January 16, 2012

Rogue Secondary Characters

by Amber Leigh Williams

Don’t you just love rogue secondary characters? While writing my first western romance, Blackest Heart, I thought I had secondary characters under control. That is until my critique partner practically begged me to write the story of at least one of the heroine’s older brothers. I’m a firm believer in giving strong secondary characters a satisfactory story of their own. The whole western romance venture had been somewhat of a writing experiment. Not only had I never written a western, I had never written a novella. Stepping out of my comfort zone paid off. Blackest Heart was quickly contracted by my publisher for their new western line, the 1st Place Novella in the 2009 More Than Magic Contest, and the subject of most of my fan mail. Writing against the western backdrop with characters as rich as the Ridge family siblings was also sinfully fun. I decided my CP was right and a short jaunt back to West Texas through the eyes of my muse and western characters was in order. 

My CP dropped heavy hints that she wanted to see Stella’s “good boy” brother Casey find love. Probably because I drop not-so-subtle hints in Blackest Heart that he has a thing for the “bad girl” of Wayback, Josie Brusky. Writing Casey’s story (Bluest Heart) taught me a lesson about writing the so-called “bad” character. Josie saunters into Blackest Heart with a reputation. Confronting that in Bluest Heart was a daunting process. None of my previous heroes or heroines came into their respective stories in a negative light. The contrasts between Josie and Casey, however, fell to the wayside within the first few chapters of the first draft. On the page, they automatically clicked despite the conflict surrounding them. Much of it has to do with their tender backstory and underneath the reputation Wayback has built around Josie and her family lies a heroine readers sympathize with.


When my western editor contracted Bluest Heart, I found it increasingly hard to sleep at night knowing that the oldest Ridge brother, Keefe, was the only one of his siblings who didn’t have a story of his own. The process of converting him from the “playboy of Wayback” to hero material was a challenge, one that I couldn’t resist. While Josie’s like tendencies were a struggle to morph into the role of heroine, Keefe turned out to be a blast—probably because I threw the bad boy a curveball in the form of Stella’s Yankee talent agent, Calli Morlani. Keefe, the bronc-busting cowpoke, allowed me to explore the sexy cowboy hero one more rip-roarin’ time from a fresh angle, rounding out the Ridge trilogy in an exciting way with Bet it on my Heart!

I do miss spending writing time with those Ridges, but they are available as both ebook and audio books from The Wild Rose Press, Kindle, Nook and AudioLark. Blackest Heart is also featured in the paperback anthology, The Way Back Home, along with two other western romance novellas….


Thank you for hosting me and the Ridges here, Anna Kathryn! Looking forward to sharing a western-themed recipe on Wednesday. Until then, I’ll leave you with the book trailer for Bet it on my Heart. For more on the Ridge trilogy, including bonus material and book trailers, visit me on the web at www.amberleighwilliams.com! Enjoy....



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17 comments:

Amber Leigh Williams said...

Thank you for hosting me today, Anna Kathryn!

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Hi, Amber. Thanks for being my guest. Not a lot of traffic so far, but I'm sure people are stopping by and reading, even if they don't leave a comment. Great topic.

I've learned you need to watch what you name those secondary characters, too. You might want to write about them later, then your stuck with the name you gave them!

Celia Yeary said...

Amber--I like this topic. Many stories have been written froms secondary stories. In my first WH, All My HOpes and Dreams, I had a bad secondary by the name of Starr Hildalgo. She had her sights set on the hero, but he went and married a prissy woman from East Texas. She tried her dead level best...but never succeeded. Now, she's hanging out there like your last brother.
Many readers said she was a stronger character than Cynthia, and while I admit that was true, Cynthis had a lot of changing to do. Still, I think of Starr once in a while.
Now that you've reminded me, I might give her a story.

Jannine Gallant said...

You're so right, Amber. Some characters just have to have their own story. And some of them don't make it easy on us! I'm working on a sequel to Victim of Desire that stars Rachel's sister, Grace. Problem here - Grace was portrayed as a love 'em and leave 'em nymphomanic. You can practically see the sweat dripping off my brow as I work to tame her into a likable heroine! GREAT post.

Amber Leigh Williams said...

Anna Kathryn, good point! I often wonder in hindsight if I had known I would be telling their stories individually if I would have changed the names of these secondary characters.

Amber Leigh Williams said...

Celia, so glad I could give you a little nudge! Thanks for stopping by :)

Amber Leigh Williams said...

Jannine, lol - I had the same problem with both Josie and Keefe. Particularly Josie, because I find it hard to make a woman who sleeps around sympathetic to readers. Heroines are judged so much more harshly than heroes, in a lot of cases.

Callie said...

Great topic. My first release, A Run For Love had four nieces and nephews. One has already had her story told 'A Wife By Christmas,' and I'm in the middle of writing the oldest nephew's story. Two more to go after that, lol.

Your books sound great. Best of luck with them.

Vonnie Davis said...

Oh, dear my Kindle got a double helping today. First Vonnie Hughes' new release and now your books. Wait...I think I just heard it burp. Loved the video, too.

Tanya Hanson said...

Hi Amber, I sure love series about siblings or in some way inter-relate. Spinning off a secondary character always works for me both as a reader and as a writer. They just need their stories told! Best wishes with a terrific series.

Amber Leigh Williams said...

Callie, that's quite a family saga! Thank you and good luck to you too :)

Amber Leigh Williams said...

Vonnie, thank you so much! I hope you enjoy the Ridge trilogy!

Amber Leigh Williams said...

Tanya, I love family-connected books as well. I think it all started when I read Nora Roberts' first Irish trilogy. IMO, her family sagas are her best work. Thank you for stopping by!

marybelle said...

When I'm reading I love secondary characters that just burst through the page.

marypres(AT)gmail(DOT)com

Amber Leigh Williams said...

marybelle, me too! Especially those who support rather than overwhelm the main characters.

Ilona Fridl said...

Amber, I'm a little late here, but I have to agree that there are some wonderful stories waiting for the secondary characters. And with the cast around them, you don't have to say goodbye to the other great characters you've created.

Amber Leigh Williams said...

Ilona, that's my favorite thing about writing the stories of secondary characters - that those former characters get to live out a bit more of their lives on the page. Thank you for stopping by!