Secondary Characters Who Demand Their Own Stories

When I was writing My Fierce Highlander and the hero’s brother, Lachlan, stepped on stage, he instantly came to life. I knew he would need his own story. He was such a rake and a rogue and the fun-loving, adventurous type. He loved teasing Alasdair, his more serious older brother. I thought, won’t it be fun when the tables are turned and Alasdair can tease Lachlan? Here is Lachlan's second scene in My Fierce Highlander where he is still a secondary character.

A knock sounded at the door, then it opened and a tall man stuck his head in. He grinned.
“Lachlan, come on in, then.” Alasdair motioned the kilted man forward. “M’lady, I would like for you to meet my brother, Lachlan.”
The man’s tawny, golden-brown hair was long as a pagan’s and hung halfway down his chest. His amber-brown eyes, several shades lighter than Alasdair’s, held her own in a startling, direct manner. Waves of magnetism emanated from Lachlan. She suspected no lass he set his sights on would retain her virtue for long.
“Mistress Carswell is the MacIrwin fairy I told you about who saved my life.”
Both men grinned at her—a devastating picture, to be sure, with their virile good looks.
Gwyneth’s face heated with the ridiculous comment. Fairy, indeed.
She stood and curtsied. “’Tis a pleasure, sir.”
“I assure you, m’lady, the pleasure is all mine.” He bowed. Coming forward, he grasped her hand and pulled her upright. “Alasdair, I believe your words were ‘bonny MacIrwin fairy,’ and I must agree with you. Ne’er have I seen such lovely blue eyes.” Lachlan kissed her fingers.
Good heavens! What silver-tongued charmers these MacGraths were. Heat rushed over her.
Alasdair cleared his throat, and Lachlan released her.
Gwyneth’s gaze locked with Alasdair’s, which harbored a glare, and his brother stepped away to stand at the mantel. Something unspoken had passed between the two men. And something possessive in the way Alasdair watched her now held her captive.
Oh dear.Her knees going slightly weak, she reclaimed her seat.
“I’m forever in your gratitude for saving the life of my beloved brother,” Lachlan said over his shoulder. She glimpsed a hint of a smile and wondered the reason for it, though she thought she knew. My Fierce Highlander copyright 2011 Vonda Sinclair

This scene shows his character in a nutshell. Lachlan's smile at the end of this excerpt tells us he's gearing up to give his brother some needling over his possessiveness of Gwyneth. Very noticeable and telling since he hasn't been possessive over a woman in over two years. Lachlan appears here and there throughout the story. It seems he always has good luck in many areas of his life, especially with the women. But is there such a thing as too much good luck?

Once it's time for Lachlan to show up in his own story, My Wild Highlander, what better way than we catch him at one of his favorite pastimes? Too bad the heroine, Angelique, is there too. Oops! :)

