Playing Second Banana

First and Again by Jana RichardsThis month we’re talking secondary characters, and I gotta tell you, I love writing them. They can be villains, best friends, or something in between. They provide conflict and tension to a story, or sometimes comic relief, and can act as a sounding board for our hero and heroines. Through the secondary characters, we learn who the hero and heroine really are. For example, when we see the hero through the eyes of the sister whom he treats with love and respect, we know what kind of a man he is, and we adore him for it.

What I especially like about secondary characters is that they get to do things that might not be suitable for a main character to do. They can say outrageous things, perform crazy stunts, even do unlikable or disreputable things. For instance, my October 2013 Carina Press release FIRST AND AGAIN has enough secondary characters to fill the small town of Paradise, North Dakota, the setting of the book. There’s Jack and Bridget’s daughters, mothers, siblings, the high school principal, and the old men who frequent the local bar/coffee shop. But my favorite secondary character is Tina Wilson, Bridget’s nemesis from high school. Tina enjoyed making Bridget’s life difficult back then and she hasn’t changed a bit in twenty years:

Tina smiled and leaned forward. “And you’ve been living in San Francisco all these years, Bridget. It must be exciting to live in a big city. What did you do there?”

“Lots of things, but mostly I helped run my ex-husband’s business.”

“Bridget’s being modest,” Celia said. “She’s a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. She was head chef of the catering company she and her husband owned.”

“Really?” Bridget detected a slightly mocking tone in Tina’s voice. “I imagine you catered a lot of fancy affairs.”

“A few.” Was the emphasis on affairs some kind of dig, a double entendre? She rejected the idea. How could Tina know about Ben’s affair? She glanced toward her mother, mentally willing her to call so she’d have an excuse to leave. Unfortunately, her mother was engrossed in conversation with some older patrons, leaving her no means of escape.

“So why did you leave your catering company?”

“Tina, maybe Bridget doesn’t want to talk about it,” Celia said, a note of warning in her voice.

Tina had always had a knack for finding her weak spots and going straight for the jugular. Bridget’s only hope was to show no fear.

“That’s okay, Celia,” she said. She turned to Tina with what she hoped was a composed expression on her face. “The business went under.”

“Really? What a shame. What went wrong?”

The massive lawsuit might have had something to do with it. “It was probably the downturn in the economy.”

“That’s too bad. And I understand your husband left you after that.”

Her heart dropped into her stomach. She lifted her eyes to Tina’s and in that moment she hated the woman. Though Tina’s face was the picture of innocent inquiry, the predatory gleam in her eyes revealed the enjoyment she took in asking these humiliating questions.

Needless to say, Bridget and Tina have a few issues to work out. Developing their relationship was one of the most interesting aspects of writing FIRST AND AGAIN.

Have you read a book in which the secondary characters really stand out for you? Do you like when a secondary character gets his or her own book in sequel? On the downside, have you ever read a romance novel where a secondary character shone brighter than the main character?


Comments

Playing Second Banana — 3 Comments

  1. Jana, I love the title of your post because that’s the thing with some secondary characters. They don’t like being second banana. 😉 The interactions between the main characters and secondary characters can tell us so much about both characters. For me, those secondary relationship are very important, even in a romance where the romantic relationship between the couple takes center stage. Great excerpt! I can feel that tension that Bridget is feeling during that scene.

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