Last time I posted, I talked about the appeal of books set in a small town. There’s nothing like returning to the place where your characters shine and you fall in love with the locale. When I read series books, I’m happy to return to these places and experience the joys and familiarity of a particular location all over again.
There’s another reason I love books set in small towns. I get to catch with previous characters, which is always nice because we become invested in their stories. But as an author, I love to create quirky secondary characters and to me, a small town has plenty of them. Think about your favorite books and I’m sure a character or two is rooted in your memory. While with the main characters I spend a great deal of time figuring out their conflicts and what makes them tick, with secondary characters I have a ball. They say and do things my main characters wouldn’t. And they don’t shy away from who they really are.
Secondary characters can be used as a sounding board for the hero or heroine. They can also be troublemakers who push our main characters into circumstances they would normally walk away from. Or, they just add humor and color to a story.
The Meet Me At the Altar series features the Matthews brothers who have their own story lines. In each book, I featured their mother, a strong women who knows her own mind and how to manipulate her sons…in a good way. Through her interaction with her sons, she draws out emotions that they have to reflect on at some point in the book. She loves her sons, but she wants daughters-in-laws and grandbabies and never lets them forget.
Also in this series, one brother is a main character, but the other brothers feature in the books to capture a different side of each one. We see their family loyalty, but also sibling rivalry and affection as they pull the wool over each other’s eyes.
Here’s an excerpt from Always the One, the story of the oldest brother, Derrick Matthews. This scene features Jasmine Matthews and her sons.
Voices rose in celebration. His mother’s gaze caught his and with a small lift of her chin, she motioned him over. He skirted the outer rim of the crowd to find his brothers already behind the gazebo with their mother.
“I have a request,” she said as the four circled her. Derrick could have sworn he heard Dante groan.
She looked each of the grown men in the eyes. “I love you boys too much to decide who will give me away at my wedding. So I’ll leave the decision up to you.”
“Are you sure?” Derrick asked.
She cupped his cheek with her warm hand. “I’m sure.”
After winking at him, she strolled away.
Reaching into the front pocket of his jeans, Derrick withdrew a worn coin. He ran his thumb over the warm metal, the raised edges smooth after years of being handled.
“Okay, guys. What do you say we decide who gives Mom away in the Matthews’ family tradition.”
Dante rolled his eyes. “I hate this tradition.”
“Poor loser?” Derrick asked.
“No, so far I’ve been fortunate, but the anticipation is agony.”
Dylan slapped Derrick on the back. “What do you say we let those two go first.”
“Works for me.”
“Heads,” Dante called.
With a flip of his thumb, the coin sailed into the air then landed in Derrick’s palm. He looked at it for a long time, stretching out the suspense, a grin curving his lips.
“Oh, for the love of…” Dante griped.
“No worries, little bro. Heads.”
Dante blew out a breath and turned on his heel.
“Escaping so soon?” Deke called after him.
“I’m going back to Eloise where it’s safe.”
Deke turned back to the bearer of the coin. “Heads.”
“You sure?” Derrick asked.
“Let’s keep the good luck rolling.”
Once again, Derrick made a show of letting the coin twist in the air. The wind picked it up, but after it came down, he winked at his brother. “Safe.”
“Good,” Deke replied, then narrowed his eyes. “By the way, I’m onto you.”
Derrick’s hand flew to his chest, and he projected an air of innocence. “Me?”
Shaking his head, Deke walked away but not before Derrick glimpsed a small smile.
“That just leaves us,” Derrick said to Dylan.
“Why bother? The coin is double-sided.”
“How do you know? You’ve never seen it.”
Dylan sent him a really? glance. “My point, exactly. You wield that coin to do your bidding.”
“Then let me buck the system and call tails,” Derrick said.
“Magnanimous of you.”
With a chuckle, Derrick sent the coin into the air. It hovered. Dropped. Derrick eyed the metal and said, “Guess I had to lose some time.”
“Let me see,” Dylan said, reaching for the coin. Derrick snatched his hand away.
“Nope. Doesn’t work that way.”
“So you really lost?”
“You doubt me?”
“You’ve been known to cheat.”
Once again, Derrick went for hurt. “I’m wounded.”
Dylan crossed his arms over his chest. “Yet you haven’t confessed.”
“Fine. You win.” Dylan took a few steps back, then turned to leave. A couple of minutes later Jasmine reappeared.
“How did it turn out?”
“We decided I’d have the honor of walking you down the aisle.” He puffed out his chest. “I am the oldest, after all.”
“And this decision didn’t have anything to do with you manipulating the coin toss?”
His eyes went wide. “How…”
“You boys think you’re a step ahead of me.” She rolled her eyes. “That will be the day.”
I love a mother who is always in the know. Didn’t we grow up hearing about eyes in the back of a mother’s head? How she caught on to everything we did? With secondary characters we get to have fun or they help move the story in an emotional way, which is why we open books to begin with.
The next time you’re enjoying a good book, take the time to savor the secondary characters and their roles. You might just discover a whole new world hidden inside a book.
Tara Randel is an award-winning, USA Today bestselling author. Family values, a bit of mystery and of course, love and romance, are her favorite themes, because she believes love is the greatest gift of all. For more information about her books, visit Tara at www.tararandel.com. Like her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/TaraRandelBooks. Sign up for Tara’s Newsletter and receive a link to download a free digital book.