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Guest Post: Marc Turner

I’ve got a bit of a treat today with a guest post from Marc Turner, the author of When the Heavens Fall, talking about secondary character.  Enjoy!

Secondary characters

 

One of the real pleasures of writing for me is creating secondary characters. By “secondary” I mean a character who is not a point-of-view character, but who is more than just a walk-on. So what’s so enjoyable about writing them? Partly I think it’s that you have more freedom to paint them in really colourful strokes. Take, for instance, the character of Friendly in Joe Abercrombie’s Best Served Cold. Friendly is described on the cover as a mass-murderer obsessed with numbers, and “obsessed” is certainly the word. There’s a moment in the book when he gets thrown down some steps, “and the worst of it was he couldn’t even count them”. He’s a hugely entertaining character to read about, but I’m not sure I’d want to spend a whole book inside his head. There are some traits, I think, that are interesting in moderation, but if used to excess could soon become wearisome.

Having said that you have more freedom to write secondary characters, there is one aspect to them that I think you cannot dispense with. For me, a secondary character’s main purpose is to teach the reader something about the main character. How? Sometimes just by being around them. The way the main character responds to what a secondary character does and says will tell you a lot about that main character. I always look to create a secondary character that is different from the main character in one or more significant ways, because those differences create opportunities for conflict, and conflict creates drama.

Consider Jaime and Brienne in George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones. Jaime is a decidedly unsympathetic character in the first two books, but he becomes a more interesting character in book three, A Storm Of Swords, when he journeys with Brienne to King’s Landing. Brienne is everything Jaime is not: honest, trustworthy, honourable. At the start of their journey they loathe each other, but they come to share a mutual self-respect. I would argue it is Brienne’s presence, and not just the loss of Jaime’s hand, that is the catalyst for the positive developments in Jaime’s character. Imagine if instead it had been Cersei, or Tywin, or even Tyrion who had been with him on the journey. Do you think he would have changed in the same manner? In this way, Martin’s choice of secondary character is critical to Jaime’s story.

My debut, When the Heavens Fall, has four viewpoint characters. Each has a companion without whom their story would not be the same. One of those viewpoint characters is a priestess, Romany, who serves a goddess called the Spider. Of all the sections in the book, the ones containing their conversations were among the most enjoyable to write. Romany begins the story as a hedonistic and privileged sort, and the Spider never passes up an opportunity to tease her about it. Their very first exchange sets the tone for their relationship. The goddess has called on Romany at her temple and finds the place has changed since her last visit following a raid by one of Romany’s enemies. In particular, the priestess has added a bathing pool to her personal quarters. Romany explains:

 

“Time has not stood still since you last graced us with your presence, my Lady. You are aware the temple was attacked earlier this year?”

“Someone broke in and built you a bathhouse?”

 

To the Spider, everything in life is a game, and people merely the pieces she manipulates to play it. At first Romany shares her view, but during the course of the book she gets to see the effects that her actions have on others. The Spider becomes the standard by which Romany’s growth can be measured. For whilst the goddess remains steadfastly ruthless (in a charming sort of way), by the end of the book Romany must choose whether to risk her life in order to undo some of the damage she has caused, even if that means challenging her goddess’s instructions.

Parolla is another of the viewpoint characters in When the Heavens Fall. Very little is revealed about her at the start of the book, save that she seeks a confrontation with Shroud, the Lord of the Dead, in order to settle an old debt. Parolla’s parentage gives her abilities that make her dangerous company to keep. Because of her background she is slow to trust others, and it takes a very particular sort of secondary character to get her to open up. Enter Tumbal, an earnest and inquisitive spirit.

 

“Tell me of yourself,” [Parolla said]. “You are a warrior?”

“No, my Lady. I am a scholar—an engineer by trade.”

“What did you build?”

“Cities. Well, dwellings, if truth be told. And only for a time, at that.” Tumbal looked at his feet. “Few of my constructions stood the test of time. When demand for my services diminished, I decided to become an inventor.”

“And what did you discover, sirrah?”

“Only that I was less than accomplished in that calling also.”

 

Tumbal does not take himself seriously, and his example encourages Parolla to do likewise. As the story advances, and Parolla’s inner demons begin to consume her, Tumbal becomes the person Parolla clings to as she tries to resist her darker impulses. Without him there, her story would have followed a very different path.

