Away from the Spotlight by Tamara Carlisle
Tamara Carlisle is here today and she will be awarding two $25 Amazon GCs to randomly drawn commenters during the tour!
Romance Novel Supporting Cast
A well-done romance novel is a vacation from the ordinary. It is a chance for the reader to step into the shoes of the heroine and live a life that is different from the reader’s own. Supporting characters should enhance that experience. They help flesh out the imaginary world, shed light on the lead characters, move the story forward, and explain past events either unknown or not previously described by the narrator.
For example, in Away from the Spotlight, unless there was a character or plot-driven reason for heroine, Shannon Sutherland, to have traveled alone around Europe after the California Bar Exam, she needed company. Her friend, Pam, served as that company and allowed for a little snarkiness not found in the sweet relationship between Shannon and hero, Will MacKenzie:
“Let’s go get some beers. I could use a little hair of the dog. Besides, we can celebrate and being a little tipsy will make it easier for me to tolerate the two of you.”
The reactions and dialogue of the supporting cast serve to describe the main characters and their actions in a way that narrative and inner dialogue cannot. I wrote Away from the Spotlight in first-person narrative from Shannon’s point-of-view. Although a reader may determine that a character is attractive from the self-description, unless that heroine is arrogant (and an unlikeable heroine is never a good idea), narration and inner dialogue won’t necessarily make that clear.
In the following excerpt from Away from the Spotlight, Shannon’s conversation with friend and co-worker, Rachael, makes it clear that Shannon is attractive, and that Shannon doesn’t really see it:
“Please” Rachael said. “You get hit on every time we go out.”
“That’s overstating things quite a bit.”
“You seem oblivious to it half the time.”
I guess I did ignore some of it. When you spend time as part of a female minority in bars full of drunk men, it was hard not to think that some of them would have hit on me for no other reason than that I was female, regardless of how I acted, what I said, or what I looked like. I therefore learned that getting hit on wasn’t necessarily a compliment and, the later it happened in the evening, the less of a compliment it was.
As another example, the following dialogue between Shannon and Will’s friend, Niall, helps explain why Will was particularly attracted to Shannon when they met:
[Niall] then turned his gaze to Will. “You didn’t mention she had ginger hair. I might’ve known.”
“What do you mean?” I asked curiously and looked at Will, who looked embarrassed. Will then glared at Niall.
“I promised I’d be good. I’ll just say that he’s had a thing for it for a very long time.”
Supporting characters also help move the plot along. In the following sequence, Will and Shannon have broken up and been apart for a few months. Shannon’s friends took her out regularly to cheer her. On this particular occasion, Shannon’s friend, Annie, steered Shannon into the path of Will:
On the Friday night of the following week, which was my first full week of being a bona fide litigator, I met up with my college friend, Annie, at a sushi place in Beverly Hills. It was her turn in the rotation to keep me company for the evening. Annie always liked to visit different sushi restaurants and, despite the fact that I didn’t like sushi, I would go with her for the chicken teriyaki and the lively atmosphere at these types of places.
I hadn’t been seated too long when I spotted him. Will was there, sitting at a long table at the back with six other people, none of whom I recognized. Unlike his normal routine, he didn’t sit facing away from the crowd in the restaurant.
Although he was still as beautiful as always, he wore several days worth of stubble, his eyes were bloodshot, and he looked fairly out of it. There were a number of large bottles of Japanese beer as well as what looked like sake sitting in front of him. He had each of his arms around the two girls flanking him, one of whom was kissing his neck.
So this was the Mr. Hyde that had been alluded to by Will and his friends from his early days of fame. Seeing him like that made me believe that I had never really known him at all. I stared across the room at him and my eyes went wide with shock. At that moment, he saw me, let go of the girls, and stared back with a pained look on his face.
Knowing that Shannon saw him in such a state, Will goes to see her the next day to explain himself, leading to a reconciliation.
The supporting cast can also detail relevant past events outside the perspective of the narrator. For example, Katherine Sullivan, Will’s frequent co-star explained how Will handled the break-up with Shannon:
Katherine chimed in this time. “Well, I was with Will during the Midnight 4 shoot. He wasn’t a lot of laughs then either. He spent all his free time in his room or trailer alone, probably curled up into a ball. The makeup artists complained about the bags under his eyes. And trying to get happy scenes out of him was like pulling teeth.”
At the end of the day, supporting characters should be fun, adding to the reader’s enjoyment of the story. I had fun creating mine. My two favorites were Rachael and Carrie. Shannon’s friend and co-worker, Rachael, is described as follows:
Rachael was a beautiful buxom blonde with one of her tattoos, a rose, peeking out from behind her blouse. I had never met someone who was so much fun to be around. Her wit and vivaciousness always managed to attract a crowd wherever she went.
Shannon’s friend and summer roommate, Carrie, is described as follows:
Carrie was kind of quirky, which gave her a lot of her charm. She was an avid tabloid reader, the sleazier the tabloid, the better. She planned on sleeping in a sleeping bag on top of her bed fully-dressed every night. Sheets, comforters and nightgowns were not her thing. It must have been an interesting adjustment for her boyfriend, Jeff, ten years her senior.
As a writer, I love creating and populating an imaginary world, including its supporting characters. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about a few of the supporting characters I created in Away from the Spotlight.
In the closing weeks of law school, Shannon Sutherland meets handsome and charming Englishman Will MacKenzie. Initially swept off her feet, Shannon finds that Will has a secret that, once discovered and the consequences realized, could destroy their fledgling relationship. Will and Shannon take great pains to have a normal relationship but, ultimately, find it impossible to do so. Will the pressures of their careers and the temptations of others drive Will and Shannon apart? Can Will and Shannon live a happy life away from the spotlight?
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Tamara Carlisle is a former attorney and business consultant. Away from the Spotlight is her first published work of fiction. She currently is working on two additional novels: one is about love in the music industry and the other is a work of paranormal fiction. Tamara currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area with her British husband and daughter. For further information, go to http://www.tamaracarlisle.com.
Library Thing: http://www.librarything.com/author/carlisletamara
Tamara’s Goodreads Author Page also includes a blog detailing trivia relating to Away from the Spotlight.