London, England, 1618 
"Lady Angelique! Come back, sweeting!" ancient Lord Chatsworth called.
Sacrebleu! Angelique Drummagan rushed down the corridor, eased open a door and slipped inside a dark drawing room, one of many within the maze of Whitehall Palace. She prayed Chatsworth would pass by. He fancied himself her suitor and did naught but drool on her hand every time he was near.
Heavy breathing and moans sounded from across the room. She turned and froze, her eyes searching the near darkness. Who was here? Only the shifting moonlight glinting off the Thames provided any illumination, revealing chair backs and settees.
A high-pitched giggle pierced the air from several yards away, in the vicinity of a sitting area near the cold hearth.
"Shh."A long moment of silence stretched out, broken by sounds of kissing.
"King James wishes her brought before him forthwith," a muffled male voice said outside the closed door.
"She vanished in this passage," Chatsworth said.
A pox upon the old lecher! And the king, too. Angelique crept across the Turkish carpet and slid behind the brocade window drapery.
"Ooh, I'm impressed with your swordplay skills, my laird." Lady Eleanor's voice, breathy and excited, shattered the quiet of the room. She was the one moaning and giggling?
The harlot."I'm not a laird, but I do thank you for the compliment."
A Highlander? Angelique would recognize that tongue-rolling speech anywhere.
She had never known Eleanor, countess of Wexbury, to dally with anyone below a viscount. What was she doing with a barbarian? That's what her mother—God rest her soul—would've called him, or any Scot. And Maman should know; she'd been married to one.
Eleanor cried out with carnal pleasure. Angelique's face burned hot. She couldn't comprehend how a woman found pleasure in the act. Never again would she entrust her body and heart to any man. Since men were naught but faithless pigs, she knew she only had duty before her, not happiness. Not love. That had been a foolish child's dream.
Eleanor gasped for breath and the Scot made a growling noise. The height of pleasure, some said. Surely the French term le petit mort—the little death—was more accurate. Nausea gripped Angelique even as shocking excitement quickened her heart beat. A dark, hidden part of her wondered… No, never again. I cannot marry and be subjected to a man's lust. She pressed trembling fingers against her throat and found it damp with perspiration.
The door opened and lamplight reflected off the white walls.
"Lady Angelique?" Dryden's nasal voice echoed through the room. He was the most vexing of the king's courtiers.
The two lovers became silent.
"I know you're in here. I heard a noise."
From her position behind the draperies, she noticed the light moving across the floor.
A thump sounded, then rustling.
"Sir Lachlan? What in Hades are you…?"
"I was but…resting," the Scot said.
"Have you seen Lady Angelique?"
"Dryden, the lamp, if you please," Chatsworth said.
"What is it?"
In the silence, the light shifted again, growing brighter as it moved in her direction.
Mon Dieu, do not let them find me, s'il vous plaît. Angelique's pulse roared in her ears. She detested Chatsworth, and now, to be discovered lurking about in a dark room while a Scot coupled with a lady harlot would be exceedingly mortifying. They might even accuse her of spying on them.
Dryden yanked the drapery aside.
"Parbleu!" Angelique blurted and pressed a hand to her mouth.
Dryden sent her a vile grin. In the background, Chatsworth scowled, then shot a murderous glance at the man they'd called Sir Lachlan, who stood in a darkened corner.
Where had Eleanor crawled away to? Angelique couldn't see her beneath the carved furniture in the dimness.
"You and Sir Lachlan?" Dryden snickered. "His Majesty will likely find this interesting."
"Non! I was not—Lady Eleanor was—where did she go?" Embarrassment flamed over her. Now, they thought she'd been with the Scot? Never."No need to lie, mademoiselle. Come. The king wishes to see you." He ushered her toward the door. "You, too, Sir Lachlan."
"Indeed." Dryden waved him forward.
The Highlander stepped into the light. The giant was more than a foot taller than she, broad shouldered and wearing a belted plaid, leaving the bottom portion of his muscular legs bare. She'd seen few of these barbaric articles of clothing since she was nine years old and her mother had taken her from Scotland.
His face was ruggedly masculine with a square jaw and hard chin, enticing to a woman's baser instincts, but not refined. This was the same man she'd seen leaving Lady Catherine's bedchamber the night before. Then, he'd been wearing trews. Dallying with two women at court? Or perhaps more? Lecher.Amusement sparkled in his eyes before he bowed. "M'lady."
"Sir." She curtsied.
The Scot's darkened eyes fixed upon her in a too-knowing way. To cover the heat rushing over her face, she strode from the room.
Feeling like a prisoner headed for the block, Angelique walked beside the Highlander through several rooms and dark-paneled corridors, taking two steps for his every one. Dryden and Chatsworth followed. She would not be surprised to feel the prick of a sword at her back. Glancing around, she found the men empty-handed.
They passed through four doors, guarded by numerous courtiers and royal servants before reaching the antechamber with its gleaming ebony furniture upholstered in the finest red velvets. Numerous candles lit the room and glimmered off the gold leaf.
