How Secondary Characters Earn Their Own Stories: a Guest Post by Annabeth Albert

I’m very excited to have Annabeth Albert on the site today to celebrate the release of her newest m/m Romance, Rough Terrain, and to discuss secondary characters and how you know when they’re ready to get their own books! First off, let’s check out the new book, which is the final title in the Out of Uniform series:

Navy SEAL Renzo Bianchi has a soft spot for Canaan Finley, and not only because the man makes a mean smoothie. He’s the first guy to get Renzo’s motor revving in a long time. But when he agrees to Canaan’s insane charade—one all-access fake boyfriend, coming right up—he never expects more than a fling.

Creating a hot Italian SEAL boyfriend to save face seemed like a good idea…until his friends called Canaan’s bluff. Now he’s setting off into the woods with the very man who inspired his deception, and Canaan is not the outdoorsy type. The sparks are already flying when a flash flood separates them from their group, leaving Renzo and Canaan very much trapped…very much alone in the wilderness.

Working together to come up with a plan for survival is sexier than either of them expects. But back in the real world, being a couple is bringing its own set of hazards…

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iBooks | GooglePlay | Audible | Harlequin

And here’s the post!

Hi! I’m so delighted to be here as I celebrate the release of Rough Terrain, my latest Out of Uniform book, which stars a sexy navy SEAL  and a smoothie place barista in need a fake boyfriend fast.  In this book, both main characters made brief appearances in earlier book, Renzo, the SEAL, in Tight Quarters, and Canaan in On Point.  One question I get a lot from readers is “Will X get a book?” And as a reader, I know this urge because I ask it too! A great secondary character almost seems to demand a story of their own.

So, how do you know if a secondary character is ripe for their own book?

  • Are they single? This isn’t always a firm requirement as reunion romances, rekindling the spark, and post-breakup/tragedy romances are all possibilities, but it helps if your potential main character has a need for romance in their life (even if they don’t see it themselves yet!). Readers generally don’t like to see happy-ish couples split up, so one thing to keep in mind is reader expectations. If you show your secondary character in love with someone or crushing on someone, a certain segment of the readership will expect that pairing to get a book. (My example here is On Point—no way could I pair Ben and Maddox with anyone other than each other!)
  • Do they have a distinctive “voice?” Sometimes it only takes a line or two for a character to come alive. That was the case with Apollo from At Attention for me and Renzo in Rough Terrain—as soon as they opened their mouths in other books, I wanted to know more.  Sometimes, like with Apollo, you can just tell a juicy backstory is lurking, and you can’t wait to know more. As a writer, this is the best feeling in the world, when you start to see the potential for going deeper with a character, when they transition from supporting cast member to potential star.
  • Do they fit the tone of the series? This is always a really hard question for me to ask potential secondary character plot bunnies, but it’s necessary. With Off Base, which starts the Out of Uniform series, Pike and Zack both started talking in Connection Error, but I could tell that their book wasn’t going to fit the #Gaymer universe—not in LA, not as much nerdy culture, way heavier on the military romance tropes, and so I spun their story off to start a new series rather than try to shoehorn a book in. With Wheels Up, Dustin started talking to me in At Attention (he’s one hero’s brother and the other’s best friend) and said, “I get a book.” And my initial reaction was “Uh…” and then he revealed that he was bisexual and really, really wanted the last guy he should have, and I was all, “We’re in business” because I knew I could give him a military romance that fit the tone of the series and that would be the HEA he deserved. Likewise, Canaan started talking in his brief appearance in On Point, but I had to figure out how to give him the SEAL of his dreams—I didn’t want to do another spin-off.
  • Are readers asking about them? I tend to plot in terms of trilogies, so a lot of times, I know which secondary characters will eventually get books. But other times, a well-placed reader question can yield amazing plot bunnies. Reviewer Becky Condit asked me, “What about Wizard?” after she read On Point, and I immediately wanted a book for him and started plotting. (Message to eager readers—writers aren’t mind readers! If you’re desperate for a secondary character to get a HEA, tell us!)
  • Are they already “talking” to the muse? This is probably the hardest factor, but sometimes, you can love a secondary character, but no plot is really jumping out that would fit them. The plot bunny stable is empty and the muse is silent. As a writer, this sucks, and there are things you can do to coax a quiet character into talking—brainstorming, free-writing, character worksheets etc, but sometimes it simply takes time before a story presents itself for that character or until the muse cooperates. As a reader, it can be hard when I learn that a book isn’t planned for a secondary character I loved, but as a writer, I know how it important it is to feed and follow the muse. You simply can’t write a story that doesn’t want to be told (yet).

And thus, as writers consider all these factors, some secondary characters are indeed ripe for their own book and do amazing in a starring role. And series really come to life this way. No way could I have done seven books in Out of Uniform without some incredible secondary characters to work with!

How about you? Do you have a favorite secondary character in any series by any author that you’d like a book for? Share in the comments, and I do hope you check out Rough Terrain! Thanks for having me!

***

Annabeth Albert grew up sneaking romance novels under the bed covers. Now, she devours all subgenres of romance out in the open—no flashlights required! When she’s not adding to her keeper shelf, she’s a multi-published Pacific Northwest romance writer. Emotionally complex, sexy, and funny stories are her favorites both to read and to write. Her critically acclaimed and fan-favorite LGBTQ romance series include the #OutOfUniform, #Gaymers, #PortlandHeat, #RainbowCove and #PerfectHarmony series.

To find out what she’s working on next and other fun extras, check out her website: annabethalbert.com or connect with Annabeth on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Spotify! Also, be sure to sign up for her newsletter for free ficlets, bonus reads, and contests. The fan group, Annabeth’s Angels, on Facebook is also a great place for bonus content and exclusive contests.

 

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