Hijacked: The Character Who Just Won’t Leave

 Still being relatively new to the world of fiction-writing, I have found one of the most bizarre phenomena is the minor character with illusions of grandeur. He (or she) wants to be a major character. And so far, for me at least, he always wins.

In my early drafts of ROYAL STREET (which appears to be out of the revision phase–yay!), I developed a minor character named Jacob Warin. His main function was just to hang around and be sexy and make major character Alex Warin, his cousin, jealous. Obsessed with “Lost’s” Josh Holloway at the time, I gave him dimples and some crafty one-liners.

Well, the dimples were probably a bad idea, being a particular weakness of my heroine, DJ (but not me, of course). Jake needs an occupation, I thought, and I needed a bar owner, so I gave Jake the bar. Then DJ needed someone to help Alex pull a tree off her roof after Hurricane Katrina, so Jake stepped up to help his cousin and turned out to be a shameless flirt. Well, if Jake’s going to be in that many scenes, I thought, he needs a real history. I’ll make him a former Marine who was injured in Afghanistan. Then he needed a slight limp that he, of course, bears with much grace and dignity. And finally, the piece de resistance, he told me he had a troubled past that he’d tried to drown in alcohol.

By then, of course, I was in love with Jacob Warin, and he wasn’t going anywhere. Poor  Alex.

Same thing happened with the pirate Jean Lafitte. He grew from one brief appearance to start the book, to two scenes, then three, to the grand finale. He damn near took over the second book, RIVER ROAD, so in the third I’m going to send him out of town. I suspect he won’t stay there.

My current problem child is named Mirren Kincaid. He’s a 6-8″, tattoed, curmudgeonly vampire, and in his human life was an Irish mercenary, ca. 1700. He wants my book, and right now I’m still fighting him. I’ve promised him the starring role in the sequel. So far, he’s accepted it. But I’m waiting for him to bare his fangs at any minute.

I’m guessing Eric Northman started out that way in the Sookie Stackhouse series–his role gradually grew as the series progressed from a bit part to comic relief to series sexpot contender to Team Eric, so he’d get my vote for favorite minor character who practically takes over a series. Who’s your favorite “once secondary, now major” character?

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About Suzanne Johnson

Author of urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and suspense. As Suzanne Johnson, she is the author of the Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series (Royal Street; River Road: Elysian Fields, Pirate's Alley, Belle Chasse, Frenchmen Street (March 2018). Writing as Susannah Sandlin, she is the author of the Penton Legacy series (Redemption; Absolution; Omega; Storm Force; Allegiance; ILLUMINATION); The Collectors series (Lovely, Dark, and Deep; Deadly, Calm, and Cold); and the Wilds of the Bayou series (Wild Man's Curse; Black Diamond).

12 thoughts on “Hijacked: The Character Who Just Won’t Leave

  1. Another character who grew way beyound his initial role was Spike on Buffy. Back in the day, Fonzie on Happy Days did the same thing.

    For me, I’ve had it happen a couple of times. In my first Paladin book, I had to keep rewriting scenes to keep Trahern from dominating the book when the story was supposed to be about Devlin. I did the same thing you did–I promised Trahern his story would be the second one. And just to serve him right, in his book another character did the same thing, including flirting with his woman. I’ve learned to keep an eye out for guys pushing their way to front of the line. They’ve turned into some of my best heroes.

  2. I have a secondary character that everyone in my crit group likes better than the hero. Not at all what I intended. Especially since I really like this character too. Time to rethink the plot.

  3. Don’t you just hate that! Secondary characters are to be dealt with and put in the back seat. (easier said then done).

    My favorite secondary characters, hmm. there are so many…Karen M. Moning writes some great secondary characters in all of her books. A guy named Adam comes to mind. And another guy in her fae series leaps off the pages. V’lane, I believe is his name?

    Great blog, Suzanne…

  4. I agree with Alexis and Spike. He was only supposed to be in three episodes or something and then they were killing him off.

    I love secondary characters that almost take over because then I know I can give them their own book.

  5. In my current wip I have a pair of wizards who somehow morphed from fleeting appearances to fully realized people. She’s from Brooklyn, he’s from Wentworth (in my alternate fantasy world) and they have their own love story right after I finish the wip.

    Another is Sir Randolph deScotia, Captain of the Guard, because I needed a captain of the guard and I also needed a traitorous friend of the princess so I made his girlfriend the traitor. So poor Randolph will lose his girlfriend (she never really loved him anyway) and needs his own story to heal from the emotional wounds. I have the Valentina waiting for him, but when they first meet she hits him with a meat cleaver. Well, you have to expect that, she’s from Brooklyn too.

    Ah, well, the course of true love never did run smooth.

    I like women from Brooklyn.

  6. LOL, Bart–I’m worried about you now. Lots of experience with Brooklyn women heaving cleavers?

    Thanks for the comments, everyone. I’m still holding out for a sequel for my big bad secondary character Mirren. Because everyone should work on two series simultaneously, right? *head spins*

  7. Mmm, Mirren sounds yummy. LOL

    In my current WIP, the heroine’s best friend is a guy. I wanted some jealousy between these two and one of my critique partners warned me to be careful to not make him too likeable. He’s getting his own book though, so it all works out.

  8. Sigh, this is how I am writing a fantasy romance series now, instead of a nice, simple standalone. First, one fellow informed me he didn’t die like everyone thought, so I had to find out what happened,then of course, one thing led to another and the other guys all had interesting stories to tell. So, now I have seven stories in the works. At least I won’t be bored plotting to make them suffer on the way to their happy ending. I do love my secondary characters turned hero. 🙂

  9. LOL. I wonder if that’s how a lot of series are born–secondary alphas who demand stories of their own. You’ve gotta love ’em.

  10. That’s what happened to my cowboys. My hero’s best friend popped up and demanded a woman, then all the other hands wanted their own women. So one book grew in to six. But I think that is better than the alternative, which is when you say ‘yes, you will be in the next book’ and they give you nothing to work with.