Monday, January 14, 2013

The Importance of Minor Characters: Guest Post by Libby Heily, Author of Tough Girl

I could not be more excited!  Today is the release of Tough Girl by Libby Heily.  I had the pleasure and privilege of reading this book in its last stages of editing and to put it quite simply, my mind was blown.  This book is completely unlike anything I've ever read.  I feel like the word masterpiece even falls short in describing the greatness of this book.  I could go on and on but I have to leave room for Libby's guest post, so if you want to know all my thoughts, I encourage you to read my Goodreads review right here. Look, this is the read of a lifetime so do yourself a favor and get this book.


Here is the synopsis:


Danger lurks everywhere in eleven year old Reggie's world—from the bully next door to the unwanted attentions of a creep at school. Raised by her mentally ill mother, Reggie is left to fend for herself in a rough neighborhood. She escapes in daydreams, battling aliens with her alter ego, Tough Girl.

When Reggie's mother disappears, her fantasy life spirals out of control and starts to invade reality. She is hunted by a creature of her own design, and even Tough Girl is not strong enough to stop him.

Will Reggie survive long enough for her mother to return, or will her dream world take over?



Here are the purchase links and bio of the fabulous Libby Heily:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Goodreads

Twitter:  @LibbyHeily

Blog

About Libby:

I'm a bookworm and a writer, a nerd that's seen every episode of
Farscape and can't wait for the next Dr. Who Season to begin. I enjoy
running and playing sports and am always hopeful the Baltimore Ravens
will win a superbowl. I love movies but don't care about the Oscars.
I eat apples regularly but find apple juice bitter and don't like it.
I'm a foodie and a beer snob. I eat babies. Okay, just baby carrots.
I studied acting, video production and creative writing. I've had
very few jobs that reflect any of those years of study. I am Libby
Heily, and it's nice to meet you.

Finally, Libby's Guest Post:

The Importance of Minor Characters

Thanks Lisa, for having me as a guest today!  I decided to gear my guest post towards you.  One of the many things I loved about Finding Claire Fletcher was how you made your minor characters people, and not just place holders.  Today, I wanted to talk about how important minor characters can be.

In Tough Girl, we meet a whole host of people, some for only a scene or two.  They are no less important than Reggie, the main character.  Minor characters give texture to a story.  They add to the plot, character building, world building, or flat out entertainment.  In order to be effective, they must be well developed.

There's one scene in particular of Tough Girl that I love, and it's one that most likely no one will notice or comment on.  It's the scene where Reggie goes to the nurse's office.  Reggie has just had an encounter with the Octhmuslan, the imaginary alien that stalks her in reality.  She's fainted and been found by Mrs. Stegner, her first period teacher.  Mrs. Stegner accompanies Reggie to the nurse's office, and this is where we meet Mrs. Chumley.

It would have been very simple to never describe the encounter.  The point of this scene is to see how Reggie is able to convince herself that none of this ever happened, that she was just daydreaming.  It would have been super easy to leave the matter alone there.  But why miss an opportunity?  Instead, I focused on Mrs. Chumley, on who she is what she wants.  I gave her the hobby of reading romance novels during work.  Once I did that, I knew who she was.  Mrs. Chumley does not want to be a nurse anymore.  She does not enjoy her work.  She's bored, and much like Reggie, she escapes the drudgery by reading.  Like many adults in the story, she is not evil, but she overlooks Reggie's troubles.  Mrs. Chumley is too preoccupied with her own life, needs,  and disappointments to delve into any of Reggie's issues, medical or otherwise.  Instead, she focuses on getting rid of Reggie as soon as possible and with as little effort as possible.  Here's the scene:


The nurse’s office was tiny, big enough only for a single bed and a small desk.  Mrs. Chumley sat filling out forms.  A romance novel lay splayed open next to her.  On the cover was a man with long hair and rippling muscles.  He held an injured woman in his arms.  Her clothes were torn and her eyes were closed as if she’d fainted.  The nurse caught Reggie and Mrs. Stegner looking at the book.  She covered it with a half-filled out form.
“Mrs. Chumley, I’ll leave her to you,” Mrs. Stegner said, eyeing the documents carefully.  Mrs. Chumley had been filling out the form upside down.  Mrs. Stegner made a tsking sound as she left the nurse’s office.
“What do you need?” the nurse asked.  She put the forms right side up and began to actually read them.  “Little time out of class?”
“I was dizzy,” Reggie said.
The nurse put down her pen and picked up the phone.  “Who do I call, mom or dad?”
“What?”
“Mom or dad?  Which one?”
“But I’m fine.  I was just a little dizzy.”
Mrs. Chumley sighed but did not put the phone down.  “If you’re dizzy, puking, have diarrhea or any other serious symptoms, I have to call your parents.  If you just need a little time out of class, then you can take a nap while I read my forms.”
“Time out of class.”
Mrs. Chumley hung up the receiver and pointed to the bed.  “Anyone comes in, you have a mild headache and need some rest.”
“Okay.”
Reggie lay down and counted the black dots in the tiles above her head.  Mrs. Chumley picked up her book again.  The only sound Reggie heard over the next agonizingly slow thirty-five minutes was the turning of pages.  By the time she was excused to go to her next class, she’d convinced herself that none of it was real.  She’d fainted when she left math and dreamt the whole thing.


The whole scene is only a few paragraphs.  We do not know Mrs. Chumley well, we only meet her in the context of Reggie's story.  What we know is that she is bored and no longer cares (if she ever did) about the welfare of the students.  Her apathy allows the absence of Reggie's mother to go undetected, keeping Reggie in jeopardy.  This highlights a theme of the novel, how a child's problems can be easily ignored by adults.  We also get to see a brief but hostile conversation between Mrs. Stegner, the closest thing to a caring adult Reggie encounters throughout the novel, and Mrs. Chumley.  This conversation does not last long as Mrs. Stegner also doesn't want to delve too deep in Reggie's problems either.  She cares, but does not truly want to get involved.

Do you have a favorite minor character from a book or movie?  What made you respond to them?





28 comments:

  1. Nice post, Libby, and a great little excerpt. In very few words you've created a vivid picture of the office and Mrs. Chumley. Congratulations on the release of Tough Girl, and best of luck!

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  2. Yes Libby, you tripped me on the baby eating...glad you cleared that up!

    Lisa, you're totally right. I finished TG this weekend and it was simply awesome. I want to adopt Reggie, she's had enough. And that ending? Didn't see that coming!

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    1. Thanks Elizabeth!!! Baby carrots are yummy!!!

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  3. Bringing out minor characters is something I continue to work on. I'm good with secondary characters now, but the minor ones...

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    1. Always a good goal! Thanks for mentioning TG on your blog today!

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  4. Thanks for having me over!!!! You are amazing!!!

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  5. Yep, Tough Girl is an amazing read. Very happy for Libby today.

    And I love when a minor character is depicted as a total person. I remember that scene and reacting to it with an inner "high five" that the nurse had her own agenda.

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    1. Knowing I inspired an inner high five has just made my day!

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  6. Tough Girl sounds awesome! Great synopsis and excerpt. I'm adding it to my Goodreads books as soon as I leave here. :)

    Nice to meet you, Libby! It looks like your Baltimore Ravens have a good shot at winning the Super Bowl this year!

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    1. Glad to meet you. I'm having heart attacks watching those games.

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  7. I've never really thought too much on this subject. I will definitely when I write book 2. Very clever! BTW, I just bought your book! Can't wait to dig in.

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  8. Great post Libby. I'm reassessing each of my minor characters as I read. How do you guard against giving them too much and making them a distraction from the major character or the plot?

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    1. I think it's about being honest in the scene and working on that moment and making sure that moment is right. When I work on a scene, I do think about how it affects the whole story, but also how is the pacing? what are the characters achieving? what does this one moment need? If you stay true to the characters and true to the moment, that usually keeps things in order.

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  9. The blurb for this book is fantastic!

    Congrats on your book release, Libby!

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  10. i haven't heard of the book, but being raised by a mentally ill mom, wow, this book is going to have some good depth to it! congrats to libby!!

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    1. Thanks Tammy. It was a struggle to write. :)

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  11. Thanks for this! Way to go, Libby! Looks wonderful. :D

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  12. This is a great excerpt. I love bringing my minor characters to life. After the first draft, where I learn all about the major characters, I really get to know the minor ones. They're extremely important and can be oh so helpful in moving the story along :)

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  13. Must. Read. This. Book.

    Thanks for sharing, Lisa! :) And congratulations, Libby!

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    1. Thanks Carrie! I hope you enjoy it!

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  14. This does sound good... going to look for it right now!

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  15. Great blurb!
    The story sounds wonderful!

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  16. The premise is intriguing. Great post! :D

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