In the case of both Romany and Parolla, the secondary characters are essential components of their story. Yes, secondary characters need to stand on their own – they need to be interesting and compelling – but ultimately the story belongs to the viewpoint character(s), and the secondary characters need to service that story else they are not doing their job. In the worst case scenario, the reader might even end up unsure as to whose story it is. If I’m writing and I feel that one of my minor characters is becoming more interesting than a main character, that’s a sign that the main character needs more work.

So who are your favourite secondary characters, and why? I’d be interested to hear, so feel free to leave a comment below.

MarcTurnerWhen The Heavens Fall

 

Marc Turner was born in Canada, but grew up in England. His first novel, When the Heavens Fall, is an epic fantasy published by Tor in the US and Titan in the UK. You can see a video trailer for the book here and read a short story set in the world of the novel here. The short story has also been narrated by Emma Newman, and you can listen to it free here. Marc can be found on Twitter at @MarcJTurner and at his website

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I’m late posting this, but we have a winner!  Congratulations Elise Smith, you win books!

Please get back to me with a way to contact you within three days to claim your prize.

Alright, I’ve got another giveaway for you guys, Adam Christopher’s The Burning Dark and The Machine Awakes. These books both sound like awesome sci-fi goodness with humanity venturing ever further into space, terrifying machine aliens, and multilayer conspiracies set to make things so much worse.

So, standard question for entry: Tell me about the sci-fi you love. Do you prefer David Weber style military hard sci-fi or Ann Aguirre style soft sci-fi? Who’s your author of choice?

The usual rules are in effect. One winner from the US or Canada will be announced next Tuesday the 28th and will have three days to respond with a current email address. If the winner doesn’t respond after three days a new winner will be chosen. The winner will be picked using a random number generator.

I’m considering going back and rereading some of the books that I liked back in middle school and seeing how I feel about them now.  It’d be kind of like a review but full of spoilers and general talking about the thing and how I think it could have been better.

If I do this then my first book on the list would probably be Silver Ravenwolf’s Witches’ Night Out, mostly because I found it second hand a couple months ago and figured that I’d see if it stood up to nostalgia.

Cover Reveal: Saving Marilee

Author Annette K. Larsen has just revealed the cover for her new book Saving Marilee. This will be released on May 1, 2015. In conjunction with the cover reveal she is giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash.

If you are willing to post the cover reveal you can grab info off these links or use the HTML below. You can post anytime from now until next week.

Post info:
http://www.iamareader.com/2015/03/cover-reveal-giveaway-saving-marilee-by-annette-k-larsen.html
Rafflecopter grab link:
http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/share-code/MGEwMDk2ODM4YmEyM2MyMzNmNmEwNjhkYWFjNGMwOjE1MjM=/?

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Coming May 1, 2015 – Saving Marilee by Annette K. Larsen

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Saving Marilee by Annette K. Larsen

Marriage wasn’t bliss—not for Marilee. Instead of finding contentment with the handsome son of a sovereign duke, she found betrayal and neglect. And fear. A fear that finally lifts when her husband dies, freeing her from his domineering hand. But freedom alone can’t give her peace, and she must battle to regain her love for life, rebuild her happiness, and reclaim the ability to trust. When her charming neighbor intrudes on her quiet life, offering his friendship (and a dog, of all things), she must determine whether his interest is genuine, whether he is a friend or foe, and whether he deserves the fragile bit of trust she has managed to scrape together.

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AnnetteAuthor Annette K. Larsen
I was born in Utah, part of a crazy, fun family of nine. I grew up in Flagstaff, AZ and St. Louis, MO before striking out on my own college adventure in Virginia. I decided to try my hand at writing novels after I was married and living in Idaho. I write clean romance because it’s my favorite genre, but often difficult to find.

I have Charlotte Brontë to thank for the courage to write novels. After being bombarded with assigned reading about women who justified abandoning either their families or their principles in the name of love, I had the great fortune of reading Jane Eyre. And that was it: finally, a heroine who understood that being moral and making the right choice was hard, and sometimes it hurt, but it was still worth it. After rereading it several years later, I realized that if I wanted more books to exist with the kinds of heroines I admired, then I might as well write a few myself. My books are about women who face hard choices, who face pain and rejection and often have to face the reality of sacrificing what they want for what is right. The consequences are often difficult or unpleasant, but in the end, doing what’s right will always be worth it.

