Sometimes I envy writers who understand all their characters before they begin a story. While I know a lot about my characters by the time I sit down to write, there is much more that I discover in the process of crafting their journey.
This is especially true of minor characters. Every minor character brings their own unique and rich history. While much of that history won’t be revealed in the novel at hand, every author worth her salt understands the importance of knowing the backgrounds of minor characters. It’s the blending of history, experience, and personality that determines a character’s motivation, their action, or non-action, in any given moment. And the actions of minor characters are often critical in driving a story’s outcome.
A friend once told me that he knew how each of his characters was going to die, whether or not that death was meant to happen in the story at hand. That comment stuck with me, and I’ve since found that knowing how a character dies does, somehow, illuminate the patterns of their life. This is somehow mysterious and counter-intuitive, but in the realm of story telling, it seems to be true.
Editing the second edition of Eolyn gave me a great opportunity to go back to early days of some of my minor characters, and to consider them in a new light, given all I’d learned about them while writing books 2 & 3 – including, in some cases, how they die.
Today, I’m sharing a scene, a sneak preview of the new novel, that features one of my minor characters, Renate.
Renate appears in book one as the dance mistress for Mage Corey’s Circle. She’s advanced in age, though not old, and she carries a dark burden, the details of which are never fully revealed. We do know that Renate trained as a maga under the Old Orders, and that she survived the purges by giving up her magic. Whether she also cooperated in hunting down her sisters is unclear, but she is haunted by guilt over their violent deaths.
I recently “discovered” Renate in a video by the group Iron and Wine; her personality is captured in the mistress of the flamenco dancers who interpret the song Boy with a Coin. The attitude, the grace, the severe expression; all of it is exactly how I envisioned Renate while writing these novels. I’m embedding this video at the end of the post, so you can see a little of Renate for yourself.
In the first edition of Eolyn, Renate did not have a proper opening scene of her own. Her first appearance consists of an argument with Mage Corey, described in three short sentences, almost an after thought on my part. When I came to this moment in the novel, I thought, “Renate deserves better than that.” So, this is what I gave her instead. Here we see Renate for the first time, from Mage Corey’s point of view. I hope you enjoy the scene.
Eolyn (Second Edition), Excerpt from Chapter 16
“Have you gone completely mad?” Renate cried, bursting into Corey’s tent the day after he hired Eolyn. “Putting that girl in your magic show?”
“I’ve been seeking an assistant for some time,” Corey replied evenly.
“She’ll be on the pyre within a week, and the rest of us may very well burn with her.”
“She will not do any magic.”
“Even the illusion of magic could—”
“She will not perform any illusions.”
“Curse you, Corey! I am so weary of the risks you take.”
“You are free to withdraw from the Circle any time you please, Renate.”
Renate set her lips in a thin line. Corey knew well the terror he invoked whenever he suggested she leave. Nothing waited for Renate outside the Circle, save solitude and fear, the unending torment of all her ghosts from the past.
Renate’s tone softened. “Corey, please. She’s just a child. Don’t make her your toy in this.”
Toy? Was that what Renate thought?
“I can’t imagine what you expect to gain from this folly,” Renate insisted, “but that girl, that beautiful, innocent girl, could lose her life. Is that a fair price for your amusement?”
Corey could not very well argue with that.
Well, he could, but why upset Renate more than necessary?
Like what you see? Read more! Eolyn will be released on March 31, and is available now for pre-order on Kindle.
And here’s the video I promised: