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Friday, September 16, 2011

My Gratitude Journal: Followers

Today I am grateful for followers, and specifically for all of you who are followers of my blog -- officially or less so. Thank you for being there, for letting me know that my words have readers, my thoughts have meaning. And thanks to all of you who signed up for my first-ever blog book give-away contest, just ended a week ago.

I follow the blogs of a great number of authors I know and admire and I know it's a commitment, albeit a small one, to follow someone else's blog, especially when, like me, she blogs five times a week. Yet a number of you do it, and often even take the time to comment. Your faithful support is humbling.

So this week a shout goes out to all of you. Thanks, folks. I will try to write words you can enjoy.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

GREAT Secondary Characters

I recently sat through a second (or third?) viewing of "Fifty First Dates." It is not the best movie ever made -- not by a long shot -- but it has a fun and interesting premise, a fascinating setting (if you weren't already in love with Hawaii, you certainly are by the time you've watched this movie), and some fascinating characters. The secondary characters in this movie are worth a mention.

I've never been a fan of Rob Schneider, but his Hawaiian sidekick character is outrageous and just the right touch of funny. Sean Astin, far from his Sam-wise wisdom, is hysterical in his role as the heroine's lisping, iron-pumping, steroid-swilling brother. Blake Clark is great as her well-intentioned, clueless dad.

Nick and Sue, the couple who run the Hukilau Cafe, are full of love for Drew Barrymore's Lucy character and threats for anyone who threatens her. Dan Aykroyd has a splendid minor role as her physician.

But some of the best, most easily overlooked characters in this movie are the animals at the aquarium where Adam Sandler plays their veterinarian and everyday buddy. A penguin and an amorous walrus are two of the best secondary characters in recent film.

A look at this movie, especially since it is interesting but not too deep, can teach us a great deal about using secondary characters to bring out the best and the worst in our primaries. They give us background, fill in details, and help us to better understand the hero and heroine whose successful happily-ever-after we are cheering on its way.

I loved writing the Rainbow Rock series for Avalon because a secondary character in one book, maybe even one who had little more than a mention in the story, could easily become the primary love interest in the next book. Conversely, those I had loved and carefully planned for in earlier books became secondary characters for later ones, so I didn't have to give them up when I keyed in "End" on their stories.

Have a look at the roles of your secondary characters. You may be surprised how much you are learning to love them all.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Writers Digest on Characterization

This week's web tip on writing great characters (main or secondary, male or female) comes from the Writers Digest web site.

Writer Leigh Anne Jasheway begins by looking at the ways that male and female novelists approach their characters and topics. She then moves into looking at male and female audiences (romance novels? sports exposes?) and examines what men are looking for in a "good read" versus what appeals primarily to women.

Everything from how one approaches a topic to how one dresses a character is on the table in Jasheway's discussion. Have a look?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Thursday Night Farmers' Market

First a hearty welcome to VAUGHN ARTHUR AYLWORTH, my newest descendant, born yesterday. Hey there, Vaughn-honey. Welcome to our world.

On a recent Thursday evening, my dh suggested a trip to our local Farmers' Market. Chico has a couple of them that get most folks' attention, one on Thursday evenings and a second on Saturday mornings. The Saturday market is smaller and all about the produce with local farmers and bakers competing for the public's attention and grocery dollars.

The Thursday market is more of a street fair. In fact, here is how Maggie, the protagonist in my work-in-progress MAGGIE RISING, describes it:

Until I’d started my business, and thus had committed to being home almost every evening, I had been a regular at the Thursday night Farmer’s Market. It’s one of the fun things I like most about our little ag town. It’s really more street fair than market. The Hmong farmers with their tomatoes and melons and rainbow-colored chard work side-by-side with local bands performing their own original songs, with local artisans selling hand-made soaps or candles or ceramics or tie-dye clothing, with area beekeepers offering pure honey and clean beeswax, the whole show interrupted two or three times per evening by jugglers and belly dancers. I sighed, wishing I was there and not sitting in my little house, all alone.

Poor Maggie. I almost appreciate her plight when the market is as crowded as it was last Thursday. People were shoulder-to-shoulder and we almost couldn't move without bumping into the folks around us. (Have I mentioned I don't like crowds?)

Still, if you're in Chico on a Thursday evening, the downtown Farmers' Market is the place to be.

We found some gorgeous, rich red tomatoes all ready for turning into Toe Jam (scrumptious Tomato Jam) and spicy ToeJam. Green bell peppers, ancho chilis and jalapenos will become jelly in no time flat. We also picked up some veggies for the table: greens, green beans, green onions -- a very 'green' evening in all.

Maggie has a point about the Thursday night market. If you're ever in Chico, stop by!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Those Great Secondary Characters

Thanks to all who took part in my first-ever book give-away! The last winner is announced today, so congratulations to "Hopeless." You've just won one of my "Golden Oldies," a hardback romance novel currently selling at Amazon for $23.95. Congratulations also to Alan, my AP colleague and the fifth week's winner, and to Ellen Sannar-Welch, Kimberly, Kyra Evans, and Samantha Rose, all our earlier winners. Thanks to everyone who participated. It's been fun!

Every romance has a hero and a heroine, right? But if those were the only folks in your book, they'd have very narrow lives. This week let's look at the secondary characters who, by their very presence, add depth and dimension to our fictional worlds.

Some companion characters are overdone, so let's not write them anymore. I'm thinking of the cowboy's Indian sidekick; after the Lone Ranger's Tonto showed up, every self-respecting cowboy had one. The heroine's wise-cracking gal pal is another cliche. Think Rosie O'Donnell in "Sleepless in Seattle." After a time, every romantic heroine on the screen had a wise-cracking gal pal.

So where do we find appealing, interesting secondary characters who both broaden and deepen the worlds of our main characters? I'm starting by looking at British film.

Before he came to America and lost his mind (among other things he lost), Hugh Grant made a series of strong British comedies. Although Grant was sometimes a so-so romantic hero, the secondary characters were marvelous, and Grant continued working with strong secondaries in more recent films as well. Just look at his quirky Welsh roommate in "Notting Hill," and the rest of the back-up team is just as splendid.

For that matter, look at all the interesting, appealing people in "About a Boy." What a marvelous secondary line-up!

I loved creating the secondary cast in each of my Rainbow Rock books. I never knew for certain which of them would scream, "Give me a story of my own," thus becoming the hero or heroine of the next book in the series. I was as surprised as anyone when Angelica DeForest told me there was so much more to her that I needed to examine. She became one of my more endearing heroines.

Quirky, funny, outrageous, appealing, interesting people populate our own worlds. Let's choose the best of them to share the worlds of our literary offspring.

Who are your favorite back-up characters? Share?