Sunday, March 29, 2009

Secondary Characters in Lady Anne and Howl in the Dark

I’ve always been fascinated by the role of secondary characters in novels. What would Jane Austen’s Persuasion be without Sir Walter Elliot and his overweening vanity? Or Jane Eyre without poor, dear Helen Burns, or lively Adèle? Those characters live to serve, in a way. In the best sense, secondary characters provide more than a placemarker, or merely someone for the hero or heroine to talk to. They should mean something to the plot, and they should reflect bits of the primary characters, exposing their strengths and weaknesses along the way.

And so I thought I’d reveal a little about the secondary characters that people Lady Anne and the Howl and the Dark, and the next two installments Lady Anne and the Ghost’s Revenge & Lady Anne and the Gypsy Curse.

Many secondary characters in ‘Howl’ are, I realize, missing someone who has died or disappeared. (Hmm, funny how things can occur to the writer only after they are done writing the books! I never thought about that before I wrote this post.)

These are three:

The Marquess of Darkefell’s mother:

Lady Sophie Darkefell, Dowager Marchioness – Sophie was once a great beauty, a diamond of the London Season. Her marriage to the Marquess of Darkefell was a great coup, but we, as readers, aren’t really sure it made her a happy woman. The great tragedy of her life was not losing her husband, but losing her favorite child, Lord Julius Bestwick, Darkefell’s twin brother. When he died in Upper Canada, a part of her died too.

The Marquess of Darkefell’s sister-in-law, married to his younger brother John for four months:

Lady John BestwickLydia, Lord John Bestwick’s young wife and a friend of Anne’s, has never been taught to think seriously on any subject. The great tragedy of her life is the death of her brother, Captain Reginald Moore, but not because she loved him so much, though she did, but because if he had lived, he would have married Lady Anne, to whom he was betrothed when he died in action in the war with the colonies. Lydia would have benefited enormously from Anne’s good sense and strength. Instead, when her brother’s death severed the close relationship with Anne - they stayed friends, but not nearly as close as the sisters they would have become - Lydia was left to drift into young womanhood, becoming very silly and unsteady along the way without the influence of a much wiser friend.

The Marquess of Darkefell’s secretary:

Mr. Osei Boatin – when Lord Anthony Darkefell plucked Osei Boatin from the frigid waters of the Atlantic (you need to read the book to know how that happened) Osei was grateful and has spent the last few years trying to repay the debt. But not one of those days goes by that he doesn’t think of his sister, seized by slavers at the same time as he, but not aboard the same slave ship. Is she dead? Is she alive? Will he ever know? Once a warrior and a prince, he has become a valued secretary to a powerful man, without whose intervention he would be dead. But no one around Osei is ever quite sure what he is thinking or feeling, for he is reserved and calm. Some people find that off-putting; they're wary and suspicious of him. But Anne immediately finds in him a kindred spirit.

So… I have always found secondary characters fascinating. Do you? Are there any memorable secondary characters in the novels you love?

And… Is your life like a novel? Are there memorable secondary characters in the plot that is your life?


  1. I've always thought that the secondary characters are MUCH more fun than the hero and heroine. The "stars" have to fall in love and solve mysteries and such, but the supporting characters can be as evil or as zany as you like!
    Great post, Donna!

  2. I love secondary characters and I've often written about them. My secondary characters are constantly trying to take over the book. They're so much fun, it's difficult to rein them in which is why they end up with books of their own.

    When Mike appeared in Romeo, Romeo, I had no idea I'd fall in love with him. I just needed a doctor. Mike was so wonderful, he got his own book. His and Annabelle's story is Too Hot To Handle.

    I have so many memorable characters in my life, a few of which I've actually modeled a characters after. I've toned them down considerably for the book, and have changed several other things, but have still been accused of them being too stereotypical. LOL I can only imagine what they would say if they met my friends, because there's no toning them down. Thank God!

  3. Wow Donna!

    I love the roundness you've given your secondary characters. I think one of the best ways to "reveal character" in the H/H is to show how they interact with secondaries. When the secondaries have a story of their own, the best kind of depth is added.

  4. I love my secondary characters. Some readers have asked me to do their stories, but since most of them are fish or birds, it couldn't exactly be a romance novel... Maybe on my blog at some point.

    As to secondary characters in my life - oh, yeah. A whole bunch who've made me who I am today (and many don't want that credit. LOL)

  5. I've always enjoyed the secondary characters and in the past some of my secondary characters end up as the main characters because they're just too fun.

    I'm the same way with movies and TV. Sometimes the character actors just add that extra spice to a film.


  6. Plus, friends and kids of friends have ended up in my books and luckily, they haven't hated me for it. :}


  7. Hey Donna!

    Your secondary characters sound GREAT! Esp. Mr. Osei Boatin. Where did you come up with the idea for such a fascinating sounding character?

    One of the nicest reviews I received for The Wild Sight praised my secondary characters as being well-developed with their own "stories." I really do strive for that and I was happy to hear at least one reviewer "got it!"

    I always tell people that my hero's bossy older sister is based on ME! My sister got a real laugh out of that since she knows first hand just how bossy I always was and continue to be. :-)

    I also have a secondary character at the end of Treasures of Venice named and based on a dear friend and former office mate who was very excited to have a fictional character created in her honor.


  8. I love secondary characters! And yours sound wonderfully drawn. Like Cheryl said, there's a great deal more you can do with them because they're not falling in love, and they can make or break a book at times. My favorite secondaries have usually wound up getting their own books, like Lisa Kleypas' Wallflowers. She even gave Cam Rohan, the gypsy, his own story! I love playing with my supporting cast...wish I could do a book for them all!

    My life is full of characters. I blame them for my warped imagination, LOL!

  9. One of the cool things I've learned by working with romance is how important secondary characters really are! Sure, characters in other books serve as foils for the main characters, add an extra level of suspense and often have integral parts to the plot, but how often do the best friends, arch enemies, family members etc in other genres get their OWN books? I love it :)

  10. Oh yes, the secondary characters can SO steal the show! My favorite secondary character appears in "Loving Mr. Darcy." He was meant to pop in, be the eccentric comic relief for a spell, and then breeze away. Needless to say, I and my readers all fell in love. I not only couldn't say good-bye and thus wrote him in, but really want to someday tell his whole story in a book just for him! It is my dream. Now I have several secondary characters who have demanded stories of their own! Luckily I am writing a Saga, so most of them do get their moment in the sun.

    Great post!

  11. I love secondary characters--writing them and reading about them. They add the texture to most stories, which is what makes them so fun.

  12. Thank you all for your wonderful insight on secondary characters! So many of them sound fascinating.

    Loucinda, as for Osei Boatin (his name is authentic Fante, a people from the west coast of Africa, Gabon area), another gentleman who is of Fante origin is former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, and he serves as a bit of a model for Osei, including Osei's isatiable intelligence and facility with languages.

  13. I was thinking about secondary characters in my novels, and how I always decided afterwards that I want to write their stories. Then you ask about characters in our lives too... Fascinating.

  14. Secondary characters add character to your main characters. So yep, they're fun to work with and add to also. :)