Thursday, September 21, 2006

On Secondary Characters

What I've read since last time: The Intern Affair by Roxanne St. Claire; The Garden of Eden by Faye Kellerman; Ladies' Man by Suzanne Brockmann

What I'm reading: Under Orders by Dick Francis

What I'm working on: More critiques and Chapter 12

I've kept to my writing goal of 1000 words a day, which is easier when you don't have too much 'other' stuff to do--like work at your job. Right now, secondary characters are my focus. How much is needed? At what point does a reader expect the secondary character to move into a larger role? If they're going to appear in only one scene, how much do you flesh them out. I have a lot of fun when I write these sorts of scenes, but someone asked if it was really 'worth it' to put a minor character in a wheelchair. I hadn't given it much thought -- to be honest, I was tired of looking for fresh words to use to show her getting from her desk to the fax machine in the office, and I decided there was no reason she couldn't do her job from a wheelchair. To me, it was no more significant that giving a few words about her hair/eye/skin color, physical build -- the little snapshots that help a reader see the scene.

Then there's the 'how long' to make the interaction. My hero has a reputation as a charmer. If he knows the woman, he's going to do his standard schmoozing. So, now I'm up to about a page of things that add color, but the point of the scene is to get the faxes into Dalton's hand. Could I have written it so he simply walks in, goes to the fax machine and gets them? Sure. But then I look at the 'don't make things easy' approach. So I toss a 'guardian of the fax machine' into the room. Which leads to the banter between them, the little rituals they have to go through, and pretty soon I have another half page of "stuff." I tell myself the character might come back later (I'm not a plotter) or maybe I'll be able to use her in the next book.

And then there's the character who preliminary readers want to see more of. I'm dealing with that--because I like her a lot, too. I hadn't planned to bring her into the story again, but she had too big a scene to ignore. Even I can see the investment in getting to know her and so I'm dreaming up ways to get Grace back into the story without digressing or having the dreaded, "Grace! Imagine meeting you here." coincidence thing.

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