This blog post first appeared on friend of the Ninja's Lisa Ireland and Amanda Knight's blog Love, Sweet and Sinister last year.
Secondary characters… I love everything about them. They get to say all that risqué un-hero and un-heroine stuff that your main characters can’t say. They get to get smart, dumb, plain crazy and lovable all the same. Sometimes they get to even be narcoleptic dogs, opinionated cats or even quaint little anthropomorphized out houses named Harvey. But there comes a time in every writer’s life when they’re writing a surefire Man Booker Prize Winner—fingers clickerty clacking on keyboard, glass of wine at the ready, profanity hanging in the air because Microsoft Word isn’t co-operating (again)—and they realise that they might just love their secondary characters a little bit more than their hero or heroine.
It’s not that one’s hero or heroine suddenly develop a strange case of hair in unexpected places or anything, it’s just that nothing is more attractive to a writer than the book they could be writing but can’t because they’re stuck writing this one. It’s true.
It’s why series were invented. Because, the great thing about writing a series or stand-alone-but-connected books like I do, is that when you get a crush on a secondary character and decide that they absolutely must have a story, (and they must have it now!) you can start plotting away in your procrastination time.
But here is where the tricky bit comes in. Now that you’ve got not one but two stories with the same character in it, you’ve got to make sure they line up. Is this new secondary character-turned-hero-or-heroine behaving the same? Are they speaking the same and on a more base level, do they look the same?
Look the same you ask? Yep. Believe it or not, it’s pretty damn easy to get height, breadth or even eye color wrong if one isn’t more vigilant than a 50s nun inspecting school girl’s skirt length. I’ve had it happen before. A couple of times. Particularly with one of my secondary characters, Scott who’s turned up in not two but four of my books so far. He started out with dark brown eyes. Then the next book they were light brown. The next they turned a kinda hazel colour and I just caught myself writing them green this morning.
Luckily I caught the error before my first two books Irrepressible You and Unforgettable You went to print but I might not have. The whole editing-publishing process is especially crazy nowadays and something like that might get missed. And then yours truly would have been stuck coming up with some kind of contact lens kink by the time I gave Scott his own book…
ANYWAY, what I’m trying to say is that secondary characters are marvellous fun, sometimes too much fun… but make sure you keep an eye on them or they might just… develop a kink for contact lenses…
On second thoughts… maybe the book I’m currently working on does look a whole lot more interesting. Maybe I’ll just finish it first instead.