I believe there is no substitute for good writing or good chocolate. Fortunately, one often leads to the other.

Website * Twitter * Facebook

Cover Reveal Giveaway

$25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash

Ends 4/8/15

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

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Alright, I gave her a couple of extra days because I was late with the announcement, but I haven’t heard back from Loverofbooks. That said, Antane is the new winner!

Alright, I’m more than a little late posting this, and for that I am sorry, but we have a winner!

Loverofbooks, please email me your mailing address to receive your copy of The Exile.

So, I’ve been gone for awhile.  Work and all that, but I’m back and I bring tidings of good reads!  Thanks to the lovely people at Tor, I’ve got one copy of C. T. Adams’ new book The Exile up for grabs for readers in the United States and Canada.

This is a really cool sounding book about a half Fae witch living in the human world, selling magic trinkets and the occasional spell, unaware that in the relm of the Fae an ancient prophesy is coming to pass that will place all that she loves in danger.

To enter, post a comment on this post and tell me about what you look for in urban fantasy and a way to contact you if you win.

The winner will be randomly selected on Friday, March 6th and will have three days to get back to me with their shipping address.

Originally posted on Bound 4 Escape:

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Long, long after I initially decided to do this, I’m finally posting something about it. I’m going to be breaking this down a bit in terms of what I’m covering.  Because of the nature of the thing this is going to be full of spoilers, so, you know:

Spoiler Alert

General Feelings:

All You Need is Kill:  I covered this in my review, the book is a decent, solid piece of genre fiction.  It isn’t the best thing out there, but it’s also far from the worst.

Edge of Tomorrow:  I haven’t reviewed the movie, so this is the first time I’m saying much about it online.  It’s a summer blockbuster with more budget than it really needed and enough changes made from the source material that I’m not sure of the reasons behind.  It feels less like Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt as vehicles to tell the story and more like using the trappings of a story as a vehicle to use Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt to make money.  It was entertaining, but it wasn’t good.

Keiji vs Cage:

All You Need is Kill: Keiji starts the book a totally green, untested private who has to grow into a competent soldier over the course of two days with painful deaths as the reset point. He knows the people in his unit at least passingly even if they aren’t used much in the book, little things early on that serve to tell the reader that.  The loops change that, locking him in to trying to get a little better each time so he can get out and survive. Keiji can feel more than a little disconnected from the rest of humanity at times due to the time loop, but I feel that he’s shown to be a more or less heroic figure at the end when he takes up where Rita left off and vows to wipe out the Mimics once and for all.  He’s been forced to kill the only other person who understands what he’s been through to break the time loops.  He’s left an outcast for his actions during the battle, having not only killed Rita but also done tremendous amounts of damage to both the base and his fellow soldiers.  The thing is though, even with that, he’s going to keep fighting until the Mimics are gone or it kills him.

Edge of Tomorrow: Major Cage starts the movie seeming just kind of slimy.  He’s the guy shilling jackets to the world, talking about how they let someone as inexperienced as Rita Vrataski fight the Mimics and win. He’s a media suit with respectable rank who, when told he’s being sent to the front lines, jumps from trying to weasel his way out of it to trying to blackmail the General giving him his orders.  Cage isn’t a character I can really believe as keeping fighting after the first couple of loops, he’s the guy who thinks he can talk his way out of anything even as he digs himself in deeper and deeper.  Meeting Rita could be a tipping point there, he doesn’t become more heroic or anything like that, but he has a goal to work towards.  He finally sacrifices himself to kill the omega, ending the war and saving humanity, but even that winds up ringing hollow.

The Mimics:

All You Need is Kill: The Mimics in the book are these drowned frog looking things that were sent out by another more advanced race to teramorph the Earth and make it habitable for them.  So they look a little doofy, but they eat dirt and poop poison and when one dies so do all of the humans in the area unless they’re wearing proper protective gear.  It’s kind of cool.  They all look the same, but the ones that out put the signal to cause the loops stand out somehow.  It isn’t really covered how they’re identified, though it is revealed that if that one is killed the signal will switch to another mimic. So they keep that going and win anyway, unless a human gets caught up in it and keeps fighting until they manage to kill the signal mimic and all of the others that the signal could bounce to.

