That vital bit of Sir Galahad – his gast (I don’t know what you think I was going to write) – was flabbered. Just when he thought it was safe….not to get back into the water again, was this not a bar after all?…to appear of assistance to the Lady Lorraine and her friend once again. No matter both had begged to be excused in the matter of the Nina Simone CDs he had helpfully shown them from behind the bar.. Nina Simone for God’s sake? What was wrong with them? But now, the friend having taken herself away on the promise from him of a connecting lead,(now) reappeared from yonder distant horizon. Not only did she lug, not just a household’s worth of CDs in the form of the wooden cabinet that held them, plus a CD system, she…. hailed him. Warmly at that.
Sir Galahad realized one thing of a sudden. Did she not call him her Heroine….? Plainly he had undergone a sex change.
Like my hero it’s been a while since I rigged a deck. His decks are, of course, more of the sailing ship variety. We actually don’t have a lot in common, except perhaps the ability to tell when something doesn’t look quite right. And seeing this deck, in advance of the other half’s birthday party, I couldn’t help thinking decks had plainly changed a lot since last I blithely stuck a few amps here and there. And so they had, we discovered later…. as in just as the party-was-now-starting later… And hadn’t I decided to leave it all to the experts into the bargain, later?
Yes. The deck didn’t have anything to play the music on. My instincts were right. As the guests poured in, like water onto the boat deck of the Titanic, I wondered if we could simply clap and stamp our way a la Strictly Ballroom, through the music. Please let us be clear, I am one of Nina Simone’s biggest fans. I just wasn’t sure if an entire evening spent dancing on the loop to one solitary CD of hers, played over the bar sound system, was going to appease the eager masses. Enter la heroine.
In fiction, the hero and the heroine have these roles laid out for them although they might not do anything especially heroic. They are the leads. But the leads of this particular evening, while being pretty heroic, I have to say… Why for example didn’t we just play, the compiled CDs on the bar sound system…well because they were mp3 conversions and they wouldn’t play… Anyway while the leads ran daft and an hour ticked by, it was the secondary characters who saved the day.
In romance writing secondary characters are tricky. They have, but must know, their place. They mustn’t drive the action. But they are really necessary, often as foils. I know my heroine, Fury, could have survived without the woman who is her maid, but her life would have been a lot poorer. She would not be able to stand out there and put on any kind of show without Susan. Although their relationship is always mistress and servant, Susan isn’t averse to pointing out Fury’s faults. Mirroring her flaws. Or pawning the odd candlestick to keep them. Most of all, knowing her headstrong mistress for what she is, Susan does what is right when it really matters, rather than what she is told. Fury might lose her life at this stage otherwise.
You might be wondering if secondary characters are really necessary. But the depth they give a story, is something you can’t do without. You can also use them to show your hero or heroine’s thoughts, or state of mind, as when Fury thinks what would Susan really think of this, she is really showing the reader the mess she is in. When Fury, in her quest for an heir, considers how Susan will think the deed’s accomplished and how lucky she is having the sex-god hero in her bed, she’s really showing her hurt and humiliation that the deed’s not and how she’s not lucky at all. Not given her past with him. When Fury notices how even Susan isn’t immune to Flint’s charms, look at her a dumpy woman of fifty plus, thinking…woah… she’s showing how sexy Flint is, and how little she trusts him because of it…always part of the problem for her and a big part of his learning curve.
So give them depth, layers of interest, allow them to enhance your leads and to show what they are really like deep down, always taking care to play to the main theme of your story. That way they won’t take over.