What did the king want? He'd sent for her two days before at Hampton Court Palace, though he hadn't been ready to meet with her until now. She disliked leaving the comfort of the queen's household, but King James was her guardian and she must do as he bid. Chatsworth and Dryden had been searching for her before they found her in the room with this Highlander, so the summons could have naught to do with him. Why had they asked him to accompany them?
They neared the king's private rooms and an usher opened the carved door. "Lady Angelique Drummagan and Sir Lachlan MacGrath," he announced.
The four entered. The men bowed, and she curtsied deeply before the king.
The scrawny, aging monarch, wearing overblown clothing in colorful silks, occupied an ornate chair on an elevated platform. Buckingham, his favorite courtier, a regally handsome dark-haired man in his early twenties, stood next to him, along with several other members of the aristocracy.
"You have found her." King James turned his rheumy, unsteady gaze toward the tall man beside her. "And Sir Lachlan, I'm so glad you have joined us once again."
"Your Majesty, 'tis a supreme honor." Lachlan bowed.
Dryden whispered something to another courtier, who whispered to Buckingham. And he proceeded to murmur into the king's ear.
The frail monarch's eyes widened. "The two of you have…met?"
Angelique's face heated. "Non. Not in truth."
The king frowned at his courtiers but his expression lightened when he looked at Lachlan. "It matters not. This is my ward, Lady Angelique Drummagan, the new countess of Draughon in her own right." He motioned toward her. "My dear, meet Sir Lachlan MacGrath, a hero to whom we owe much."
The cursed MacGrath took her hand and kissed it. "'Tis my great pleasure to make your acquaintance, m'lady." His rich baritone and the Scottish burr appealed more than it should have.
She stiffened.
In the bright candlelight, she saw he was a most visually interesting man. His tawny hair was too long by far and not of the current style. His eyes gleamed like a tiger's eye stone. It was not the color that arrested her, but the expression—assessing and sensual. She had come upon many a rogue like him in France, and barely escaped marrying one.
She jerked her hand away but remembered her manners just in time and curtsied. Not too deeply, because he didn't deserve even that. "An honor, Sir Lachlan."
A tiny grin lifted one corner of his full lips. Though she already loathed him because he was a Highlander and a debaucher, something about him defied her to look away.
"Through his cunning and sharp wits, Sir Lachlan has saved the life of our dear marquess of Buckingham and broken up the den of conspirators," King James said. "We knighted Sir Lachlan a fortnight ago but we believe he deserves an even greater reward. Do we not, Steenie?"
Buckingham nodded.
"He will also receive a title." King James gave her a toothless grin. "Earl of Draughon."
What? Her late father's title?
The shock and silence threatened to render her senseless on the floor. What had the king meant?
"Yes, my dear, I have finally found you the perfect husband. He is Scottish, as you are. He is pleasing to look upon and…"
"Pray pardon…Majesty." Fearing she would faint, she quickly curtsied and fled the stateroom as if Lucifer himself chased her. She would die before she'd marry a Highlander whose favorite pastime was lifting skirts.
Lachlan watched the lovely red-haired lass dash from the room. What the devil had just happened? Had the king said something about a husband? And the earl of something? He shouldn't have drunk so much sack earlier.
He shook his head, attempting to clear it. Facing the king, Lachlan could hardly believe he stood once again in His Majesty's opulent private chambers—Lachlan, a Highlander and a second son with no title, nothing but a canny wit and a sword. During the past several weeks, while he'd been at court, enjoying every moment of the drinking, feasting, hunting and other, more carnal, pursuits, he had not been caught in such a compromising situation. And now His Majesty wished to leg-shackle him to a prickly lass? It made no sense. Clearly, Lachlan had overstayed his welcome and should've already departed for his clan's Kintalon Castle in the Highlands.
"Well, then," King James said. "Has there ever been a bride unafraid of the holy state of matrimony?" He grinned. "A toast!" He motioned to his courtiers and servants, who scrambled about for drinks.
Future bride? Lachlan shook his head. Nay, he could never marry. He loved women too much to settle with only one.
"Your Majesty, pray pardon… what are you saying? You wish me to marry Lady Angelique?"
"Yes, yes. I understand you two already know each other, in a sense." James winked.
"Upon my honor, I did not touch her. She happened upon me in the room where I was napping." Had she already been in there when he and Eleanor had arrived, or had she slipped in later? And who had she been hiding from?
"Very well." The king glared at Dryden. "He did not touch her."
Lachlan accepted a crystal glass of the king's prized Greek wine.
Marriage? God's teeth! 'Twill be a disaster."So, what say you, lad?"
Damnation, he should say naught. He should keep his tongue trapped firmly betwixt his teeth, but given the dozens of aristocratic gazes burning into him, including the king's, he could not play a mute this late in the day. Marriage? He could not entirely grasp the concept, except that it might be torture. But he could not offend the king by refusing. Besides, he had mentioned an earldom, had he not?
"I…I don't rightly ken what to say, Your Majesty, except I thank you. I'm overcome by your generosity." Lachlan bowed. Saints! What did I utter? He was afraid he'd just agreed to get married.
 My Wild Highlander copyright 2011 Vonda Sinclair