Edge of Tomorrow: I’m going to admit, the mimics in the movie look way more intimidating than drowned frogs, but they also seem to have replaced the just creepy poisonous innards with just speed and strength.  The movie also added two other types of mimics, a sort of alpha that has the time loop signal in it’s blood somehow and an omega mimic that sits and directs all of the others.  The alpha types I get, in a more visual medium it’s necessary to show that the signal mimics are different from the others.  The omega type just bothers me, it only exists so that the movie can have a clear cut happy ending.  The movie’s mimics also have to bleed on someone for the loops to pass on to them, so that’s different, but it also just seems to be there to make sure that the ending is happy enough.

Rita Vrataski:

All You Need is Kill: Book Rita is the Full Metal Bitch, and she earns the title from her first appearance onwards.  She turns up as Keiji is dying and makes meaningless small talk so that, when he kicks it, she can take the battery from his Jacket.  She distances herself from the other special forces members for thirty some hours prior to every battle, because she needs to distance herself from them in case she winds up in another loop.  But she’s also had her jacket painted bright red so that she’s the one the mimics are going after first.  She’s a lonely figure, unable to tell anyone about what she’s gone through because they could never understand.  When Keiji talks to her about the loops for the first or second time, she cries because she isn’t alone anymore.  She connects to him in that one day because he gets it.  The next day is the final battle of the book, she figures out why the loops continued after the two of them had killed the right mimics the last time, and she goads Keiji into a one on one duel because she knows one of them has to die to end it.  This is honestly something I had really wanted to see in the movie, because that would have been awesome.

Edge of Tomorrow: Movie Rita is the love interest, while she does get some really cool moments and is the one to ostensibly teach Cage to actually fight the mimics instead of just trial and erroring his survival, she isn’t as big a deal as book Rita is.  Part of this could be that we don’t really see the people in charge reacting to her like we do in the book, but I honestly thing that a bigger part is that she’s mostly there as a mix of the love interest and exposition.  Cage doesn’t wind up broken because they never win.  He gets broken by never being able to save Rita at the helicopter, no matter how many times they go through it or what he does, so he stops going to her for help until he realizes that the mental images he was being sent were a trap by falling head first into it.  The movie itself goes out of its way to give them semi-romantic moments because Cage is written as falling for her, the bit before her heroic sacrifice in the final loop is the worst offender.  They also made her British instead of American for the movie and got rid of most of her back story.  She really didn’t get a part of the movie where she was the hero instead of Cage.

The Ending:

All You Need is Kill: Keiji is out of his time loop and the battle is won, but Rita is dead and the mimics are still out there.  So he winds up with the American Special Forces to be their new weapon against the mimics.  The book ends with him essentially vowing to Rita that he’s going to keep fighting and planning what he’s going to do to keep going.  It’s sort of bitter sweet. I honestly really like this because the main character’s victory isn’t the be all end all win for humanity.  It’s a big win, but it isn’t THE win.

Edge of Tomorrow: It was all a dream.  The mimics mysteriously died before Cage even gets to meet the General and humanity is saved.  None of the sacrifices mean anything because they never happened.  No one but Cage remembers anything because it never happened.  There is no continuing threat to be overcome.  Nothing.  The omega is dead, it’s blood got on Cage’s body before he finished dying.  Everyone lives and Cage, now a Major again and out ranking her, goes to find Rita because he’s fallen for her.  End film on Cage giving a little smirk. I don’t like this for all sorts of reasons. Again, the sacrifices mean nothing in this ending so why should I care?  Cage doesn’t seem to have learned anything except maybe that he can get out of even that and, hey, Rita’s still alive this time.  That bit kind of plays to my issue of Rita seeming to have been down graded to love interest.  She doesn’t know him, has never met him, is out ranked by him, and without the mimics as a threat there really isn’t a reason for them to get to know each other beyond his having a thing for her. He holds all the cards here, she’s never met him but he knows all this stuff about her.  It’s weird for me, but the movie presents it as part and parcel of the happy ending, bad guys are dead and the hero gets the girl.

Ending Thoughts:

I liked All You Need is Kill, it was sparse and kind of dark and even where there was hope there was still further to go. Edge of Tomorrow,I liked OK, but it was less intelligent and more explosions and Cage getting shot in the face that made it fun.  I hands down don’t like Cage as a character and I don’t like how they handled Rita, but I did like the design for the mimics and the fight scenes were pretty awesome.  I’m gonna say that the book wins this one but that I would watch the movie again if it was on TV and I didn’t have anything better to do.

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