I asked her about her background in illustration, and she told me that she started out as a free-lance illustrator for Women's Wear Daily and all the Fairchild Publications, covering New England. "Then when I moved to Atlanta, I still did some fashion illustration but moved into television story boards for product commercials. I can draw a hand holding a bottle of Spray 'n Wash from memory. :-)"
I'd love to do that, but my drawings are worse than stick figures. Seriously. Ask anyone who knows me.
Polly has done all her own covers with a
BFA from art school and 25 years as an illustrator
I'd say she was her own best choice!
After the first, oh, twenty or thirty pages of our manuscript (which we go over so many times, we can quote the words from memory), we, as writers, tend to concentrate on our main characters—the hero and/or/ heroine in whatever genre we’re writing.
But what about secondary characters? In many books and movies the secondary characters are pivotal to the plot and to the main character, their yin to the other’s yang―Watson to Holmes, Robin to Batman, Ginger to Fred, to name a few. Many secondary characters build a following and are rewarded with their own mystery series. John Sandford’s Virgil Flowers and Robert Crais’s Joe Pike come to mind. Television has been famous for spinoffs, some successful, some not. That spinoff character has to be so strong that viewers crave more.
Many series writers, whether cozy mysteries or police procedurals, create a fictional town or workplace with a continuing cast of characters—think Stephanie Plum, Joe Morelli, Ranger, and Lula; or the cops in John Sandford’s Lucas Davenport series. Those characters are the supporting players. They’re family, a team, and readers know them. Speaking of supporting roles, I bet everyone can name at least two from Gone with the Wind other than Scarlett and Rhett. Great secondary characters stay with us.
Since I write in multiple points of view, I almost always create multiple storylines. That leaves me free to wander into the heads of my secondary characters. For that reason, I work hard to develop them as fully as I develop the leads. They may take up less space in my books, but I consider them almost as important. If you remember them over my main characters, more important.
I’ve published five books, with another on the way—sounds like I’m giving birth, and in a way, I am. These books are my babies. They’ve been nurtured and fed everything I’ve learned and am still learning, but though we want readers to love our main characters, especially if they’re in a series, I’m thrilled when someone mentions that I’ve fleshed out the supporting cast.
One secondary character in my book Murder Déjà Vu is probably my favorite. I knew what was going to happen to him right from the beginning. So does the reader, so I’m not giving anything away. But every time I went over that scene, I sobbed like a baby. I fell in love with him and didn’t really want to do what I was going to do. I was helpless, of course. His fate was cast in stone from the beginning.
In my Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series―just two books―Diana’s father is really unlikeable. He’s a cocky con artist and a racist who pushed his young daughter into doing things she didn’t want to do strictly for money and notoriety. When Diana falls in love with an African American, old Galen Racine has a conniption. As much as we don’t like him, and I think most people won’t, he loves his daughter and she loves him. It’s tricky to write a character like him and leave some thread of humanity so readers feel what Diana feels. If they don’t, I haven’t done my job. I started to put Diana’s parents in the second book, Goddess of the Moon, but I couldn’t put my readers through him again. Or me. In the same book, Mind Games, the killer is evil incarnate, but readers have told me they actually felt sorry for him in the end. Those two characters made me believe I got them right to create such strong emotions.
In Hooked, my biggest challenge was creating a woman with a very questionable past—she’s an ex-call girl—so that people didn’t hold that against her. But she’s a main character. Those offended will close the book and never get to Benny Cooper, the ex-hedge fund manager who runs a high-class bordello. He’s―well, there’s no other way to describe him other than a schlemiel. He’s addicted to sex, and that’s what gets him in trouble. Hopefully, he’ll make you laugh. His ex-hooker wife is also a piece of work. What a pair.
For those of you reading this post who are writers, when you create your characters, do you put as much effort into those secondary characters as you do for the H/h?
Do you give them tics, habits, and mannerisms? Do some of them speak in an identifiable way? Dress? Walk?
If you don’t develop these individuals, think seriously about changing your ways. Every book highlights the main characters. A well-rounded book takes all the characters into consideration.
Happy reading and writing, everyone, and remember:
Her words were interspersed with nervous coughs. The woman was a basket case.
He was thinking. She could always tell because he rubbed the back of his
If she says “you know” one more time, I’m going to explode.
Not many women could get away with pink hair, but it suited her.
You can find all her books here: http://www.amazon.com/Polly-Iyer/e/B006IUWXWO/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1358741317&sr=1-2-ent