Crafting a Linked Story (or) How to Turn Main characters into Secondary Characters and Vice Versa by Dani Collins

We have author Dani Collins this week talking about "Crafting a Linked Story (or) How to Turn Main characters into Secondary Characters and Vice Versa". She also has a new book out this month, The Maid's Spanish Secret.  

Award-winning and USA Today Bestselling author Dani Collins thrives on giving readers emotional, compelling, heart-soaring romance with some laughter and heat thrown in, just like real life. Mostly she writes contemporary romance for Harlequin Presents and Tule’s Montana Born, but her backlist of fifty books also includes self-published erotic romance, romantic comedy, and even an epic medieval fantasy. When she’s not writing—just kidding, she’s always writing. Look for Dani’s latest Presents, Untouched Until Her Ultra-Rich Husband and The Maid's Spanish Secret, out now!

Dani Collins on the web:

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Crafting a Linked Story (or) How to Turn Main characters into Secondary Characters and Vice Versa

Often as I’m writing and need a secondary character to arrive on the page, I will make a split-second decision as to whether that character might one day deserve his or her own story. Such was the case toward the end of The Consequence He Must Claim, Feb 2016.

The hero, Cesar, could have brooded his way through his soul-searching moment. However, I always find it more effective to do some of this with dialogue. I think it's a very real thing that we often don't change our patterns of thinking or behavior until we get a nudge from something outside of ourselves.

So I had Cesar's brother, Rico, offer enough insight that Cesar saw his black moment with new eyes. And, because Cesar is ridiculously sexy, his brother had to share those alpha male, virile traits. This led readers to ask if Rico would have his own story in future.

I honestly didn't have anything in mind for him, but last year, as I was about to begin a new book, I looked at my list of potential heroes. Yes, I maintain a list, and there was Rico. But how to take him from younger brother of a man who has found wedded bliss and turn him into the (brooding) hero of his own story, with a back story that needs working through?

He shared Cesar’s difficult upbringing, but I’d said most of what needed saying about that in the first book. And with his brother obviously in love, Rico couldn’t disbelieve in such a thing.
In short, he wasn't angry enough. I needed more.

What I did have to draw on was Cesar's affair with Sorcha causing scandal for the family. This instilled Rico with a sense of duty, so he agreed to an arranged marriage.

I should've mentioned, I had already been asked by my editor to make this a 'secret heirs of billionaires' which added another constraint! Rico had to have made a secret baby somewhere along the way.

I decided his engagement was broken just long enough that he had a brief affair with Poppy. The very next day, he is tricked by his fiancĂ©e into believing her baby was his. Of course, he has to marry her! Poppy returns to Canada and learns she’s pregnant, but Rico is married so she doesn’t tell him.

Fast forward three years. Rico’s wife dies shortly after their marriage, taking her unborn child with her. To minimize scandal, Rico is keeping the secret of her betrayal. Everyone, including his family, believes the lost child was his and pity him, which only makes him more bitter!

As the story opens, Sorcha confronts him with the news she believes Poppy had his baby.

RULE OF THUMB: If you're going to have your main characters interact with someone besides their love interest, at least have them talk about their love interest.

It's always a risk to open a book with the hero talking to another woman. In this case, I deliberately showed the affection between Rico and his sister-in-law as respectful friendship. At the same time, as she reveals the news, the reader is able to hear his thoughts and understand how everyone has misinterpreted his marriage.

RULE OF THUMB: Make your scenes with secondary characters work

Rico’s scene with Sorcha reveals a lot of the backstory, but it also demonstrates Rico's level of anger. He winds up making a sharp remark to Sorcha and privately acknowledges he never used to be like this, which is a consistency I want so a reader going back to the book about Cesar doesn’t wonder why Rico wasn’t such a bitter pill then.

This scene also:

·         Demonstrates how deeply the news of having a child is hitting him.
·         Shows Sorcha being consistent to her character from her own book – she comes back with her own angry remark calling him out on his acrimony
·         Signals to the reader where Rico is at emotionally and how far he'll have to evolve to be able to love
·         Signals to the reader that he intends to claim his child.

RULE OF THUMB: Use secondary characters to show a different side of your main character

I like to offer a glimpse into how my main character feels about all the people they interact with. To me, this rounds out the character of a character. The fact that Rico’s nephew runs to greet him tells you a lot about their relationship, right? But such things have to be handled judiciously. Remember what I said about keeping the focus on the developing romance?

Conflict of any kind is interesting to a reader, however, so after Rico’s outburst at Sorcha, Cesar is angry with him. I don’t go into details on the page, but the average alpha-male would be cranky with his brother if said brother was rude to his wife. So there’s a conflict there that needs resolving and because we’re trying to keep the focus on the romance we have to tie that resolution into the romance.

Later in the book, Poppy is homesick and struggling to fit in to Rico’s world. He hasn’t figured out yet that he’s falling in love, but he wants to make a gesture. As a man of action, he needs to do something to keep their marriage working. So he risks his brother’s wrath and takes her to meet Sorcha—and I make sure Poppy realizes he humbles himself for her sake.

And Poppy feels more confident afterward which advances their feelings for one another.

RULE OF THUMB: Plan ahead

I don’t always maintain a spreadsheet for my linked books, but I’m always much happier when I do. In this case, despite how much time had passed, I had a spreadsheet for Cesar's book because it was one half of my baby swap duet. (The other one is The Marriage He Must Keep). I was able to build off that older spreadsheet which was especially helpful because, as I was writing The Maid’s Spanish Secret, I was planning my next book featuring Rico and Cesar's sister, Pia. (Bound By Their Nine-Month Scandal will be out November 2019)

So, shortly after finishing Rico and Poppy’s story, I had to take them off the stage and relegate them to background again, but that's another story. Literally. And yes, Cesar and Sorcha make another brief appearance.

I hope you'll check out these linked stories. Fun fact: The Consequence He Must Claim is currently offered free if you sign up at Look for The Maid’s Spanish Secret now and Bound By Their Nine-Month Scandal comes out in November.

The Maid's Spanish Secret (Secret Heirs of Billionaires)

“You will come to Spain. You will marry me…”

For sweet maid Poppy Harris, her one and only passionate experience was scorching and absolutely forbidden. She shouldn’t have succumbed to Spanish aristocrat Rico Montero’s tantalizing seduction, but his touch was all consuming…and had a nine-month consequence! Poppy believes they could never be anything more. Until Rico appears on her doorstep demanding his hidden daughter—and determined to make Poppy his wife!

Enjoy this intensely dramatic marriage of convenience!

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  1. Interesting to know the thought you put into the path of your secondary characters. I often wonder about that with television shows. How do recurring characters emerge? Is it organic or is there a plan from the first introduction? Undoubtedly, there's some of both.

  2. Fascinating.
    I always like to read stories where the secondary characters from previous works speak up for themselves. It often further enriches the original work.

  3. great tips from Dani and the book sounds good!

  4. Hello, interesting post and reviews. I will have to look for Dani's books.
    Enjoy your day, wishing you a happy weekend!

  5. Hi Nas and Dani - interesting to read your approach, Dani. I can see it's not a stand-alone novel ... so one needs a fan base for the series that's been, and to come ... but excellent you've built one up. Good luck - cheers Hilary

  6. Spreadsheets! I'm glad I'm not the only one who likes to keep good records.

  7. Whilst not books I'd necessarily read my sister in law (and several of her friends) are always on the look out for new (to her) authors of this kind of fiction. I'll be certain to mention Dani to her.

  8. Always very interesting posts Nas, thank you!

  9. Thanks for sharing these great tips!


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