and will soon be captured or killed by the hero or heroine.

If a villain poses and announces his intentions before killing the hero and/or heroine...he might be TSTL.

Well, I could go on an on... But why, when someone did it before and MUCH better than I could ever hope to. Who was so brilliant? The Evil Overlord himself, Peter Anspach. Who? Back in the 1990s some SF fans got together to compile a list of the things villains always do that get them killed. From this evolved The Evil Overlord's List -or- The Top 100 Things I'd Do If I Ever Became An Evil Overlord. One caveat gentle reader. Before you visit this list make sure you have previously visited the bathroom and are not, repeat NOT, drinking anything which might emerge from your nose. Now not all the entries could make you incontinent or snort things out of your nose, but a few of them can. Especially if you read item after item after item. It adds up because you start thinking of books and movies where someone has violated the rule and you realize that when writing villains, you may have committed one of these faux pas as well. I have. I admit it.

So learn from the Evil Overlord what NOT to do and you will create villains like Hannibal Lecter. Now that dude is scary! He is truly a full bodied villain. Why? He has backstory. Yes, he chews on the furniture... But dang, you believe him when he does it. Hannibal can legitimately haunt the dreams of your hero and heroine. He's smart. He dresses cool (psycho cool - but still cool). He's intense. He doesn't posture. He's seriously dangerous. And he can manipulate with the best of them. I mean - look at those eyes!
Best of all, he's totally real. No paranormal activity needed. He embodies the worst of us, but he is curiously logical about how he does it. He's one villain who will never be too stupid to live. Now his doctor? That guy was definitely too stupid to live and if you've seen the movie you know Hannibal was about to invite him over for dinner. Ouch. Now that's something we'll never have on the diner's menu. As one of the cooks, I guarantee it!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Villains to the Rescue

Villains. What is up with those nasty guys and gals who always make trouble for the hero and heroine? Standing defiantly in the way of true love...wanting to rule the world...or destroy the world...or just kill, maim and pillage. Blackmail? Murder? Mayhem? Just good clean fun, mate.

Yeah. Right.

Actually, villains ARE fun in an evil megalomaniac sort of way. Who else gives you the opportunity to live vicariously through the dark side while still ensuring a "happily ever after" for the good guys? Besides the obvious conflict factor they add to a story, villains can really stretch your writing an character development skills. Grey villains--ones that have redemption potential-- are especially fun to write because their journey may arc over several books. Yep everybody luvs a villain.

Things to remember while writing your bad guy:

1. Know your villain at least as well as you know your hero. Love your hero? Then give him a worthy opponent complete with goals, motivation and conflict--one that he can knock heads or trade fisticuffs with. A villain can expose your hero's flaws, reveal backstory or help define character. (I mean, is it truly easy for the hero to forgive and forget?)

2. Villains are heroes with a different point of view. Their actions are justified in their own mind and the reader only knows as much or as little as you (the ominpotent author) shows them. If you've read the book or seen the play Wicked! then you know what I'm talking about. Suddenly that perfect world filled with wonderful people gets cast in a whole new light because you're looking through the villains eyes. Enlightening, for sure.

3. Not all villains are created equal. Villians are like stones you throw into a calm pool of water. The darker the bad guy, the larger the stone. Does your villain barely make a ripple or create a tidal wave? Make the character fit the chaos. Villains run the gamut from simple antagonist (Deep-seeded hatred is not necessary just opposition to the hero) to the classic villian archetype. (Hurt others for personal gain? No problem!)

While some classic villains can be considered stagnant in their nature---merely repeating their role as hero's foil over and over again, my personal favorites will grow, learn and sometimes change...for the good. A grey villian redeemed gives an author a unique opportunity -- to tell a story from both sides. And I admit to being a sucker for a change of heart. After all, everyone makes mistakes.

So, have you hugged your villain today?



Monday, July 7, 2008

The Fate of the World

Heroes, heroines, secondary characters. This biweek at the Diner we've got your villains right here!

