Celebrating Secondary Characters (Amy K. Nichols)
This month we're talking about celebrations, and I am all about celebrating right now. On Friday, I sent the manuscript for my second book, While You Were Gone, to my agent and editor!
But I'm not only celebrating the fact I made my deadline. I'm celebrating something else.
Secondary characters who become something more.
In the initial drafts of my first book, Now That You're Here, I wrote a very minor character who walked into a scene in the third chapter and then never returned. My editor loved that minor character and suggested I find ways to expand her role in the story. By the time the final revisions were done, she'd become a linchpin of sorts, with her actions snowballing into major problems for the main characters. It was very cool to see her change and grow.
As I reached the end of While You Were Gone, I realized it had happened again. A secondary character had gone through a complete transformation.
Now That You're Here is the story of a boy named Danny who jumps to a parallel dimension, taking the place of the Danny who originally lived there. When I first wrote the book, I knew the Danny who was displaced by the arrival of the boy from the parallel dimension wasn't a very likable person. His parents had died when he was young, and he was a product of the foster system. Living in an abusive foster home, this boy turned around and abused others. Not a nice guy. Which is why others are so surprised when the new Danny shows up and is suddenly so different.
While You Were Gone is the story of the Danny displaced in book one, the unlikable bully who finds himself in a parallel universe where he suddenly has everything he's ever wanted. Parents. Friends. A home. The world he's arrived in brings a slew of problems he has to overcome, but for the first time in his life, he has a chance at happiness.
As a writer, I can't even begin to express how satisfying it was to see this minor character from the first book evolve into the hero of the second. When I understood what had happened, who Danny the Bully had become, I sat back and cried.
That, to me, is the magic of writing. The surprising moment when some small thing your subconscious threw into the first draft because it was funny or cool or felt right becomes bigger and more important than you ever could have imagined. It's why I like Neville Longbottom's story better than Harry Potter's. And it's definitely something worth celebrating.
Have you experienced that kind of transformation in your writing? Tell us about it in the comments!