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We Want More.......
Secondary Characters!!!!!!!!

We querried the listers and here is what they had to say!
November 2000 Issu

PNR Q.: Do you feel that the romantic couple should be the sole focus of the novel, or do you think other characters are necessary to make the story realistic?

Rosemary: It depends on the length of the book. In a novella or a short category sometimes all there is room for is the conflict between the h/h, their relationship and the resolution... in a longer book... I like secondary and supporting characters.... and they can be very handy in showing the character of the main characters...

Judie: I personally like to write and read about secondary characters. The often give the h/h more depth because we can see how people who are not "romantically" involved with them relate. I love writing a multi-layered, plot-driven book and my secondary characters make this possible. They are like the wall in a handball game, bouncing back actions/reactions to the h/h.

Linnea: I prefer to read (and write) novels where secondary characters are more than just wallpaper. :-> Since a novel is also a journey of a character's growth (emotional and otherwise), much can be learned as they're played against (or with or by) secondary characters. Dorothy didn't walk down that yellow brick road to Oz alone...

Lisa K: It truly does depend on the setting of the story. I have read books with and without and enjoyed both. However, to many other characters can jumble the story and make a reader lose focus.

Shelly: I like both, but I *do* like the h/h to be the most important focus, whichever way the writer decides to go. Sometimes the secondary characters overwhelm the primary ones, and I lose interest in the book. A good writer can take either approach though and make it interesting.

I've read a couple romances though in which the h/h are isolated for some reason from the rest of the world for much of the book. One was Lori Foster's Say Yes. Another was a romantic suspense that took place on a island off the Carolinas but the author and title escape me. Judith McNaught had one too. The fact that the two people had to face each other and only had one another to talk to was a great driver for the romance. Of course, at the end of the book supporting characters usually show up, but for a large part it's just her and him. I found that to be kind of sexy, since that meant that the heroine had the hero's complete attention for an extended period of time.

Mary Ann: I believe there should be secondary characters . It is necessary to have others in the story to show the inter-action between the h/h. It gives depth to the story.

Gil: Nobody lives in a vacuum. People have siblings, parents, friends, and enemies. You need supporting cast, and the livelier the better. Subplots aren't a bad idea, either. Georgette Heyer always included them, and they add so much depth to the story.

Ashley: It would be unrealistic, and slightly boring, for a h/h to never interact with other characters for an entire book. I think you need to focus on the couple and not ride tangents, but it is often the secondaries and how the h/h interact with them that tells a lot of the story, and adds depth.

Irene: Since we don't live in a vacuum, I think that stories, to be remotely realistic, must have other characters along with the hero/heroine.

Jackie: I love great secondary characters. They enhance story by supporting and contrasting the main characters with either comic relief or pathos. They do make a story more realistic and interesting.

Dee: I have a thing for secondary characters and really enjoy a book that has them. Although it has to be done in such a way that they don't detract from the hero and heroine's story. But to me a book has added depth when there are other interesting people in the story. Just finished Linda Francis Lee's Dove's Way, (historical) and all the characters in the book Resonated in such a realistic and compelling way, but still didn't detract from the hero and heroines story.

Leslie: No, I don't think that is a bit realistic. Besides I want to know that the hero and heroine will be able to survive in the real world, even in a fantasy, they shouldn't be living in fantasy land <g>.

PNR Q.: Is it acceptable to develop secondary characters more if a series is in the offing?

Rosemary: Yes and no... I think the secondary characters should play a vital role in the story.. if only as foils and mirrors for the main characters... if they grow into characters with stories in their own right, great.. but I get irritated if I feel that nonessential secondary characters are Slipped into the story just to set up a sequel.

Judie: I don't think this is a more or less an issue. It is whatever is best for a particular story. If the writer intends to serialize the story/book, then yes, secondary characters to bring forward as h/h in the next book are needed, provided the series is based on characters and not a geographical location, for example.

Linnea: I think the development and use of secondary characters should be tied to the plot at hand, regardless of series potential. Any story should be able to stand alone.

Lisa K: I would say yes. But I still believe they do not have to be in the first novel a lot. Just enough to remember then in the next story. And only if they become the focus of the next story.

