I’m working with an older WIP this week. It began with a target of 50,000 words. Then about a month ago, I was halfway done when I learned that it now needed to be 20,000 words longer for the publisher I’m targeting. Eep! I’m a pantser-plotter, so the outline that I’d painstakingly created on Scrivener and Excel was suddenly out the window. I was back to scratch with a manuscript only a quarter of the way complete. A few years ago that would’ve been enough to make me throw my hands up and quit, but hey, I’m a professional–a big girl with the panties to prove it!
Now I can take my little story to the next level. I know this because I’ve laid the foundation for a bigger story with secondary characters.
My Scrivener corkboard contains files for every character in the book, no matter how small their part. For each of these characters, I give them physical features, unique speech, backstory and goals. That last one is important when trying to expand a WIP. With their individual goals, I’ll be able to create new conflicts for my main characters and new scenes. No problemo!
Secondary characters are fabulously useful and can be great fun. The added benefit is you can re-visit them in sequels. One of my favorite examples of a secondary character becoming more dynamic was the rival love interest for my heroine in Her Wicked Captain, book one of The River Rogues series. The character’s goal in the story was to help his uncle get revenge against the story’s villain. As this was the same goal as the hero’s, this character was always nearby, getting in the hero’s way, providing a little extra romantic conflict. Readers have already pegged him as a natural hero for the sequel, His Most Wanted.
Do you have a manuscript that needs a little padding? Don’t sweat it. Remember to look at your secondary characters and their goals. Determine the conflicts they can provide and work with that. You’ll soon have a longer, more developed story.
HER WICKED CAPTAIN, historical romance, available now