Saturday, March 19, 2016

March Round Robin

This Month's Topic: Secondary characters have many functions in stories. Have you ever had a secondary character surprise you in some way? How? How about in other author's books that you've read? Do you have a favorite secondary character in either your own work or in books you have read?

Oh yes, indeedy! Several times in fact. The first romantic novel I attempted, a contemporary western, I cannot exactly pinpoint where the heroine's story morphed into her grandmother's. From researching ranching and rodeo events, and in the processing meeting cowboys, stock contractors and rodeo riders who were endlessly helpful, I found myself researching pre-war Montreal and then the French Underground during WWII. I finished writing that book but because there were so many huge leaps from one place and time to another it was very disjointed. At that time I was too much of a newbie to know what to do with it and didn't want to do what several professionals advised which was to cut 25,000 words and relocate the story from Southern Alberta (where I live) to Montana or Wyoming which at the time I had never visited and knew little about. That story still languishes (figuratively speaking) under the bed.

When I started writing my first Regency romance, His Dark Enchantress, my hero's sister kept intruding. She was so pushy I kept asking myself who's story was I telling? Juliana (the sister) came front and center ahead of Emmaline (my heroine) on every page. I finally gave in and promised Juliana her own story, which I am now in the process of writing. I don't think of myself as a pushy person but in some corner of my psyche I must be as Juliana is, in fox hunting terms, a 'thruster' or a person who rides at the front of the field and too close to the hunt staff or hounds.

One of my favorite Regency novels is Frederica by Georgette Heyer. The copy I have is much-loved, beginning to be a bit tattered, first edition. I still read it from time to time and find it as fresh and funny as the first time I read it. A secondary character in that book, which I am as comfortable with as an old friend, is the Marquis of Alverstoke's secretary Mr. Charles Trevor. Charles is an absolute paragon of efficiency without being the least bit stuffy and, in fact, Frederica describes him as 'an excellent young man'.

Secondary characters can bolster the hero or heroine, they can be a good friend of either. They can be smart and slightly caustic, or a bit of a buffoon as a foil. They all have their place and in my opinion most books are better for including them.

I hope you'll visit these fine authors and take a look at how they feel  about secondary characters:

Fiona McGier
Anne Stenhouse
Skye Taylor
Beverley Bateman
Judith Copek
Connie Vines
Helena Fairfax
Marci Baun
Rachael Kosinski
Hollie Glover
Dr. Bob Rich
Rhobin Courtright

Victoria Chatham


  1. Your characters from His Dark Enchantress sound interesting. Good post.

    1. Thank you! I loved writing His Dark Enchantress and am about half way through His Ocean Vixen. The third in the series will Be His Unexpected Muse. The Regency era is my favorite period of history.

  2. I love that Juliana was so forceful. I have a granddaughter named Juliana and she always knows just what she wants and isn't afraid to let everyone know.

    1. Yes, she definitely was ahead of her time! Your granddaughter sounds like a force to be reckoned with but I'm sure she's as gracious as her gran.

  3. Your languishing story sounds very interesting, I hope it awakens one day. I think you are right, the secondary characters might show more of our hidden psyche than we would like.

    1. When I taught Introductory Creative Writing the fact they might show their true selves in their writing was a problem for some of my students.

    2. I didn't realize at first just how much of myself is written into each word. One of my oldest friends (from college days) told me that she enjoys reading my books because she feels like I'm sitting there talking to her. And since we've chatted together for so many years, she knows what she's talking about!

      And yes, there are parts of me in many of my characters. But there are also parts of other people I've known over the years. I just try not to let any politics or controversial items intrude, though. We are all entitled to our opinions, but that doesn't mean we have to thrust them into everyone's face at every opportunity.

    3. Hi Fiona, your oldest friend sounds much like my oldest friend! I'm so lucky to still have her in my life. She also has very different opinions to mine on which we agree to disagree!

  4. An entertaining post, Victoria. I know little about fox hunting, but I recognise the personality of a 'thruster'. Anne Stenhouse