Shelly: If a writer is giving us really interesting secondary characters, I think it's unforgivable not to tell us what happens to them later. That's why I promptly ordered the rest of Karen Harbaugh's paranormal Regencies after reading the first. Sometimes I get annoyed however when I see the standard three kids in the family, one quiet, one feisty, one troubled, because here comes a series. That said, if it's a good writer, I'll end up reading the series, especially if the author takes the trouble to develop those characters somewhat instead of giving them token appearances.

Mary Ann: I think it is acceptable to develop secondary characters, especially, if a series is to be developed. I love to be reading and think "hey, this would make a great story, too."

Gil: No. I want lively, believable, entertaining supporting characters whether it's a series or not.

Ashley: You should be able to read a book on it's own. You should be drawn into their world and feel a connection. Since we are not one dimensional people, secondary characters should not be any less deep than the h/h. It is acceptable to me to feel that other characters would be interesting as a h/h as long as they do not obscure the main plot of the book.

Irene: Sure, makes the reader anticipate the next release.

Jackie: Most definitely! My writing partner and I have developed a series for ImaJinn with Cupid and Venus playing matchmakers for a mortal couple. Not only are they catalyst for the romance, they also add whacky comic relief. Part of the fun writing the books is seeing where and how far we can take Straight Man Cupid and Bimbo Venus.

Dee: Yes, but I want to feel, as a reader, that the development is due to that characters role in the story, not simply because he or she is going to be the star of the next book.

Leslie: More acceptable? No. But I when an author writes good characters, I really want to see them continue. Of course there's nothing wrong with beginning a book knowing that the secondary characters will be part of a series as long as they don't overshadow the h/h of the book in question. Jo Beverley's Company of Rogues or Chris Feehan's Dark Series come to mind.

PNR Q.: How about matchmakers, when the couple needs a little push?

Rosemary: Frankly I don't like them... usually...if the couple can't get their act together maybe they don't deserve each other.. of course that said I can think of instances where it makes for an hilariously funny situation.. Much Ado about Nothing springs to mind... if it weren't for a little deception and some outright lies, Beatrice and Benedick would still be snapping at each other at the end of the play, both too scared to make themselves vulnerable to the other...

Judie: The book I'm working on now for Berkley's new Seduction line has a whole gang of matchmakers and each one brings a different little twist to the plot and to the misery they put the h/h in.

Linnea: I've not given this much thought; intriguing question. I guess I tend to look to plot first to push characters together.

Lisa K: I don't care much for matchmakers. I like the couple to find their way together on their own.

Shelly: Matchmakers usually bother me, because they're pushy and presumptuous. That's one reason I dislike Nora Robert's McGregor books. I'd rather see the couple get together under their own steam. For me there's a big difference between the McGregor picking out spouses for his grandchildren, and the Bride Finder, who was a tool of fate. There's something romantic about the latter for me, because of the idea of people destined to be together, vs. someone who decides to create someone else's destiny.

Mary Ann: Matchmakers are great. I recently read a book(can't remember the title) in which the heroine's whole family got involved in getting her and the hero together. It was funny and a definite keeper for me.

Gil: Depends on whether it works for the story. It can be amusing if the matchmakers are strong and interesting characters. If not, and it doesn't serve the plot, don't use them.

Ashley: To me matchmakers are ok, as long as it is a believable match. I mean is the only reason the couple are together due to outside machinations, or do they seem complementary and genuine.

Irene: Professional or friendly help? To me, this makes a big difference. No pros, but friendly help is perfectly acceptable.

Jackie: Without Cupid and Venus we'd have no story <vbeg>.

Dee: Not a big fan of matchmakers, at least in a big role. (A little shoving is okay) And especially ghosts as matchmakers. Have no logical reason for this, just not a personal fave .

Leslie: Again I don't want to see them in every book, but they are great for the occassional comic relief. For instance McKenna in Barb Sheridan's Silver Rain is very subtle, so subtle in fact that the h/h, just don't get it! It's comical to watch the character beat her head against a brick wall. So funny in fact that I think she should take her show on the road for another story or two. Other examples in which the couple get together inspite of the matchmakers are Kathleen Nance's latest series, with Zeus in the role of matchmaker, and Holly Fuhrmann's fairy godmother tales.

Sometimes the hero and heroine have a history, got together too soon and now are wary, or one or the other has been hurt before and the couple just need a little catalyst to get things started. As a rule I'm not crazy about children in the role of matchmaker though there can be exceptions. I like my matchmakers to have paranormal ability but that doesn't mean the that hero or heroine don't.

