I'm taking a break from the incredibly happy-making current WIP, and I found myself looking through old (5 years old, nearly) emails.
One of them, from my editor at St. Martin's, was talking about the first Haunted Ballad, The Weaver & The Factory Maid
. She was talking about wanting the modern characters to be 100% of the focus, and why she thought having them discover the solution to these historical crimes would work better than giving the dead people page time through any other medium than Penny/Ringan/et al doing the research.
A minor thing popped out from one of her emails. She's talking about the modern characters, and she uses the phrase "the surprising Albert Wychsale."
Now, Albert - Baron Boult of Glastonbury, sweet elderly man, with a warm heart, a hard head, and a certain kind of courage - was a secondary character, at least when I wrote him in the first book. In fact, even after I'd begun the second book, I wasn't sure we'd see more of him. But Ruth Cavin wanted more of him: he'd surprised her.
Okay. Jump ahead a few years, and here's me, having completed Rock & Roll Never Forgets
and jumped right into the muddy waters of the second Kinkaid, While My Guitar Gently Weeps
. About a third of the way through, I realised that I - and the story - both wanted Blacklight's frontman, Malcolm "Mac" Sharpe, in this story, along with his (Jamaican and female) bodyguard, Domitra Calley.
So I wrote him in.
As Joe Walsh puts it, "POW! Right between the eyes/oh, how nature loves her little surprises!"
Seriously. I'd seen the character of Mac, in the first book, as a goodnatured horndog whose only three passions were sex, humanist politics, and rock and roll. Not a lot of hidden personality for me to run with; he struck me as very "what you see is what you get". One of those laaaaaaaarge types, and me, I prefer the sidemen, the session players.
Yeah, well, the character looked me in the eye, smiled sweetly, and said "Sod off, lady, I'm going THIS way and you're free to come along, but we're not arguing over it."
Not being - as JP Kinkaid would say - completely dim, I undug my heels and let him pull me down the road. And I got one of my favourite characters out of it. Mac, in his own way, is a masterpiece of a human being. He's funny, smart, warm-hearted, a natural frontman who can hold a crowd in the palm of his hand and still make someone at the back of Wembley Stadium think he's singing directly at her. The scene in Book of Days in which he "accidentally" films a Blacklight video for "Liplock", a song about oral sex, and seduces an evening entertainment talk show hostess on camera in the process, makes me cackle every time I read it or think of it. It's also emblematic of Mac.
So, writers, talk to me.
Who are your surprising characters, and why? How did they surprise you? Come on, people! Dish!
(and if you want to see what other writers have to say about it, this is crossposted with my livejournal, as well, right here.
You won't be able to comment unless you have a livejournal account - I don't allow anonymous posting - but you can read.