Sunday, March 27, 2011

Secondary Characters: The seasoning in the soup

by suzanne

No secret here, but I love to tinker in the kitchen. I especially like to try my hands at soups. Why? Because my husband LOVES soup. That man will eat soup everyday until the pot is empty.

Here's one of the things I've learned about soup. You have to layer in the flavors.

You start with your butter/olive oil heating in your pot. To this you add your Mirepoix--a mixture of diced carrots, onions, celery. After sauteing this until the onions are translucent, you usually add your meat. Then your wine and finally your stock. You must season with salt and pepper as you add each component, just a touch though. Always tasting to be sure you've seasoned correctly. Bring it all to a boil then you reduce the pot to a simmer, allowing the contents to mix, mingle, grow and change. Each element has an affect on the other.

Writing has the same process.

Butter/oil: You start with your story idea. That is the movement, the beginning of your process.

Mirepoix: You add your plot. This is the spot where you have a solid base of flavors on which your story must build.

Meats: Main characters. Your hero, heroine, antagonist. Those elements that give your story its uniqueness. Their backstories will change the pot to a certain flavor.

Wine & stock: This is your goal, motivation and conflict. They soften the characters, tenderize them, strengthen their flavors.

Seasonings (salt, pepper, garlic, thyme, rosemary or bay leaf): Secondary characters. Added throughout the story to give it depth. Complexity. Some are minor walk-through characters that make subtle changes to your story/characters. Others have such a strong impact and manipulate the other ingredients to such a detree that without them the story might not be the same.

Without seasoning, your soup might have all the major ingredients, but it will be bland, flat.

Secondary characters are some of my favorites.

Pride & Prejudice: Who doesn't love Lizzie's sister Jane and Mr. Bingley? They are such an important element in the story. They affect both Lizzie and Mr. Darcy's motivation, their conflict, their goals.



Lord of The Rings: The Hobbits. Each one has a destiny to fulfill. We all know Froddo's mission, but Sam is the element that helps achieve that goal all the way to the end. Merri and Pippin have their own battles to wage, affecting the outcome of the tale while adding their perky flavor to the story.






The Dark Hunter series: While each book is a stand alone book, their are elements that flow through each that unite their flavors. Acheron and Simi, Artemis and the other greek gods/godesses. The Damons. Even New Orleans plays a character in the books, flavoring them with its own unique spice.





No Body's Baby But Mine: This is my favorite SEP novel. Cal's family becomes an igredient that changes him and his relationship with his wife Jane. His parents relationship not only grows into a secondary plot, but influences the outcome of Cal and Jane's story.







Saving Grace: My favorite Julie Garwood story. Joanna's step brother Neil plays a pivitol role in bringing his sister to Gabriel for her protection. He irritates Gabriel, mostly because he's English, but also because Gabriel suspects that Neil harbors a hidden desire for his sister. When he turns up later in the story, he once again plays a part in the ever changing plot.






So, dear readers, do you like secondary characters? Who are some of your favorites? Why?

43 comments:

Slush said...

Good morning, good evening... regardless it's a good day!

Slush said...

Secondary characters are indeed a lot of fun and they can be those characters you love to hate.

In Christie Kelley's Every Night I'm Yours, Somerton was a love to hate kind of guy. You didn't really know if he was intending to help or hurt (even with the little role he played). *his own story was delicious though.

Mary Balogh's More Than A Mistress introduces Tresham's brother and sister who are just as much as the Duke himself.

Finally, as a huge Farscape fan I have to say the roles of Rygel and Scorpius are those characters you love to hate. Without them the story falls flat, even though both characters are entirely selfish. At the same time both characters at different points become favorites because of little actions taken.

Helen said...

Well done Slush enjoy your day with him

Suz
Great post and so true I have read so many fatastic books where the secondary characters are so so good and yes in my opinion really help make the story what it is.

As for thinking of any at the moment LOL I have just got home from the convention YAY what a fantastic weekend (Congrats Anna) we had soo much fun and then straight to the hospital to see my new grandson Joshua Ron born at
11-02am this morning and I am just about to head of back there now so can't think straight LOL

Have Fun
Helen

Jane said...

I love Saving Grace, too. I think Johanna's brother is Nicholas. One of the great secondary characters is Izzy Teague from Christina Skye's SEAL and Code Name series. Izzy is a Denzel Washington look alike and how can you not love that.

MsHellion said...

I love them!! Of course, I have the problem when I include secondary characters in my stories, they overtake the main characters because my main characters are 'straight men' and the secondaries are so damned quirky, they just steal every scene. (Therefore I need to make the main characters a bit more quirky I know.)

I'm trying to think of some book titles, but none are coming to me, but I can tell you the TYPE of secondary characters I'm partial too: older characters. (I'm not as partial to kids, but Linda Lael Miller does a great job with kids as secondaries in her books.) But on the whole, I like the Helen Mirren or Judi Dench character in a book--usually a quirky aunt or fearsome matron of society--and I adore them. They add such hilarious much needed comedy relief and really stir the pot.

I'll go to bed and try to think of something clever or something memorable for a secondary character. :)

June M. said...

I love secondary characters! Often in a series, these characters are either ones who will get their own books, or ones who have had their books previously.

Donna MacMeans said...

Congratulations Helen on the addition to your family, and congrats to Slush on snagging the rooster. I think he has his own grass skirt from visiting so long with Kim (grin).

Suz - what a neat way to describe concocting a story! It adds a whole new depth to the thought of putting your characters in hot water (grin).

I know this won't mean anything to our readers, but one of my favorite secondary characters appears in my August release, Phineas Conor. Phineas is the best friend to the hero and a magician/illusionist. I sort of based the hero and Phineas on Jim and Artemus from the Wild, Wild West. I hope to write a separate story for Phineas one of these days. He's a fun one - and definitely hero material.

Suzanne Ferrell said...

Hey Slush!

Congrats on nabbing the bird!

Suzanne Ferrell said...

In Christie Kelley's Every Night I'm Yours, Somerton was a love to hate kind of guy. You didn't really know if he was intending to help or hurt (even with the little role he played). *his own story was delicious though.

Christie did do a grand job on Somerton, didn't she? Loved both those books myself!

Suzanne Ferrell said...

Hey Helen!

OMG, congrats on the new grandbaby!! I have one due the middle of May, but I bet his mama delivers him early, as she never makes it to her due date!

Suzanne Ferrell said...

Hey Jane!

Another Saving Grace lover! High fives on that. I still want Julie to write Nicholas' story!! Even though he's married at the end of the book, there's a whole story left untold, don't you think?

Izzy is a Denzel Washington look alike and how can you not love that.

Izzy does sound yummy, especially if he looks like Denzel!

Suzanne Ferrell said...

Hey Ms. Hellion!

I understand about quirky characters taking over a book. One does have to rein them in a bit.

But on the whole, I like the Helen Mirren or Judi Dench character in a book--usually a quirky aunt or fearsome matron of society--and I adore them. They add such hilarious much needed comedy relief and really stir the pot.

In a contemporary book I wrote, HOME FIRES, (as yet unpublished) my heroine's mother is in the early stages of dementia. While this is such a sad thing many families go through, my grandmother and my uncle did some things that were quite funny and I combined those into the mother's behavior. She starts out laughing at one point and ends up in tears.

Sigh. More flavor for the story.

Suzanne Ferrell said...

Hey June!

That's the fun part of writing these characters. They give the reader and the writer something to look forward to in the next book of the series, don't they?

Suzanne Ferrell said...

Hey Donna!

my August release, Phineas Conor. Phineas is the best friend to the hero and a magician/illusionist. I sort of based the hero and Phineas on Jim and Artemus from the Wild, Wild West.

OMG... Can you tell our readers what is the name of that book?

And I adored The Wild, Wild West growing up. And I have to confess I found Artemus quite intriguing!

Suzanne Ferrell said...

I guess I should ask our readers who are writers...

What secondary character from your books do you find intriguing enough to get their own book?

Was there one who drove you crazy trying to overtake the story?

Deb said...

Suz, I loved your soup-making analogy for writing! Thou art clever! I have a bulletin board at school for paragraph writing, using a sandwich. (Top bun-main idea; meat, cheese, lettuce, tomato-details; bottom bun-summary statement.)

I love secondary characters. I really love for them to have their own story in another book. Some authors do a wonderful job of giving them stories within the main story, though, without taking away from the main H/H.

Hmmm, soup and sandwiches and secondary characters make for some yummy eating and reading. :)

Deb said...

I should clarify----I like secondary characters to be strongly introduced in a story and then have their own book in future, if possible.

gamistress66 said...

I'm a definate fan of sencondary characters. A good supporting cast can make or break a story -- bring it to life. Occasionally I "fall" as much for the secondary char than the main h/h and then can't wait for the author to tell their story.(Anna C -- you know who's story I'm still waiting on ;) and waiting, waiting).

Suzanne Ferrell said...

Hey Deb!

Thanks. I had great inspiration here yesterday. It was cold enough to warrant a big pot of chili!

I'm with you. While there are some authors who can artfully weave a plot line for their secondary characters, I'd rather meet them in one book and learn more about them in their own story.

Suzanne Ferrell said...

Hey GaMistress!

I'm a definate fan of sencondary characters. A good supporting cast can make or break a story -- bring it to life

Sometimes they are the comic relief, too!

Barbara Monajem said...

I love making soup! Although I must say I'm much more haphazard about it than you, Suzanne. My soups usually taste pretty good in spite of me. :)

I love secondary characters too -- in writing, because often they just walk onto the page fully-formed and are a lot of fun. In reading, my favorite secondary characters are found in Georgette Heyer's romances.

Suzanne Ferrell said...

Blogger Suzanne Ferrell said...

Hey Barbara!

LOL, I've probably listed the step-by-step for soup making a little more formulatic than necessary, but I'll bet you do a lot of the same steps, but very organically.

That's what my critique partner, Sandy Blair calls pantzers. Those writers who "just write" with all the layers coming to play in a well told story. "Organic writers".

I love secondary characters too -- in writing, because often they just walk onto the page fully-formed

My other critique partner, Jo Davis says this is what happened when she started writing her firefighter series. Not one, but all six of the firefighters "just walked into my office and hung out."

Mmmmmmmmmm, wouldn't that be fun?

Donna MacMeans said...

Suz - Thanks for reminding me that I'm supposed to do those things - you know - like mention the title of the book (grin). I was just more excited about telling you about the secondary character that I truly love.

The book is REDEEMING THE ROGUE and is due for release this August. I'm currently reading the galleys which I suppose is one reason Phineas is on my mind. I promise - one of these days he'll get his own book.

Maureen said...

Abby in NCIS, Xander from Buffy...so many I can cite from television. Usually I watch shows for those characters and not the rest. I suppose this is how a secondary character takes over a story!

jo robertson said...

What a great analogy, Suz! Super post.

Actually, I'm winding down to the last pages of your "The Surrender of Lacy Morgan," and I love the secondary character of Dakota and would like to see his story.

I also love the secondary characters of Peabody and McNab in J.D. Robb's In Death series.

Suzanne Ferrell said...

LOL Donna! That's what friends are for, to help pormo up-comng books. Especially those we can't wait to read!

Kathy Ivan said...

Great post, Suz. Layering in the flavors is exactly what writing is like, bit by bit.

Probably the biggest question I get about my book, Desperate Choices, is "when are you going to write Remy's story?" (Remy is the hero's brother.) All I can tell them is--I'm working on it. :-)

Suzanne Ferrell said...

Hey Maureen!

I ADORE Abbey on NCIS. Another secondary character I've started to love, okay there's two, is Heddy and Nell on NCIS:LA.

Maureen said...

Suzanne, I recently saw the Abby actress on Good Morning, America where she addressed the Abby-factor with young girls getting interested in science... She found it so humbling and wonderful at the same time.

I love it when a character does that and shifts perspectives of society. And I can see it with Heddy and Nell, also. And the computer nerd from Criminal Minds...

Suzanne Ferrell said...

Hey Jo!

Actually, I'm winding down to the last pages of your "The Surrender of Lacy Morgan," and I love the secondary character of Dakota and would like to see his story.

Thanks Jo! And I do hope you've been enjoying TSoLM, since I know it's out of most people's comfort zones I'm always interested to hear if they've liked it!

Dakota. Sigh. He is so hero worthy...and yes, he will get his own story...but not yet!

BUT I do know who his heroine is. She just walked in, parked herself in my office and is waiting patiently. Unfortunately for Dakota, all that waiting may mean trouble for him!

Suzanne Ferrell said...

Hey Kathy!

I remember Remy from Desperate Choices and I'm with the majority...When are you going to write his story? hehehe

Suzanne Ferrell said...

Maureen,

You mean Penelope Garcia? She's a great secondary character except for one thing. She love to flirt with Derek, aka Shemar Moore my inspiration for Will Danville in my second western erotica!

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

YUM!! I LOVE soup, Suz! And yours sound delish.

I love secondary characters too. Mine are always popping in and trying to take over. ;-) I think the one I've had the most reader reaction about is TWIS heroine's twin brother Parker O'Neill. Unfortunately, my publisher has expressed no interest in him getting his own story. :-(

AC

Maureen said...

Yeah, her! (I sorta left off watching that show. Just got a bit creeped out with how violent it is.) But I do love her character and I was thrilled when they got her a sorta boyfriend in Xander!

I love it when secondary characters find each other!

Suzanne Ferrell said...

Hey AC!

I've had the most reader reaction about is TWIS heroine's twin brother Parker O'Neill. Unfortunately, my publisher has expressed no interest in him getting his own story.

See, I'm one of those bull-headed people and if you tell me you don't want something, I'll go right ahead and do it myself, especially if it will hack off someone or make a whole slew of others happy!

So I say...Write Parker's Story!!!

Suzanne Ferrell said...

Maureen: I love it when secondary characters find each other!

That's what happened in Saving Grace. Nicholas and Clare are secondary characters who "find" each other, get married to save her and prevent another clan war, but haven't fallen in love...

THAT's the story I want to read...

jennifertanner said...

Hi Suzanne!

Great post! I've read tons of books with wonderful secondary characters. But for some reason, I'm thinking about the movie "You've Got Mail" and Dave Chappelle's role as Kevin, who manages the bookstore. He was the perfect foil for Tom Hank's character. Their interaction revealed another side of Tom's character.

Slush..congrats on the GR!
AC...write Parker anyway!

Adios! Pink P.

Suzanne Ferrell said...

Hey Jennifer!

"You've Got Mail" and Dave Chappelle's role as Kevin, who manages the bookstore. He was the perfect foil for Tom Hank's character. Their interaction revealed another side of Tom's character.

See!!! That's the best part of the secondary characters. You need them to show the reader the fullness of your character's....character!

Without them the story would be bland, the hero/heroine tough and unpalatable!

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

I love secondary characters. I think they make a story richer and more three-dimensional. Some fun ones:

Lula and Grandma Mazur in the Stephanie Plum series

Blay and Qhuinn in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series

Some of the departed characters in Darynda Jones' First Grave on the Right. I'm really curious about what the deal is with Mr. Wong. :)

Sheree said...

I'm all for secondary characters. Sometimes, they're the best part.

Blay and Qhuinn of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series are the only characters I want to read about anymore.

Jamie Gallagher from Suzanne Brockmann's "Infamous" is what made the book so much fun (he's the ghost of the hero's great-grandfather).

Suzanne Ferrell said...

Hey Trish!
Blay and Qhuinn in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series

Those are two fascinating characters a nd I'm wondering how she intends to handle their relationship in the next book or two!

Suzanne Ferrell said...

Hey Sheree!

Jamie Gallagher from Suzanne Brockmann's "Infamous" is what made the book so much fun (he's the ghost of the hero's great-grandfather).

Now that sounds like a great story to be told!

Kris Kennedy said...

I agree. I love how secondary characters can add to the complexity and fullness of 'flavor' in a great story.

Moreover, I love the pic of that soup you put up! Must have soup now.....