When Secondary Characters Speak Out
Sometimes I’ll be reading a story and one of the supporting characters makes an impact. I can usually tell about the time the author gets that swat between the eyes because that same secondary character will elevate from supporting cast member to nominee for Best Actor/Actress in a Supporting Role. The character who had previously been a brother, sister, sidekick, best friend, soundly speaks more profound words of wisdom, or a description firms up – not enough to detract from the story’s main characters, but enough to make it obvious this secondary character is waving a flag and trying to make the author notice him or her. When I end a story with a secondary character haunting my memory, I can probably expect some type of sequel because I can tell the character has made a mark on the writer as well. This is simply a writer doing his/her job—that is, telling a story that involves more than just the interactions of the two main characters.
So when I wrote Lifeline Echoes, before it was even published, my crit partners said things like, “I’m in love with one of your secondary characters,” and “These two have to have their own story!” It may be cliché that they were saying this about my hero’s brother, because the logical next story in a series that has a pair of brothers would be about the brother. I hadn’t really planned more than giving my hero a source of familial support—certainly never thought in terms of giving him a novel, but even I began to hear Ryan’s brother, Sean, speaking to me, asking for a chance at his own story. Still, it’s hardly a surprise, as I said, that a brother would become the next story.
What did surprise me, however, was that the follow-up story was not as much about the brother as it was about the brother’s love interest. Sure, they were semi-involved throughout Lifeline Echoes, but in their story, Elusive Echoes, the story actually evolved to be more about Melanie and a past she’d rather not think about than Sean. That doesn’t mean Sean has no story. He’s got his own set of issues to overcome. But where their stories converge, it’s all about Mel and how her past is getting in the way of their happiness.
Answer one or both of the questions below for a chance to win a PDF copy of Elusive Echoes:
1. Readers: Have you ever found yourself in a story and just knew one of the characters was chattering at the author to demand his/her own story?
2. Writers: Have you ever been surprised by a change-up in your story that redirects focus from one character to another?
ELUSIVE ECHOES BLURB:
They’re two people caught between friendship and something more; they can’t move forward, and they can’t let go.
Drawn together from early childhood, Sean McGee and Melanie Mitchell seemed destined for each other. But at age thirteen, Melanie was wrenched from the people she loved and forced onto a path she loathed. Sean was no stranger to people leaving, but losing Melanie devastated him. When she suddenly reappeared in Orson’s Folly, Sean was overjoyed. The Melanie who came home, though, wasn’t the same girl. She’s got a harder edge and she’s obviously hiding something, but Sean no longer knows how to reach her.
Returning to Orson's Folly as an adult, all Melanie wanted to do was forget the years she spent away. But she soon learned that going home didn’t mean she could return to her old life—or her childhood sweetheart, Sean. Even their mutual attraction to one another hasn’t rebuilt the bond of trust and closeness they once shared. It’s been seven years since she returned and now everything Melanie wants to forget has broadsided her. She must confront her demons and relive her past in an unexpected way or risk losing the only man she’s ever loved. But even if she succeeds, Sean might be lost to her anyway.
Mel sighed. She couldn’t remember a time since they’d been teenagers when she hadn’t wanted to be Sean’s girl. Yet they never seemed to get beyond a few heated kisses before he hightailed it in the opposite direction. Sometimes it was hard to tell if he really wanted to kiss her or if he was just being polite.
“Maybe I’ll see you tomorrow, then?” As always she felt a little anxious about his answer, though she usually tried to cover her anxiety with an attitude of nonchalance.
He smiled and gave her a peck on the cheek with one last warm hug. Then he rubbed the back of his neck and cast a sheepish glance her way. “Hope so.”
She breathed more easily when she caught his “yes” tell. He always seemed just a little on the shy side when he said yes to something that was important to him.
Sean waited for her to cross the parking lot again before he left. He probably didn’t know she routinely stood at the door and watched his taillights disappear.
In honor of the release of Elusive Echoes today (6/28/2011), Lifeline Echoes is on sale for the next two weeks – only $1.99 at Astraea Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble