with guest Allie Pleiter.
Love Inspired novels—like lots of romances and most successful series—host a vibrant community of characters. A cast of personalities your readers know and love helps pull them into the world of the novel. If you do it right, secondary characters can further your plot and bring important aspects of your hero and heroine to light. If you do it wrong, they can steal focus, derail your momentum or—gasp, demand their own book (hey, it happens—SAVED BY THE FIREMAN’s Jesse Sykes started out as a secondary character in THE FIREMAN’S HOMECOMING).
In the spirit of secondary character respect, here are some of my best tips for wrangling them:
1) Let them bridge the series, but not build it.
Readers love to recognize characters they know, so secondaries can provide continuity for your series. Make sure, however, that the driving elements for your books and plots remain the hero and heroine.
2) Use the running gag in your favor
Your secondary characters can have texture and depth, but keep them essentially one-trick ponies—one character trait or tendency—so you reader isn’t having to hold vats of info in her head while she reads. It’s useful to use a trait over and over in several books—your reader will feel like she knows just what to expect from Ned the Barber and that helps her to feel at home.
3) If you develop something substantial, do it over several books
The senior citizen romance in SMALL-TOWN FIREMAN has been brewing over several books—including the two that are currently up for the RT award, A HEART TO HEAL and SAVED BY THE FIREMAN. It also involves two characters my readers have expressed as favorites. This keeps my readers eager to see the next book, provides a satisfying additional payoff in this final book of the series, and just plain lets favorite characters have fun. What reader doesn’t want that?
4) Don’t give them the best lines or crucial plot points
Simply put, keep them in the background. Don’t hinge plots on them, or they will draw too much attention. If there are great lines to be said, don’t give them to your secondary characters. Instead, make sure your plots and zingers are about your hero and heroine reacting to those secondary characters, and their actions.
5) Choose your foils wisely
Take your cavalier guy and stick him with a control freak best buddy. Give your neat nick heroine a slob of a roommate. Your shy guy hero might need a total extrovert of a mom. Surrounding your main characters with a crowd of opposites hands you loads of opportunity to show off their personalities, growth, and weaknesses.
Use these tips to get the best out of your secondary characters without letting them get the best of you. Your readers will thank you for an engaging story and a vivid read.
What about you? What are some of your favorite side-kicks in books or movies?
An avid knitter, BBC Television geek and French macaron enthusiast, Allie Pleiter writes both fiction and non-fiction. The enthusiastic but slightly untidy mother of two, Allie spends her days writing books, buying yarn, and finding new ways to avoid housework. Allie hails from Connecticut, moved to the midwest to attend Northwestern University, and currently lives outside Chicago, Illinois. The “dare from a friend” to begin writing has produced two parenting books, eighteen novels, and various national speaking engagements on faith, women’s issues, and writing. Visit her website at www.alliepleiter.com or her knitting blog at www.DestiKNITions.blogspot.com
The Catch of a Lifetime
Karla Kennedy doesn't belong in Gordon Falls. The aspiring restaurateur has far loftier goals than running her grandfather's quaint coffee shop. The only person who seems to relate is handsome volunteer firefighter Dylan McDonald. Dylan understands dreams—he risked everything to start his fishing charter business. Now he needs Karla's help to make it succeed. As they work together, Karla and Dylan quickly discover that while their timing may be bad, their chemistry is undeniable. Karla always thought of Gordon Falls as a layover on her way to a big-city career, but could it be where her heart truly belongs?
Seekerville is giving away one copy of Small-Town Fireman in honor of Allie's visit (winner announced in the Weekend Edition) and we thank her for opening the door on a new obsession: the macaron.