In a romance novel -- in any novel -- there can be a variety of conflicts that form the foundation of a book's plot. The classic conflicts are person vs. self, person vs. person, person vs. society, person vs. nature, and person vs. supernatural; and some sources add person vs. technology to take into account the modern age. If there's no conflict, there's most likely no book.

Conflict in a romance novel isn't always "Boy wants girl but girl resists boy since that's what nice girls do" or "Girl wants boy but boy thinks he can never trust a woman". Although some romance novels can be structured so the hero and heroine function as each other's antagonist, there's often a more obvious antagonist involved to complicate matters.

I'm talking about the villain. Color him grey, black, evil, paranoid, or a wolf in sheep's clothing, there are a huge variety of villains in paranormal romances. The villain can be a demon, a vampire, a human, a wacked out wizard. (Of course, so can the hero/heroine). Paranormal romances tend to occur on a grand scale, like science fiction and fantasy novels, with the fate of the world, not just love, in the balance. This means the force that opposes the hero/heroine double whammy is most likely a huge threat as well, and a threat to our entire existence. (Gasp!)

Often the villain is painted in undeniable evil -- a serial killer or dictator who wants to rule the world in a mean way. Even when the book starts with the villain not known to the protagonists, it quickly becomes more personal. Stakes are raised (especially when vampires attack). The villain wants the hero and/or heroine out of the picture and will stop at nothing to make this happen. Imagine finding true love while the fate of the world rests on your shoulders and somebody wants you dead! It definitely intensifies the experience.

To add layers, when the "villain" is from a particular race of creatures, the author will frequently, in the case of series, feature a protagonist from a member of that race in a future novel who finds love despite the evil reputation of his or her species. Paranormal romance is thick with novels where the protagonists think of one another as the "enemy" before they fall in love, as with werewolf-vampire trysts.

There are a number of antagonists in my upcoming novel, SURVIVAL OF THE FAIREST, including resentful fairies, the fairy "government", so to speak, and some terrifying creatures we humans think of as innocent garden gnomes. They're varying shades of grey, but they all oppose the hero and heroine's happily ever after, as well as influence that pesky fate of the world. And this, too, is a technique many authors employ -- spreading the villainous love around so the hero and heroine have that much more to conquer before they can relax into domestic bliss, or an exciting life of tag-team demon hunting, depending on the book.

By the way, the pies of the week are fruit pies. Anyone remember the Hostess ads from the 70's when fruit pies could stop villains in their tracks?? &

Jody W. (Totally New Site Design--with gnomes!)
SURVIVAL OF THE FAIREST--Available 7/15 from Samhain Publishing

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Thirteen Things about Thirteen ways your minor characters can help your book
Thursday Thirteen

Minor characters aren’t necessarily so very minor. They can have a major role in bringing your story world to life. Here are some things to love about those characters who don’t play the main roles.

Our town. Minor characters help to fill out the setting. Small town? Quirky characters with small town sensibilities help set the stage and make the place more realistic. Big city? Rushed businesspeople, Starbucks customers, taxi drivers, etc. Without minor characters, the hero, heroine, and villain would be operating in a vacuum.

Sounding board. The best friend, the mentor, a stranger on the street. Whatever person your characters choose to confide in, that person (or persons) is important not only to make the main character more real, but also to move the plot.

Stool pigeon. Related to #2, minor characters can overhear, be told, or accidentally see things the main characters might not. Whether this happens onstage or is revealed later, this information can be crucial to the plot.

Developing a personality. Ah, character development. Always needed, sometimes extremely hard to show. Minor characters can help with this. A random little girl can show a hero’s soft heart, or a villain’s ego-centrism. The way a main character reacts to a minor character gives the reader a glimpse into the character’s heart.

Danger, Will Robinson! A minor character can warn a main character to beware—of the hero, the villain, a trap, a less than loyal friend. They can lie too, or warn the main character away from something that has to be done—thus upping the stakes.

