Monday, May 23, 2022

A Man Walks into a Bar...

 Q: How much air time do you give to secondary characters? Have any threatened to take over a book? Choose one of yours that you particularly enjoy and share them with us, including a snippet of text that gives us their flavor.


-from Susan


Oh, boy, have they! A spunky teenage girl in the first French village mystery, LOVE & DEATH IN BURGUNDY, with whom I fell in love and ended up following around delightedly. She became, in a way, the warm heart of the story, the focus of way too much attention from some other characters, and key to the riddle of the mysterious death. By the (fictional) time of the second book, she had, alas, morphed into more of a typical, albeit French, teenager, so had a presence but not the same role.


But the best book-crasher I ever met was a character in all three Dani O’Rourke mysteries who wasn’t even supposed to be there at all. Richard Argetter III, Dickie to all and sundry, was a part of Dani’s off-the-page backstory, her ex-husband. I promise you when I wrote these words on page 8 of MURDER IN THE ABSTRACT, the first book in the series, I had no idea how they got there: 


    “Hello, cupcake. Fancy meeting you here.”

     Damn and double damn. Dickie Argetter III, my ex, charming, millionaire about town, unfaithful husband, source of many of my insecurities, the burr under my saddle. 

    “What are you doing here?” I blurted as I spun around.


That last could have been me, and maybe I did mumble it aloud. Where did Dickie come from in my imagination? How did I know he had $450 million dollars inherited from his father, a pied a terre in Paris, and more than one Porsche? I promise I didn’t know – much less marry and divorce – someone like him. The man literally wormed his way into the room Dani was entering after someone fell from a museum window during a gala event, declaring his intention of helping her, somehow. 


Through three books, Dickie tried to regain her love, and for three books Dani tried to shake him off. Dickie, it turned out – who knew? not the author! – that he was not such a bad guy, that he was truly repentant for running off with a Victoria’s Secret underwear model, and that he only wanted what was best for her. Dickie was perennially upbeat, perhaps to a fault.


I had to lay that series aside to begin the one a new publisher wanted, but I’ve always wondered if Dickie’s persistence overcame Dani’s resistance. Most of the books are still available one way or another on Amazon. They all had more than one publisher and exist in several formats in print, e-book and audio. Next year, I will re-publish the Dani series independently. I’m thinking I may have to go back and write a new mystery so I can open the door and see if Dickie walks through again. I miss him. 

                                 MURDER IN THE ABSTRACT
                                          THE KING'S JAR
                                 MIXED UP WITH MURDER



Brenda Chapman said...

I love this example of a secondary character pushing their way into a book - the mystery of writing!

Susan C Shea said...

Thanks, Brenda. Isn't it amazing? I sometimes think it's a mental trick, like bending spoons! But I can't make it happen just by thinking.

Dietrich Kalteis said...

That's one of my favorite things about writing — those little surprises that pop out of nowhere.