Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Character Development - the Unexpected 2

I call the Grammarly video linked below, "The Alligator Stroll." Filmed in Pasco County, about 60 miles from Orlando.

For this vignette of suburban living in Central Florida, click here.

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When Your Characters Seize the Bit & Run with It

Grace note:  B'aela Flammia and Rand Kamal are characters in my Futuristic Paranormal series, Blue Moon Rising. Like K'kadi Amund (profiled last week), both are examples of characters who seized their bit parts and refused to give up when their fifteen minutes of fame were done. And as long as they're never allowed to overwhelm the two main characters—I do write Romance, after all—this is okay.

B'aela Flammia. B'aela has a bit part in Rebel Princess, Book 1 of the series. She's not quite a villainess, but she's definitely not popular with the book's heroine, Princess Royal of a planet called Psyclid. The princess may not want to marry Jagan Mondragon, the Sorcerer Prime, but she's never going to be friends with his long-time mistress! But B'aela is also a witch, the sorcerer's primary assistant. She can't just go away; she is essential to the success of the pyschic phenomena the rebellion plans to use against the Empire. Even after Jagan marries the Princess Royal's younger sister, in Book 2, Sorcerer's Bride, B'aela is still around. Supposedly not in his bed, but certainly a thorn in the side of the younger Psyclid princess. B'aela is, however, mostly off stage, hers a character with only a few lines here and there. 

And then, suddenly, B'aela is sent on a mission, to sighs of relief from both princesses, yet somehow she refuses to fade away. She bursts onto the pages with the tale of what happens when her undercover assignment goes wrong, and, lo and behold, a stir of sympathy for the despised mistress. When B'aela is saved in a gallant rescue effort by yet another bit-player who insisted on bumping up his role, the big question is: what do we do with her now? She has become a "someone." And "someones" are impossible to ignore. B'aela is now an integral part of the long-running plot. I'm not going to be the "spoiler" here, as the resolution of B'aela's story is yet to come. Let's just say that by Book 4 B'aela rises to stardom.

Why? I have no idea why the despised mistress became a heroine. It just happened. This is why an author must always be flexible. If you are one of those people who must outline, then please, pretty please, remember that you don't have to stick to it! Allow room for creativity to blossom. 

Warning:  I am talking about characters transforming in a series, not within the course of one book. Yes, a bit player can show signs of developing into something more within the confines of a single book, but that would still be with the idea of growing that character in a different book in the the series. In the course of a single book, you must never allow a secondary character to become too big for his/her britches, which definitely detracts from the impact of your hero and heroine.

 Rand KamalIn Rebel Princess, the action ranges over an entire sector of the galaxy but features only the rebel side of the rebellion. In Sorcerer's Bride, the action is confined to the occupied planet Psyclid and one of its moons, the blue one, which is rebel headquarters. Therefore, we see commanding officers of the Empire for the first time. Admiral Rand Kamal, nephew of the Emperor, is the enemy. He appears early on in Book 2 but only comes to power as Governor General after two previous GGs come to bad ends when the people of Psyclid learn how to use their psychic gifts as weapons. Kamal has already been set up as more moderate than his predecessors, and then he meets B'aela Flammia. By Book 3, The Bastard Prince, he is wavering on a crisis of conscience. But, wait . . . is he willing to help the rebels because he believes in their cause, or because he has his eye on becoming the new emperor?

Did I plan any of that? Absolutely not. Rand was just supposed to be a more moderate Governor General, one who wasn't going to lay waste to Psyclid when things start going wrong. (Can't kill off our main characters, right?) But somewhere along the way, he became a character in his own right, participating in an interesting, if doomed, side romance, as well as adding considerable doubt about who is going to end up running twelve star systems if—er, when—the rebels win. 

Summary:  Yes, walking the fine line between not letting your secondary characters overshadow your hero and heroine and letting one or more take their role to a higher level is a challenge. But above all, never cease to be flexible. The scope of a single book has little wiggle room for the development of secondary characters, but the scope of a series is quite different. Don't be afraid to let your characters become what they want to be. Let the cream of your bit players rise to new heights and make your series that much more interesting.

Caveat. Speaking as an editor who frequently works with beginners, I have to emphasize that if you are writing a single title book, you have to keep a rein on those secondary characters. They are there to add color, advance the plot, add warmth, cynicism, commentary, etc. They are not there to have major scenes on their own with characters other than the hero and/or heroine. My blogs on Secondary Characters seizing the bit refer to series only.

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Thanks for stopping by,

For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft, click here.

For a brochure for Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, click here.  

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