Minor Characters and Working Backwards, by Sharon Kendrick

by Sharon Kendrick, author of His Majesty”s Child (Harlequin Presents, February 2011)

Minor characters are dangerous.

No, I’m not talking about the  stunted and scary figure in the bright red duffle-coat from the classic film, Don’t Look Nowwho terrified cinema-goers everywhere.  Neither am I talking about the luscious brunette with the long, scarlet fingernails (red for danger – geddit?) who has her steely-eyes set on your current hero.

Because both of the above are symbols, rather than real people.  They’re representations of threat. They distort reality and alert the mind to all the things which can go wrong in life, and in love….

The minor characters I have to beware of are the ones who won’t leave me alone.  The heroine’s younger sister who sometimes you want to shake.  The hero’s cousin – who is so outrageously gorgeous that he risks outshining the hero.

The Presents novel is a love story which is focussed and very intense – and for me, there is no room for too many bit players to start taking over from the central relationship.  But sometimes, you just can’t get rid of a minor character, no matter how hard you try.  And that’s when you know they need a book of their own.

When I wrote THE PRINCE’S CHAMBERMAID, the hero came from the beautiful island of Zaffirinthos.  The golden-eyed Prince Xaviero had a love-affair with Cathy, a humble chambermaid – and when it ended, he never expected to see her again.

But fate played a hand when his brother, King Casimiro was injured in a riding accident and lay gravely injured in a coma.  Xaviero had to return to the island to become Prince Regent and he needed a wife – which was why he married Cathy.

And then Casimiro recovered from his coma.  The still and prone figure came to life again and we caught a glimpse of a man who had been affected not only by his own past, but by the accident which had almost claimed his life.

It was obvious to me that Casimiro needed his own story, but how to go about it?  He’d grown up almost exclusively as King on a remote island and his access to women would have been severely restricted by his status.  And that’s when I began to work backwards.

I didn’t see him with a woman from his own class – I saw him with someone completely different.  Someone who would challenge him and his beliefs.  An “ordinary” woman.  And if he was to meet a woman like this – it would need to be away from  his homeland.

An idea began to form in my mind.  I thought of Casimiro coming back to life after his coma and it made me think of the story of Pygmalion and the statue which came to life.

What if Zaffirinthos had some beautiful marble statues which were sent on a world tour – and what if King Casimiro spent some time abroad promoting that tour?

I could picture him at a big party in a grand house on a rainy night in London.  And a young female party-planner called Melissa, with shoes which weren’t designed to let in water….

Sometimes chemistry can happen in the most unlikely of settings.   Casimiro and Melissa had five beautiful, stolen days of love and then he went away and forgot all about her.  Literally.

But Melissa could never forget Casimiro – because he had left her with a lasting reminder.  His unknown son and heir!

You can find out what happens to Melissa and Casimiro in HIS MAJESTY’S CHILD.

And is there a minor character in book or film which has captured your imagination?

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Comments ( 23 )
  1. Abby Green
    January 27, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    Oooh Sharon, that sounds delish! Can’t wait to read it! xx

  2. Rachael Thomas
    January 27, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    I loved His Majesty’s child, Sharon. When I read The Prince’s Chambermaid I wondered then if King Casimiro, Xavier’s brother, would have his own story. Is this the wannabe romance writer in me at work, even when I’m reading?

  3. Caitlin Crews
    January 27, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    Oh, this sounds delightful! I love when minor characters inspire whole other novels. As a reader, I love to get to explore these other fascinating characters and the worlds they only hint at when they’re minor. And as a writer, I love to see how other writers do it. Can’t wait to read this one!

  4. Sharon Kendrick
    January 27, 2011 at 6:18 pm

    Love the word “delish”, Abby!

    Yes, Rachael – I think if you’re a writer, then no matter how much the story sucks you in – there’s always a little bit of you which is analysing and dissecting.

    Caitlin, it’s interesting how much better I feel I “know” a character if I’ve introduced them in another novel, no matter how briefly. And I also love to hear about how other writers construct their books!

  5. Joanna Brown
    January 27, 2011 at 6:46 pm

    I’ve always liked the M&B which end up linked through their minor characters. The younger sister in Book One becomes the heroine in Book Two and, maybe, in Book Two there will be that small scene, or bit of narrative or dialogue, where I find out how things are going for the protagonists in Book One. – They’re always still blissfully happy of course!

  6. Sharon Kendrick
    January 27, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    Yes, those tie-ins are very satisfying Joanna.

    What I’ve also just done is to write the story of Zahid, a Sheikh who appeared in an earlier book called ITALIAN BOSS, HOUSEKEEPER BRIDE. Zahid made a fleeting appearance in Morocco, along with a woman called Francesca – and there were some very bad vibes going on between them!

    When I started this book, I had to work out WHY she was so angry with him. But the fun bit was that I set it in real time – so that in this story, you saw the Moroccan scene from Zahid and Francesca’s point of view – whereas in book 1, you saw it from Raffaele and Natasha’s angle. Does that make sense?

  7. Anne McAllister
    January 27, 2011 at 11:33 pm

    I love those sorts of linked stories, Sharon! And I share the desire to throttle the minor character who, in chapter seven or so, tries to take over someone else’s book! I’m delighted the king got his own story. Will be looking forward to reading it!

