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Thursday, June 05, 2008

Taking another look at secondaries


Tomorrow marks the official publication of Viking Warrior, Unwilling Wife in paperback. This means my local Tescos should have it out on the shelves. They tend to stick to the publication dates. WH Smiths often has it out earlier. Seeing the book on the shelf in person always fills me with a sickening combination of horror and anticaipation. And I do feel much better when I see that a book or two has sold.

Anyway, one of the aspects of VWUW that I enjoyed writing about was the different way characters can be portrayed. If anyone has read Taken, Bose the Dark is not a very nice character at the end. He is ruthless, manipulative etc. In VWUW, the heroine, Sela is his daughter and she worships him. She sees only her father who has kept her family safe. Her blind trust in her father led partly to the failure of her marriage. Some of the book for me was about how Sela learns that her father has feet of clay and how she is still able to love him. In other words, how things stop being painted black and white for Sela and how she was finally able to grow.

One of the things I did have to do was to examine how different people perceive other characters and their motivations. The saying that no one is a villain in his own mind helped me. But one of the temptations as a writer is to always portray a secondary character in the same way, never to show the other side. This can result in cardboard cutouts. One great exercise is to start thinking about the villain's journey. Or the secondary character's journey. What are their goals/motivations? Or can you eve reverse the motivation? What sort of conflicts can you show? How does that alter the character? How has the role changed from the last book? If the character's role is exactly the same, then your book may have a repetitive feel to it.

All this held me in good stead because the next book that I wrote was An Impulsive Debutante. Lottie Charlton was the Mean Girl of A Christmas Wedding Wager, but she also had a lot of life and spirit in her. And I had to spend time in her skin and get toknow her and what drove her, rather than proceeding with Emma's perception of her. My editor did mention that I had never done a heroine quite like her before. I think had my dd not begged, I would not have been tempted, but I am pleased I did. She became one of my favourite heroines.

Taking another look at characters and their motivations is one of the fun parts of writing linked books.

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