Red shirts. On the original Star Trek television show, every week the main characters went on their missions with several red shirted characters. These red clad extras were almost always fated to get hurt or die (usually both). Minor characters can play the same role in a book. They can be the victims of the villain or some a natural disaster, or a disease. Whatever we need to push the plot along. And the main characters are safe.

Help, I need somebody. Main characters need helpers. Businesspeople need assistants or coworkers to showcase their skills in delegating or getting along. Perhaps the character needs a babysitter so that he/she can spend time with the other main character or go on an adventure. Or maybe a main character needs someone to check out a rumor about the other main character.

Not everything you know, teacher you need. Like Yoda in the Star Wars movies, main characters frequently need teachers or mentors. Teachers can fill the main characters in on how to traverse the rocky territory you’ve set your characters in. They can fill in world development concepts (both to a main character and the reader). And they can help a main character develop needed skills.

Girdles. Minor characters can function as girdles for a sagging middle in a plot. They can stir up trouble, throw a ball, die painfully, attempt to kill a main character. Which leads us to the next area of usefulness.

Red herrings. Even if the book isn’t a mystery, red herrings are useful. An old girl/boyfriend can seem to be the love of someone’s life. The minor can appear to be the villain, thus taking the spotlight off the real villain (who can then be free to create more havoc). The apparent bad guy may be an undercover FBI agent. Or the good guy may not be so very good.

Fun with language. No matter where the main characters come from, they have to speak clear and understandable English. Any accents or oddities have to be subtle. Plus major characters have to seem intelligent and not goofy. A minor character doesn’t have that restriction. A character with a heavy accent, a very odd use of the language, who speaks in clich├ęs, or who speaks gobbledygook. These types of characters can add a lot to a manuscript.

Mirror, mirror. While a romance has to center on only one couple, there can be two minor characters who have their own romantic story. It just can’t be the centerpiece of the story, and their story has to add something to book. Mirroring the main storyline is a common way. Just don’t let the sub-plot overshadow the main one.

Last, but definitely not least. The minor characters can be a gateway into a sequel. Three friends, five siblings, two coworkers, partners in a business; these all lend themselves to more than one book. Voila! You have a series.

I’m sure there are many uses for minor characters that I missed with this list. What are your favorite uses for characters who don’t (yet) take center stage?

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others' comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Secondary Characters, My Favorite Toy

Yesterday, Lori posted a wonderful blog on falling in love with secondary characters. They give us the liberty to explore avenues we can't take with our protagonists. You can go as crazy (and I often do) as you want and never have to see the words, "well, that's not very hero/heroine-like, is it?"

I think the reason secondary characters are not as intriguing in their own stories is because they can't be. A smooth-talking playboy who charms his way into your heart is fine for a secondary character, but as a hero, not so much. No one wants their beloved heroine saddled with a cheating cad, no matter how sweetly he talks to her.

We also wouldn't want our hero to spend his life with a conniving she-devil. Let's face it, by the end of the story that she-devil has to see the error of her ways and reform to the perfect woman or our readers will not be happy campers.

Sometimes the most fun we have is with the characters who are never meant to have their own story. Like the lovable best friend, who's (gasp) bald! (just as a side note, I think bald guys can be just as sexy as their well coiffed counterparts). Or the 50+ socialite who decks herself in diamonds and pearls, throws on a sweat suit (Gucci, of course, if they make such a thing) to go bowling.

When coming up with your secondary characters, it's important to give them as much attention as your protagonists. Sure, you won't delve as deeply into their psyche and you'll probably never reveal their favorite color, but it will make them 3-D characters and that's something we all want. We've talked about characters doing things--well--out of character before. Don't do it, or if they do, give a damn good reason.

We can dress them up like Barbie Dolls in crazy outfits and personalities. We can throw them into insane situations, even add suspense because, unlike our main characters, we can kill them off.

Unless, of course, they have want their own story :) but I won't tell if you won't *w*