PNR Q.: What is your preference as to who should be ascribed the paranormal ability, the hero/heroine or a secondary character? Does it depend on the aspect, for example a ghost?

Rosemary: Don't really have a preference... really depends on the story...and the way it's handled... anything works if the writer is skilled...

Judie: In a time travel, I want either my hero or heroine to be the traveler. It raises the stakes for both. The same applies for a psychic element in the story. I have a tough time appreciating a paranormal book if a secondary character holds all the cards and the h/h are moved around like puppets...unless it is a strong plot point that plays throughout the book. Regarding ghosts, I have seen some wonderful books where the h or h is a ghost (Kurland) but usually I like to have a secondary character in this role.

Linnea: Paranormal ability should never be used as window dressing (Cheez whiz, a reference to wallpaper above and window dressing here... can you tell I'm thinking of doing some interior decorating this week?). I like stories where the paranormal ability adds to character growth, or conflict, or both. The aspect of the ability makes no difference to me. However, if it's going to contribute to growth, then most likely the h/h should have the ability. But it needn't be the SOLE ability in the storyline. A secondary character can have a contrasting or complimenting paranormal talent, again, depending on the function of the SC.

Lisa K: I enjoy it much more when the hero has the ability. Ghosts and Vampires being my favorite. In time travel however, I like it better when the heroine travels back in time. I have been reading romantic crime/mysteries lately, and in a couple of the them, the heroine has the ability to read minds and/or travel into the mind of the killer. These have been most enjoyable.

Shelly: For the most part I don't care. Sometimes it's interesting to see two non-paranormal h/h's deal with paranormal occurrences, like in Susan King's Stone Maiden. But once again for me, it usually depends on the author. For ghosts I do have a preference. I prefer ghosts to be someone other that the h/h, because the resolution of the romance otherwise tends to be one I don't like (like reincarnation). Though Sue Krinard broke that mold, as she tends to do.

Mary Ann: I, personally, prefer the h/h have the paranormal ability. After all, that is whom I have purchased the book to read about.

Gil: Doesn't matter to me particularly, though as a vamp fan, I am partial to dark and dangerous male vampires. No whiners, whatever the power. I have no problem with reincarnation, and enjoy stories where the h/h are soul mates finding each other again. With ghosts, though, you need a really good explanation for how the ghost incarnates again, since he's presumably not being reborn as an infant (what a May/December romance that would be-45 year old heroine, 20 year hero?)

Ashley: I think it somewhat depends on the ability, and preference. I prefer strong male characters and intelligent females. This would limit certain types of PAs I would accept in a h/h. The secondaries should support the h/h not overrun them, so the PAs in the secondary characters should be integral to the story. In the case of aspect: this goes back to good writing. A good writer will make the plot points acceptable no matter what the aspect. But I firmly believe all stories I read for pleasure (fiction) should have a HEA.

Irene: Makes no difference, except that for me, a story is better if either the hero or heroine contribute the paranormal aspect.

Jackie: Our secondary characters have the paranormal ability through the use of magic and their god-like abilities. It doesn't matter who possesses the gift, it how its used in the story. I love witch heroines, or werewolf heroes, and ghost that play villains or matchmakers.

Dee: I definitely prefer it to be the Hero or Heroine. (If it's a ghost, the hero... for me there is something so alluring about a hero ghost ) Giving the PA to a secondary hero can put too much emphasis on that character. (Loved Kay Hooper's Stealing Shadows, and Cassie, the heroine. Truly gifted, she was also tormented and I thought it made for a wonderful character.)

Leslie: Well as a general rule I like my vampires and shape shifters to be heroes, my witches, heroines, and my ghosts secondary characters, but it knocks my socks of when an author does the exact opposite and wows me anyway. Lynn Kurland and Lisa Cach have made the impossible make sense with Stardust of Yesterday, and of Midnight Born with ghosts in the role of romantic hero or heroine. Nora Robert's Donovan Legacy Trilogy, made me fall in love with a male witch (in the story of course <g>). Maggie Shayne occasionally writes a mean vampire heroine and Tracy Fobes rewrote the rules with her bestselling "Touch Not the Cat" Variety is the spice of life and in this subgenre there is more room for unique storylines than any other.

BARBARA SHERIDAN - Paraphernalia Feature Columnist
Leslie Tramposch: Managing Editor ~ Sara Reyes: Marketing and Publicity ~ Cy Korte: Reviews Editor

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