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Archive for October 18th, 2007

I know I have a tendency to write a lot of secondary characters. This crime has been reined in, in large part due to editors who say, “you have too many characters, cut them.” I think it’s part of my personality, I never shut up and neither does that pesky muse. There’s a constant stream of stuff flowing through my head when I start a book and characters all sort of duke it out to be in it. I have to wrestle them and my tendency to have big families in my books.

But when done well, secondary characters can add depth to your story. Some of my favorite books have great secondaries in them. And not as merely sequel fodder, but as real, living, breathing parts of the story that neither overshadow or take up room but add nothing to the story.

Sometimes characters you think are fabulous are ones no one even comments on. But other times, there are characters that pester you incessantly until you give them space on the page and they take over and you know they’re going to be in every book they can push their way into.

This is Polly Chase, the matriarch of the Chase clan. IMO, she’s the true heart of the Chase Brothers series, she’s the thread that runs through the books and she’s big and bold as brass. Moreover, she loves being that way. Polly is probably my favorite of all my secondary characters. She’s so easy to write because she just came to me so fully developed.

She click-clacked into my head with that big bouffant, those sky-high heels and that petite frame. The big purse and the 1970’s Caddy came to me as I wrote . She’s a mass of contradictory images – tiny woman, big hair, big car, big purse, big personality and big, giant sons. Who all adore her and are wise enough to know she’ll kick their butts when they get out of line, adults or not.

Because she’s such a vivid character, she’s fun to read and write. She’s one of those characters who I never have to think on their motivation at all. She loves her children and her husband. Her family means everything to her and she will protect it and love them with every fiber of her being. And she’s not above being sneaky to achieve her goals. I kind of like that about her.

In the end, she’s the emotional center of the books. She’s a secondary character but at the same time, the books would not be the same without her. It’s not that she’s not big enough to have a book of her own either, she’s a mother in every way. Both to the series and to her sons and daughters-in-law.

And to me, a great secondary character is important because even though they don’t get the page space of a primary, they still remain memorable and special, the story is better with their presence. Pushy broads!

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