Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Ginny McBlain: BEAR HUGS and Secondary Characters

I'm pleased to have Ginny McBlain visiting on my blog today. I first met Ginny in 2008 in Portland, Oregon at the EPIC Conference. It was a pleasure meeting her then, and it's a pleasure having her on my blog for the first time. Please welcome Ginny McBlain!

I’ve written books with casts of interesting secondary characters, such as Bear Hugs, a March 16, 2018 release and Solemn Vows, coming in August 2018, which has very few. Both books have been updated from the original and are to be republished by Uncial Press.

Secondary characters are fun to write. These folks give the author the opportunity to create vivid players in a supporting role. They may have colorful characteristics to contrast with those of a protagonist. They may add comic relief when the tension is too much or they can be a sounding board for one of the protagonists. The author can use a secondary character to help a main character see through his/her own blind spots, and one may be used to clarify the best characteristics of the hero, heroine or both. Or perhaps such a character will point out that no one is perfect no matter how hard one might try. And they can play a major role in a sub plot. There must be other reasons to people a book that I’ve overlooked.

As an example, take the five main secondary characters in my romance, Bear Hugs, which stars Hunter Blackwell, an actor who plays Bidwell Bear, a children’s TV character and budding singing star, and Paige Holbrook, ex-wife of a football star. One of my all-time favorites is Palmer May, Hunter’s publicity agent. He’s overweight, bald and given to wearing very loud polyester sport jackets which exceeds his girth. To cover his chrome dome, he has grown his graying fringe and sideburns very long. He French braids both over his pate and pulls the back into a pony tail tied with Rick Rack. He is colorful, as is Monica deWitt, the producer of The Bidwell Bear Show. She smokes, and wears unflattering skimpy clothes. Palmer is opportunistic and a tad shady. Monica is possessive, demanding, and obnoxious, a total opposite of Paige. These characters bring out the best in Hunter. Through them we learn his values and some of his motivations. Hopefully, the reader will want to wring both their necks at times.

Bonnie Blalock is Paige’s friend. Bonnie’s a protective, blunt-spoken woman. She is Paige’s sounding board and helps Paige see through her blind spots. Paige’s self-centered father, Will Montgomery, recent widower, is used to being waited on hand and foot. Today’s women will have a hard time relating to his chauvinist attitude. These two provide the means for Hunter to see what make Paige tick.

Last, but certainly not least, is Jamie, Paige’s young son. He’s in a coma, and compels Paige to contact Bidwell Bear, the child’s favorite TV character, at the beginning of the of the story. Jamie, a typical rowdy four-year-old boy, supplies pathos and comic relief.

By contrast, Solemn Vows is short on secondary characters. I didn’t realize the lack would make writing the story difficult. Three young children were not enough to carry the full load of the role of lesser players. Nor were the three off-scene characters, discussed but not present. Two were dead and one missing. Quinn and Meredith, our hero and heroine, are newlyweds. He inherits three pre-school age children five days after their marriage. There’s no one for either to talk to but each other. Like most people, there are times when a person needs an outside opinion. Meredith desperately needs a friend with whom to vent. I had to come up with a way to throw in a secondary character to fill the role. My solution was a single scene, in which a walk-on character in the form of a kindly stranger becomes her sounding board.

I vowed never again to write myself into that particular box. The lesson was clear, secondary characters are vital to telling a good story. The number and how they are used depend on the plot, length of the book and the development of the protagonists.

Think about whether or not you agree with my assessment of secondary characters the next time you read a book and let me know what I might add. Contact me through my web site, ginnymcblain.com

Blurb, Bear Hugs:

Paige Holbrook needs help to bring her son out of a coma. In desperation, she turns to Bidwell Bear, young Jamie's TV idol.

From the first meeting between Paige and Hunter Blackwell, the man inside the Bidwell costume, each experiences an attraction neither can ignore. But Hunter is about to realize his life-long dream--to be a singing star.

Glitz and glamour aren't Paige's thing, not after what she's been through with her star quarterback, playboy ex-husband.

Is Hunter's love worth the glare of the spotlight?

Pre-Order Buy Link for Bear Hugs: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B079J6CYDV

Author Bio:

Ginny McBlain is a pioneer in the field of electronic publishing. Her first e-book, Heart Broken, Heart Whole, was released in 1996. Both Bear Hugs and Faith, Hope and Charity were finalists in the EPPIE contest. Solemn Vows was nominated for the Frankfurt Award. She has served in writing organizations in many capacities, including two terms as President of the Romance Authors of the Heartland, from 1995-97, a foundering mother and first President of EPIC (1998-1999), the Electronically Published Internet Connection (now EPIC, the Electronic Publishing Industry Coalition) and the first EPIC conference chair.

She lives in Nebraska in the heartland of the USA with her husband of almost 50 years, whom she met on an airplane at Omaha’s Eppley Airfield, during her days as an airline stewardess. Their son, daughter-in-law and the five grandchildren live close-by. Ginny spends her “spare” time attending her grandchildren’s school concerts and performances and is active in her church. She has a herd of dusty elephants on parade throughout her house. Display cases protect her collection of thimbles from eager little fingers. She loves to create her own recipes and to entertain, as well as decorate her home.

Ginny’s books are available from Uncial Press, www.uncialpress.com in a variety of electronic formats. Visit her web site, www.ginnymcblain.com


  1. Thanks for guesting with me, Ginny. I was especially intrigued when you said that having no secondary characters made one of your books difficult to write. I hadn't thought of it before (probably because I always have some sort of secondary characters) but it's so true. Secondary characters really have an important job!

  2. Thanks, Ginny & Jana, for an interesting post. As a writer and as a reader, I do love secondary characters -- they can be colorful and loads of fun without carrying the burden of making readers LIKE or even sympathize with them. Which leaves them free to be anything from dorks to fonts of wisdom. And when they're real individuals well-sketched, they provide so much texture to a story!

  3. Thanks, Jana and Mary for your kind remarks. What a pleasure to blog with Jana. Many thanks for inviting me, Jana.
    Hugs and chocolate,