A story is like a diamond. Depending on which way you hold it up to the light, you can see into a whole different facet of that story world. Each character has his own perspective on the fictive world that he inhabits, but as writers, it’s our job to keep the focus on the main narrative – in this case, the romance.
At least that is how it normally works.
But since we don’t have to be normal in The Ballroom, I thought it would be fun to look into the other facets of a romance novel, the stories NOT told. To that end, I have invited some of the secondary characters, bit parts, and walk-on players from one of my past novels to stop in for a visit to try to make the case for why their stories should be told.
But first–before I summon these visitors into the Ballroom, I must remind our glitterati, as exquisitely well-mannered as you all are, please, for gentility’s sake, do not mention their true status to our visitors, if you please.
None of them has the slightest idea that they are secondary characters. I can assure you, they view themselves as the undisputed stars of their own lives, as do we all. And so it must be. Even the liveried footman has a mind and a soul beneath that powdered wig…
Liveried Footman: This dashed wig is so itchy. I wish she’d call us in and get this over with. It’s not easy standing here like a statue when I already have to pee.
Gaelen: Oh, guests? Get the door, please, footman. I’d like to present our first visitor… Come in…that’s right, make yourselves at home. No, Mara and Jordan aren’t here. Today is all about YOU…
[By the way, I decided to focus on a few of the secondary characters from my 2011 release, My Irresistible Earl, because it's part of Avon's big April E-Book Sale on selected "Earl" themed titles all month long. The full listing of Earls for Girls can be found at http://www.avonromance.com/2012/04/09/april-early-bird-specials/. Throughout the month of April, these selected titles are only $1.99!]
Gaelen (as they shuffle in): Well then, let’s get started! Please tell us a little about yourself and what genre you feel are best suited for.
1. Mrs. Busby – Literary Fiction.
”No rest for the weary… Ah, but you’ll never hear me complaining. I know how lucky to have such a fine position in these hard times. Lady Pierson is an easy mistress to work for. Pay no mind to the rumors about her ‘scandalous’ behavior. It’s all lies! Bless ‘er, she’s had a hard time with her husband dyin’ young like that, and of course, little Thomas is a dear. Still, it troubles me sometimes thinking of how lookin’ after Her Ladyship’s boy when I’ve got thirty grandchildren of my own scattered round. I’m 65 years old and I should hope when Thomas is old enough for a governess, I may be able to retire and help my daughters look after their wee ones instead.”
Gaelen: Thank you, Mrs. Busby. I think in the handsof the right author, yours could be a fascinating story and certainly pertinent today. Many grandmothers these days face a similar situation to yours, whether it’s having to work a fulltime job longer than expected or finding themselves the primary source of childcare that their grown children rely on to take care of their kids.
2. The Cat.- Mystery. We all know cats solve mysteries on a regular basis these days. Mara’s cat doesn’t solve mysteries and doesn’t actually havemuch of a stream of consciousness. It spends most of its days trying to escape the toddler in the house, Thomas, Mrs. Busby’s charge. But if the cat were a feline sleuth, perhaps it could have helped with the next Secondary Character to come sidling in from a shadowy corner of the Ballroom, his favorite silver flashing in his grip.
3. Dresden Bloodwell. – Serial Killer/Suspense Novel. - “Get it straight. I don’t answer to you, and I don’t expect that someone like you could ever begin to understand me. I will respond to your questions only because it amuses me. But if you were to cross my path in a darkened alley some night, don’t be surprised if you don’t make it home.
Why did I choose the name Dresden Bloodwell when I re-created myself with my new identity, you ask? No, you’re quite right, it isn’t the name I was born with. That blind fool is dead and gone. I chose Dresden because it was the city where I killed for the first time, and Bloodwell… I just like the sound. It helps inspire fear in others, and that’s what the Prometheans pay me to do.”
Gaelen: Egads! I marvel that there are authors out there who, despite being very nice people, love writing about creepsters like you, Mr. Bloodwell. They must really love writing about their fictional detectives–maybe that makes up for having to spend months on end working on a novel with a sinister villain like that.
But as a strange, chilly breeze moves through the Ballroom, raising the hairs on the back of our necks, I realize things are about to get even creepier…
4. Ghost of the Heroine’s Dead Husband. – Paranormal. – “Mara… Mara…”
Gaelen: Oh, look! The curtains are billowing. Do you hear that?
Ghost of Viscount Pierson: “Mine…”
Gaelen: Pardon? Could you speak up please? (A vase goes crashing off the mantel.) That wasn’t nice! What do you think you’re doing, Lord Pierson?
Ghost: Mine… She belongs to me…
Gaelen: No, my lord, I’m afraid you have been dead for two years. It’s time for Mara to move on. She’s got another chance to get back together with her first love–her true love–the one she met before you ever came along. Now, shoo!
Cat (eyeing Albert): Meow.
Gaelen: Indeed, Albert. We definitely need to lighten things up a bit after that! I know just whom to call in–Mara’s glamorous but thoroughly cynical best friend…
5. Delilah – Chick Lit. – (Dressed to the nines, she swirls Champagne in a crystal flute.) “Ah, so many men, so little time! Agreed, ladies? I admit, I love a handsome face almost as much as good day’s shopping. Of course, you won’t find me falling into such a state over any man as Mara has over Falconridge.
What’s that? Am I jealous?
Fustian! I’m thrilled to see her happy, naturally. It’s just, she used to be so much more fun when she was single like me. (Sigh) There is no happier state than to be a wealthy widow in Town who is still possessed of beauty, youth, and fortune. But I suppose it doesn’t matter. It only leaves more available gentlemen for me.”
So, you see, one set of characters could result in an untold number of different stories. It all depends simply on which character’s eyes we are viewing the story world through.
Authors have had phenomenal success in recent years taking a secondary character from classic fiction or history and telling their stories. (The Other Boleyn Girl, Mr. & Mrs. Darcy mysteries, Wicked, Rhett Butler’s People, etc.)
Which secondary character inspired a spin-off story that you enjoyed, OR, which secondary character that you’ve read deserves his/her own story?