Wednesday 28 April 2021

A-Z Blogging Challenge - X is for Xtras

Again, not an easy letter when you’re trying to feature names of people and places in your novels. I don’t have any Xerxes, Xanders or Xanadus, so today’s blog is about Xtra characters (and thanks to Carol for this suggestion!)

By extra characters, I don’t mean the secondary characters who you know will be an essential part of the story from the start, like the main character’s best friend, or boss, or some relative. In this case, I’m talking about the ‘extra’ characters who sometimes sneak in and take you by surprise – like Wasim, my Nile-singing boatman in ‘Her Only Option’ (see yesterday’s post)

When I start writing a new novel, I usually have what I call a ‘vague idea’ in my mind. I know where and when the story starts, I (sometimes) have a fair idea where it will end, but as I write, the story takes on a life of its own, and various characters ‘appear’, each with their own contribution.

There are several of these in ‘Irish Inheritance’.

In earlier posts, I told you about two ‘extra’ characters, Peter Stones and Tom Keating. Both had small but important roles in this story, and both appeared in later books in the series.

Another extra character was Maeve O’Connor. The Dublin lawyer who is dealing with Helena Keating’s estate calls Guy to tell him that Maeve, a friend of Helena, would like to meet them and has some information she would like to share. At that point, I had to stop and think what information Maeve was going to give my characters, and in fact she proved to be a useful addition – especially at the end of the story when she … but no, that would be a spoiler!

Suzie was another character who played a bigger role than I anticipated. To begin with she was simply a name i.e. Guy’s ex, an American actress who had left him with a somewhat jaundiced view of actresses. I definitely did not anticipate Guy rushing off to Los Angeles to rescue Suzie when he discovered she was homeless and penniless! Neither did Jenna who, needless to say, wasn’t happy and assumed she had been dumped. But I did enjoy working out the small, but necessary, side-track into Suzie’s story.

Brendan O’Casey was the art expert from Galway, who came to value the 19th century portrait at Mist Na Mara. Guy was not impressed, especially when the painting was valued at far less than he had anticipated. But was Mr. O’Casey who he claimed to be? Again, this was part of the story that I didn’t anticipate when I first started writing it!

And of course there was Steve, who was the assistant manager at the hotel where Jenna’s friend Charley was organising a theme night event. But you’ll have to read Irish Intrigue, Book 2 in the Mist Na Mara series, to find out what happened to Charley and Steve.

These ‘extra’ characters are one of the main reasons I am a ‘pantser’ (i.e writing by the seat of my pants!) and not a plotter. To me, plotting in advance is a sterile exercise which doesn’t spark my imagination. I need to be ‘in there’, living the story with my characters and letting them develop it. I know the ‘plotters’ won’t agree with me – but there is no right or wrong way to write a story, and I know what works for me! 

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  1. It always amazes me how these characters pop up and create important parts if the story, just when you need them!

  2. Unnamed characters that we know exist. Yup, stories need them.
    I love letter X posts! Always such variety.
    It's hard to believe the alphabet part of the blogging challenge is over for 2021. Down to the after survey, reflections, and the "road trip" sign-up.
    Plus, I'm taking part in the Bout of Books read-a-thon in May. So much excitement!
    J Lenni Dorner (he/him 👨🏽 or 🧑🏽 they/them) ~ Co-host of the #AtoZchallenge, OperationAwesome6 Debut Author Interviewer, Reference& Speculative Fiction Author