  8. Tweets that mention Minor Characters and Working Backwards, by Sharon Kendrick at I (Heart) Presents -- Topsy.com
    January 28, 2011 at 1:50 am

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  9. Virginija
    January 28, 2011 at 3:48 am

    When I spent writing week with you Sharon in Tuscany, I noticed how fast your mind is working. You have so many ideas in your head at all the times, but what is so unique that you are fantastic at putting those ideas in right order and most important into right stories! I think you are wonderful example to any writer how to be disciplined and to keep writing in your head at all the time! You are great inspiration to any person who really want to be a writer, because you so generous with advice and encouragement.
    I believe that Rachael and Joanna look after you and both of them have great future as writers.
    From reading notes about your new book I can see it is something so unexpected and new and tempting…

    Thank you for all your hard work and I still can’t get – how do you do that!?..

    Virginija xxx

  10. Sarah Morgan
    January 28, 2011 at 4:09 am

    ooh Sharon this sounds really fantastic. I have real trouble stopping minor characters from taking over and you’re right that one good way is to just give them their own story! Can’t wait to read it….

  11. Annie West
    January 28, 2011 at 4:54 am

    Sharon, I’m with Abby. Delish is definitely the word.

    Isn’t it great when minor characters take on a life of their own and can’t be ignored till you write their story? OK, it can be a bit annoying, especially when you’d aimed to write something else next, but as you say, knowing the characters is so good and whenever it’s happened to me I’ve felt immenselty pleased to be able to give them their happily ever after.

    I’m looking forward to reading this one.

  12. Trish Morey
    January 28, 2011 at 10:38 am

    I love the sound of His Majesty’s Child, Sharon, and how it all came about. And love that pic! Wherever it is, I want to go.

  13. Sharon Kendrick
    January 28, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    It’s actually Corfu, Trish – which is what I based Zaffirinthos on. One of the reasons was that I went to visit my son in Brindisi, southern Italy – which is the main port for crossings to Corfu.

    As we were walking along, I saw a street called Via Casimiro, which was the name I had already chosen for my hero. It is not a popular name ou there……SPOOKY!

  14. Sharon Nelson-Drakeford
    January 28, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    I enjoy finding minor characters leading into their own story. I read every day, so I look for books that continue with their stories from one book into another.
    For example, the two books you are referring to now. I have started reading the King’s story. I was interrupted by business or I would have finished it already.
    I am eager to find out why he developed amnesia. I frequently find medical facts or terms not accurate or believable. I just chuckle and continue reading the story.
    Please continue to keep up with your writing. I look forward to every new book you write.

  15. Sharon Kendrick
    January 28, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    Sharon, now I’m wondering what interrupted you?! (I love hearing about other people’s lives!).

    The King developed partial amnesia because he fell from his horse and was in a coma for a while (don’t worry, I checked it out with a physician!). This happened in THE PRINCE’S CHAMBERMAID, which was published a while back. Let me know if you have trouble getting hold of a copy.

    Of course, both books – as with all linked books, can be read independently.

    Thanks so much for your sweet comments.

  16. Lynn Raye Harris
    January 28, 2011 at 11:07 pm

    Sorry to be late, but I love this idea, Sharon! And since I just finished The Prince’s Chambermaid, having taken it on my cruise last week, I’m so glad to know I can dive right into Casimiro’s story! 🙂

  17. Marie
    January 29, 2011 at 5:45 am

    I am late with my comment as well but work has been hectic this week. Anyway I read the two books backwards so when I realised I went back and read the princes chambermaid again and the weird thing is even though I had read both books already, reading them in sequence had me excited about the prince waking up and having his own story.
    I love minor characters who come to life although they do it at the most inopportune times and then hammer at your brain until you write their story no matter what else you have to be doing.
    Somehow I missed Italing boss, housekeeper bride and as I was stationed in Morocco I love to read stories set there. Will read it and am looking forward to the one coming.

  18. Kiru Taye
    January 29, 2011 at 7:01 am

    Oh Yeah! I love to read about minor characters who become HorH in new books especially when they made an impact in a previous story. I also love linked books because you can also catch up on previous H&H.

    I’m heading across to eHarlequin now to get my copies of both books.

  19. Kate Hewitt
    January 29, 2011 at 11:04 am

    I loved this book, Sharon, and I love that your minor characters needed their own story! I had a minor character from my very first book, The Italian’s Chosen Wife, who wouldn’t leave me alone and so I wanted to give her her own story. At that time it wasn’t possible but I based the heroine from The Italian’s Bought Bride on her, and so she got her story in the end!

  20. Sharon Kendrick
    January 29, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    Thanks so much to all of you for your comments – Anne, Sarah, Annie, Lynn and Kate – and how reassuring to learn that we all have trouble keeping our MCs quiet!

    Rachael posed a question asking whether it was the writer inside her which made her read something in a certain way. Deffo! I read an interview with Fay Weldon the other day and so many things she said resonated with me. Especially the bit about – if you waited until you “wanted” to write, you’d wait forever….

  21. Heidi Rice
    January 30, 2011 at 8:39 am

    Oh good lord, two more books to add to my teetering TBR pile!!

    Xaviero and Casimiro definitely sound extremely delish, Sharon.

    As I’m one of those writers who always go into a spiral of panic when I finish a book that I’ll never have another usable idea again, I love it when a minor character appears and demands their own story cos then I don’t have to panic… My next book basically features the barrister brother of my heroine from my last book, who suddenly popped up in the epilogue as a tall, dark, handsome, self-assured and supremely self-confident cynic! So of course I just had to find him a heroine sassy enough to totally mess up his life!

  22. Sharon Kendrick
    January 30, 2011 at 11:49 am

    Heidi – love the sound of your supremely self-confident cynic!

  23. Sharon Kendrick
    January 31, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    Would love to know what you think of them when you’ve read them, Kiru Taye.

    And thanks so much for your sweet and generous comments Virginija and Marie.