Minor Characters

Minor characters are sneaky.  They are necessary to the story but they aren’t supposed to take over.  The problem comes when one or more of them do exactly that.  So what to do?

Depends.  There are two kinds of minor characters.  You need to know which category your minor character belongs to before you can decide what to do about it.

The first category is that in which the minor characters flesh out the story, make it deeper, stronger and better. But if that character could be written out of the story without changing the story itself, then that particular character isn’t essential.  Rein them in, keep them under control.  Do it!

The second category is that in which the minor character is essential but isn’t the character that the story is about.  Same question applies.  Could you write that character out without changing the story?  If the answer is ‘no’ then you should think long and hard before you rein in that character.

Because your story just might be better for enlarging that character’s place and letting him or her take over a larger chunk of the action.

I’m thinking about this because, in my book Spirit Legend that’s going to be featured in a Book Blast starting the 8th of April (drum roll, please) a minor character took over and became a major player.  I didn’t know it was happening until after the book was finished.  It was the reviews that made it very clear that the character of the spirit in the lake was pivotal and important.  Reviewers used words like  ‘charming.’  ‘interesting.’  and ‘endearing.’  And the spirit only came into existence as a device to hang a story on.  Until it took over and I let it run riot because I couldn’t figure out how to rein it in.

Now that I’m deep into Wolf Legend, the same thing is happening to the character of the psychic wolf pup Snowball.  She was supposed to be an afterthought.  She now has a starring role and I’m glad to say that this time around I’m smart enough to recognize what’s happening and run with it.

So expect to see a lot of Snowball in Wolf Legend.  And I’m looking forward to seeing whichever of your minor characters take over and run with your story when you publish your next piece.

WHAT A BEAUTIFUL COVER!

novel... Spirit Legend... cover picture

Meet Ian and Charlie.  Charlie is a forester.  She’s employed by Ian Macallister to care for the piece of Northwoods forest that his company owns.  Macallister Outdoors recently added to their wilderness holdings, and Ian wants Charlie to give him a tour.  If you look at the cover closely, you’ll see a third character. Its in the lake.  Watching.  Listening.

You’ll find all kinds of things on this cover.  The north woods.  The characters of my new book.  The spirit that holds them in thrall when they are stranded beside the tiny lake that sits in the center of the new acquisition.  The attraction between Charlie and Ian.  The spell the spirit casts.  Or does it?  In short, you’ll get a good feel for the story before you read a sentence.

This cover came into existence because I decided to end the torture of creating my own cover and to go with a professional.  I don’t want to admit how many hours… and hours… and hours… I spent creating the covers for my first self-published stories.  And  how comparatively poor they were.

I chose Laura Shinn because I liked her other covers, I liked her, and I hoped she would do a good job.  I knew she’d do better than I could.  I’m amazed with what she came up with in what I suspect was a couple hours of work one evening.  I could be wrong about that, but that’s what I think and is what can happen when you’re a professional and good at what you do.

Thanks, Laura.  And to every other self-pubber out there, consider having a professional cover done.  It won’t break the bank and it will do more to promote your book than anything else I can think of.

My next book will definitely have a professional cover.  I hope Laura will have time to fit me into her schedule.

WHY CHRISTMAS IS IN JULY

Once, I submitted a story about two of my kids and settled back to wait a few months to hear from the editors.  Instead, less than a week after putting it in the mail, I got a frantic call from an editor wanting to know how quickly I could sign a contract because they wanted it for the edition that was about to go to the presses.  Seems it was their Mother’s Day issue and, though I’d not thought about it being that kind of story when writing it, they felt it filled a spot in that particular holiday issue.  I jumped through a few hoops and the story was in their magazine in time for Mother’s Day.

Believe me, that’s not the norm.  Normally, if the holidays are approaching… any holidays… and suddenly a lovely story idea relevant to the holiday flits through your mind, by all means, sit down and write it while it’s still fresh in your mind.  Then polish it.  Edit it for grammar and flow.  And set it aside for six months.

Because publishers work six  months ahead for holiday themed publications.

This also applies if you are self-publishing electronically.  Yep, all those lovely Christmas stories that magically appear on Amazon or Smashwords as the holidays draw near were probably written in June or July in order for the writer/publisher to re-write, edit, find or create a cover, format for e-readers, and publish in time for it to be on-line for holiday reading.

Which means that we writers must think about Christmas in June or July.  Thanksgiving in May or June.  And so on… and so on… and so on… for each and every holiday.  Which also means that, for any writer wanting to write about Christmas, the holiday might as well be in the middle of summer and the Fourth of July be celebrated while the snow flies.

So, if writing holiday stories is on your to-do list, right now while you’re thinking about it, take next years’ calendar and make notes in large letters on the page for whatever month is six months before the holiday that you want to write about.  Then write your story or novel.  Then rewrite it.  Make it perfect in every way.  And, if you are sending it to a publisher, submit it six months in advance of the holiday.  If  you are self-pubbing electronically, make a note on your calendar to remind you to publish it in time for holiday reading.  (Because, if you don’t, you just might forget.)

I admit that it’s a bit odd, thinking of Christmas when everyone else is celebrating the Fourth of July.  And the Fourth of July when everyone else is thinking of Christmas.  But you can do it.   Because you are a writer.