Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Side Characters - How Important Are They, Really?

I remember a critique given to one of my very first contest entries for an unpublished manuscript. Though I do not have any idea of who the judge was, what she said will always remain in my mind - "Your side characters are more interesting than your main characters are."  Though I disagreed with the comment in this particular instance, and still do 6 years later, I understood what she was trying to say to me and I took her message to heart, namely, that the main characters should lead in a story and the secondary characters support the main characters. Admittedly, following this unspoken rule has always been a bit of a challenge for me, especially since I write series in which the main characters of one story later become the secondary characters of another. Indeed, with practice over time, doing this has become rather like second nature. But, what really defines a supporting role?  What are the rules regarding secondary characters and, is it ever ok to break them?  When?

On my summer vacation this year, I enjoyed Whispering Rock by Robyn Carr, book 3 in her Virgin River Series.  There are many stories in this series, and I have read most of them out of order, so I was much looking forward to this one, which takes place early in the series and filled in some of the blanks where the plot and characters are concerned. But, more than that, the story got me thinking a lot about side characters. As you could well imagine, a series with 19 different stories in it has many different charactersI've come across a duplicated first name or 2 in this series. What I have also noticed is a lot of time being dedicated to Carr's secondary charactersin stories like Whispering Rock there are many of them, and several, not just a few of these characters are given a lot of scenes which pertain to their own individual story, told from their own point of view. Though I didn't really mind this in Whispering Rock, because the story is so good and the characters so enjoyable, I was surprised that the secondary characters (main characters from the first 2 stories, especially) are given so much of their own time. In fact, when added together, the secondary characters very probably have more time in this story than the hero and heroine do, which can be a little frustrating to the reader, when they are the ones she really wants to read about. In spite of my own impatience as a reader, this technique regarding secondary characters works well for her. In this case, breaking the rules seems to work.

A fellow author once told me that it is ok for a big name author like Robyn Carr to break the rules because she has proven herself as an author, and that we newer authors must play by the rules for a while, before we have earned the right to break them. In this case, the "rule" is that secondary characters should not take center stage over and above the main characters of a story. Indeed, my own publisher, Siren BookStrand, states in its general submission guidelines that secondary characters cannot exceed 30% of a story. In my humble opinion as both a reader and writer, this is a good general guideline for all books to follow, as it allows the hero and heroinethe characters readers care the most aboutto have the majority of the story. But, I never say never, and I am constantly inspired by the works of other authors. Ms. Carr definitely inspired me to consider embellishing the stories of my secondary characters going forward!

As a plotter, I like to plot my stories way in advance of actually writing them and, as it happens, the idea of embellishing the stories of my secondary characters has been working its way into my head for some time. But now that I am focused on it consciously, I'd like to be a little bit more bold in my approach. I feel it is appropriate for all writers to do so, when we, the writer, feel it is most appropriate. After all, fellow writers, who better to determine how your wonderful story should be told than you! 

My Review of Whispering Rock By Robyn Carr:

This has been one of my favorite stories so far in the Virgin River Series! I've read most of the books in the series out of order, so I was familiar with the hero, Mike, and heroine, Brie, and wanted to see how they get together. Mike and Brie are friends prior to the start of the story, and there's definitely a mutual attraction between them. As Brie is recently divorced, and was raped by a criminal she prosecuted as assistant DA, she is at the height of vulnerability as the story begins. But in Mike's arms, she finds comfort and begins to come alive again. I greatly enjoyed seeing these characters come together and celebrate their love. They are sweet and passionate toward one another, and the things they whisper to each other in Spanish (Mike's native language) give it a bit of uniqueness that I found particularly enjoyable!

Several of the other Virgin River couples appear in this story and have stories of their own. Though I wished that more of the story could have been dedicated to Mike and Brie, I greatly enjoyed the book anyway. It was fun to see how things are progressing for Jack and Mel (the series' main characters), Preacher and Paige (their part in this story had me laughing out loud!), and Paul and Vanni, whose story, Second Chance Pass, comes later in the series. I'd read Paul and Vanni's story previously, so I was excited to see how things kick off for the couple and how a terrible tragedy ignites the way to a second-chance romance down the road.

There are some heavy, emotional things going on in this story2 deaths, a rapist at large, an unrelated rape, and several planned and unplanned pregnancies. Yet, in the midst of it all, Robyn Carr has created a world with several intertwined stories, all of which are sweet, fun and romantic. I always feel at home when I'm reading a title in the Virgin River Series!

An Amorous Dance is now available in paperback!

Will Hannah and Evan get a second chance at love?

When Hannah Rabourn, daughter of Rabourn Theater's late owner, is attacked, a surge of flashes prompts her to consider that her father may have been murdered. Hannah's antagonistic stage director insists her subconscious is merely seeking closure. But as she and Evan become close once again, Hannah's suspicions about the past deepen, and she wonders whether the man she's falling in love with for the second time knows more than he's letting on.

Evan Master's dreams were shattered when theater-owner Baron Rabourn destroyed his budding acting career. Having forged an alliance with Rabourn's former partner, Evan assumed a mission to transform Rabourn Theater into what it always should have been. Fellow conspirators believe Rabourn's daughter is the key to power, and Evan is the means by which to achieve their ends.

But Evan's feelings for Hannah are stronger than he believed. And when he realizes Hannah's life is in danger, he must decide between his passion...and his heart.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Amorous-Rabourn-Theater-BookStrand-Publishing/dp/1640105816/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/an-amorous-dance-the-rabourn-theater-2-jessica-lauryn/1125841876?ean=9781640105812


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