Gabe McConnell was a throwaway character.
*sits back and waits for the shock to pass*
Yup, that’s what I said. When I wrote Forbidden Fantasies, Gabe was supposed to have been a one-time character. So was Bondage and Breakfast, for that matter (if you can count a setting as a character!) I had no plans for other stories to include either of them.
But something weird happens with secondary characters, sometimes….they take on a life of their own. When I needed a place for Marcus to take Bella, I thought “well, why not Bondage & Breakfast? They can spend more time there than in the restaurant, so that will make it different than Alex and Jess’s trip.”
And I wasn’t expecting it when Gabe hung out in the doorway, watching Marcus direct Bella’s submission to him. He just sort of…showed up. This is what happens when you’re a pantster—someone who doesn’t plot out their stories, just writes and sees where the words take them. Sometimes, your unconscious knows better than you what should happen next.
By the time I finished Forbidden Desires, I knew I had plans for both Gabe and for Olivia. So when my editor made a comment about Olivia dying of her injuries, I nearly had a heart attack. I sent her back a quick email and said “The way I have things written, Olivia doesn’t die. I actually have plans for her (and Gabe) in a later story. Are you asking me to kill her off?” Funny how you grow attached to those secondary characters, and sometimes it doesn’t take more than one book.
When I started Forbidden Fires, I realized right away Gabe would play a huge part in the story. During the first draft, he was a bit more involved in the big first submission scene between Colin and Delia. My editor thought it made him a bit of a man-whore (and she was right!) so I dialed it back a bit. The end result was one that I really loved, and it was this book where I really started getting the “please tell me Gabe gets his own book” requests.
I submitted the proposal for Forbidden Obsessions at the same time as I submitted the full book for Forbidden Fires, which was odd for me. As a pantster, I don’t generally know where I’m going with stories except for “Start Here”, “Break Up Here,” “End Here,” so it was a very interesting (Read: TERRIFYING) experience to have to provide a full story without actually writing the story.
In one way, this was the best possible book for me to learn to plot out, because by this time I really knew Gabe. But in another way, it was harder, because people wanted his story so much, and I didn’t want to disappoint them. That’s the plus and the minus of secondary characters — you know them and love (or hate) them, and so do your readers!
And as an aside, if you’re a fan of Bondage and Breakfast, I plan to have characters — both main characters and secondary characters — from these four books show up in other books. I’m working on a story now that includes a visit from Delia and Colin (as well as Jeremy from Matzoh and Mistletoe), I have plans for one that includes Gabe and Olivia (a book whose main character is someone you’ve already met), and one or two other ideas with characters you’ve already met still floating around in my head.
Secondary characters make the story world small and far, far more interesting than it’d be without them. I can’t imagine not having written about Gabe. (BTW, click his name to see the picture I found recently that is nearly exactly how I imagined he would look….OH MY.)
What about you? Do you like secondary characters? Do you want to see them have books of their own? Have you been disappointed that they didn’t live up to expectations when they finally did get their own book?
For all entrants: For a chance to win a copy (PDF or ePub) of any one of my books, please leave a comment and I’ll draw one winner on Sunday, February 16th.
For US / Canadian entrants only: If the winner is in the US or Canada, you can also choose from a print copy of The Theory of Attraction (which includes Forbidden Fantasies) or a VERY limited edition of Season of Seduction (which includes Matzoh and Mistletoe). This anthology is not available for sale in print.