Friday, April 16

Big Sheila

So I’m typing away at my new story, minding my own business, when in comes Big Sheila. She’s 6’4”, three-hundred pounds, diamond in her nose and close cropped black hair. She has attitude. Umm, major attitude. But she didn’t come in via the front door or even the back door. And definitely not through the cat flap.

Although….I might reconsider the cat flap.

Big Sheila popped up while I was typing away at my new ms. In scene two, chapter one. I was minding my own business, following my outline (I was so proud of myself to have done an OUTLINE) when Sheila popped in to say “hi.”

And refused to leave.

As a matter of fact, by the way she’s leaning against the wall, enormous arms crossed and tapping her size 13 shoe (orthopedic), I’d have to guess Big Sheila’s here for the duration of the book.

This happened in my last ms, when Antonio wandered in. A Latin lover, silky voiced, beautiful deep brown eyes. Outspoken, opinionated, over-eager. And my hero’s butler. Did he stay in the background like a good butler and merely announce “Supper is served”? Not Antonio. Nope, Antonio hit on the heroine, eavesdropped on his boss and generally disobeyed every rule of butler-dom.

I loved Antonio.

In my very first ms, Gavin popped in. Popped in the way a volcano pops its cork. BANG! My heroine’s business partner, he dresses in lavish suits, looks like Vince Vaughn and dances like a wounded albatross. He’s witty, he’s smooooooooooth and he’s about as subtle as Joan Rivers’ facelift.

What I’d like to know, is what part of my brain is hiding these secondary characters? Medula Oblongata? Cerebellum? Curtain Number Two? It’s clear they’ve been lurking around in there, waiting to come out, because I know absolutely everything about them.

I know Antonio has small feet. I know Big Sheila lost her hair in chemotherapy and has kept it short since then. I know Gavin loves jazz music.

But what’s absolutely the most frustrating part of all?

I know them BETTER than my hero and heroine.

My H/H that I’ve spent hours interviewing, outlining, learning their likes and dislikes and favorite colors.

My H/H that are SUPPOSED to be the stars of my book, but instead, stand by, pale and wan as Antonio, Gavin and Big Sheila take over.

So, I thought, rubbing my hands in glee…I’ll just turn Gavin into my hero! Brilliance personified.

Except he refused. Flat out refused. Turned his back on me and walked away.

Antonio leapt at the chance, but then refused to speak.

Big Sheila grumbled she was too busy with work for such nonsense.

Sigh. What’s a gal to do with such unruly secondary characters?

Just keep writing them in. And trim them down a little in rewrites.

Umm..don’t tell Big Sheila I said that. She gets a little mouthy if she thinks she’s not getting her fair share of screen time.




  1. hehehehe....I know just what you mean.
    I sometimes have similar problems. Big Sheila reminds me of Janet Evonovich's sidekick in her Stepahnie Plum novels.

  2. Ha! I love a good secondary character...but I agree, keeping them from out-shining the H/h can be a toughy. Good luck!!!

  3. I feel your Big Sheila pain! In my two previous books and current W.I.P. I've had unruly secondary characters who've threatened to take over the book. It could still happen in the WIP because I like him better than my hero. *Sighs* Good luck with Big Sheila. (She reminds me of Lula, Stephanie Plum's sidekick, too!)

  4. I'm so glad to hear I'm not the only one with this problem. Sometimes the secondary characters as so much easier (and fun) to write. Just ask Reebok wearing, basketball playing, fear instilling Nona Celeste.

  5. I agree with what everyone else said, but I wish you'd talk Sheila into having her own story--or at least a healthy sub-plot, 'cause I really like her a lot.

  6. Great post, Carrie!

    I sometimes stuggle with the same problem (although no size 13 orthos for me yet...). I think the subconscious is able to create a character like this so nicely because there's no pressure for him/her to CARRY the book. She can just have fun, kick up her heels (although with Big Sheila, that might be a challenge) and saunter off the page.

    But I do think these characters help the writer enjoy the process more. Cheers to BS!


  7. kelsey..i think you nailed it....there's no pressure real GMC, no HAVE to's. they can just be themselves, while the H/H have to multi task.

    And yup, she reminds me of Lula, except their wardrobes are hugely Big Sheila has an even more "womanly figure" if that's possible!

    I'll have to keep a close eye on her, she's gonna be a scene stealer!


  8. Okay, I'm loving Big Sheila. She sounds like my kind of girl. (I actually know a Big Sheila). Maybe if you bribe her with her own book in a sequel...