When you're reading a book, do you love it when secondary characters get their own spin-off stories? What about those of you who are writers? Has a secondary character sprang to life on the page and tried to take over?

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Roxy Boroughs said...

I'm a big fan of J. R. Ward's. And all of her characters seem to get a book of their own.

Yours sounds great. Who doesn't like a Scottish warrior?

derekd said...

Absolutely! I prefer books that do this, as it is an opportunity for the writer and reader to dive deeper into the setting and characters.

I have intentionally set up a wip to have a couple of spin-offs. I have to have something to do whilst I wait patiently for the next MacGrath installment.

Alexa said...

As a writer, I often give secondary characters their own story. That can get difficult when I want to give them all their own story and sometimes I, as the author, know their story isn't "big" enough for a completely different manuscript. I just completed a bounty hunter story and in the process of writing that story, I ended up with ideas for a wholes series of bounty hunters which at the moment has 5 more stories in the works!

As a reader, I enjoy secondary characters who get their own stories. It feels like I'm "on the inside" when I've been able to see them in the original stories and then in their own.

Nancy Lee Badger said...

Well, I certainly understand the hair-pulling that comes when characters speak out...and want their story told. Love your books, your covers, your romantic heroes. Good luck!

Ella Quinn said...

I loved your excerpts. I have Rupert who wants his own story, but he needs to wait until he's older.

Vonda Sinclair said...

Thanks Roxy! J.R. Ward's series is incredibly popular and with good reason. I'm glad you like Scottish warriors too.

Vonda Sinclair said...

Derek, that's for sure. I get hooked on characters and want to see them in several stories. It's a great idea to plan stories that way. You have built in readers for the next story. I'm glad you're wanting to read the next MacGrath installment. Thanks!! :)

Vonda Sinclair said...

Alexa, a series of bounty hunter stories sounds awesome! To read spin off stories, you do feel you already know the character before the story starts. Thanks!

Vonda Sinclair said...

Nancy, thanks so much! That's so sweet of you to say!

Vonda Sinclair said...

Thanks tons, Ella! Yes, some secondary characters are too young to get their stories right away. They will have to be patient.

Cindy Sample said...

It's amazing how fans learn to love secondary characters and demand larger roles for them. I think it means we're doing our jobs as writers. I just upgraded my supposed victim to a potential suspect. Talk about the characters taking over!

Vonda Sinclair said...

Cindy, that definitely sounds like what's going on. But it's also an unexpected twist. Readers love those. :)

Vanessa Holland said...

I've read, and loved, both your books and I got sucked into your excerpts all over again. Yes, I've had secondary characters try to take over a story. Recently, I had to completely cut out one because he really wanted to come to life and I didn't have room for him. Maybe he'll get his own story one day.

Babette James said...

Great excerpt! I love reading spin-off stories and meeting the characters again. As a writer, I've definitely had the surprise of secondary characters springing to life and demanding their own stories. I'm working on three sequels now thanks to those very vocal characters. :)

Vonda Sinclair said...

Oh thanks so much, Vanessa! I hope you do give that character his own story. Sounds like he's really strong and active.

Vonda Sinclair said...

Thanks, Babette! Wow three sequels, that's great! I love how secondary characters inspire me sometimes.

Fraoch said...

I just finished the last book in Sabrina Jeffers Hellons of Halstad Hall. There were five books in all, one for each of the children who were given an ultimatum to marry within the year or no inheritance. Add to this was an underlying theme that in each book more clues came out about the death/murder of their parents. I just finished the last book and it was sooo wonderful the best of the five and intense sexual tension.

I am thinking almost all historical authors do this as it generate return sales. But thing is that each book should stand alone even if you get the idea through foreshadowing they will have their own But the best ones for me are those that have an underlying event that links them all together so that you don't know the final resolution until the last book. Or books in a series like Monica McCarty's current series of Scottish Warriors, an event links them all.

I even like the ones where you get say a trilogy of a family and then years later the author returns with the children of the inital characters. Catherine Coulter has done that quite successfully were Sherbrooke famiies. AS has Johanna Lindsey. Makes good marketing sense.

Marilyn ~ wiggiemd said...

I love when secondary characters get their own story as a reader.

As a writer, I have trouble with them wanting attention and trying to push the primary character to the back burning...LOL...

A.W. McQueen said...

Vonda, I loved, loved Lachlan even though he pissed me off a bit in the first book but I understood his motives.

I just knew you had another book up your sleeve. I also love how each brother is his own man and yet they are alike in their passion and fierceness.

Vonda Sinclair said...

I agree! I think writing series and connected characters is a great way to make readers want to read more. If they like the secondary character in the first book, chances are they'll want to read their story too.

Vonda Sinclair said...

Marilyn, I know what you mean. It's fun to find characters showing up in multiple books.

Vonda Sinclair said...

Lizzie, thanks for reading my books! I'm glad you loved Lachlan even though he made you mad. LOL That was before he'd learned his lesson. :) That's true. They are alike in some ways and yet different in others.