Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Mildly Malicious


Daughters of Revolution.

Grant Wood, 1932.

Cincinnati Art Museum.


Have noticed a tendency in some genre fiction for other, minor characters to be all of a piece, they either all like the hero/ine or s/he is isolate and despised.

Naturally, there are positional benefits for either attitude in terms of character and conflict.

So far in A Malignity of Ghosts I find I've been even handed in that regard.

Meet another minor character.

Rhoda Tiller, Bobby's secretary and sometimes division dispatcher, though she was a civilian like me, was on the desk when I walked in the cop shop. Fortyish and chunky, with native-straight black hair and bangs cut short, she managed to exude more cop than some of the cops.
Except for the cherry-red lipstick. If I ever dared wear that shade, with my skin I'd look like a soul-sucking lamia - or worse.
I liked her, she was competent and loyal.
She did not like me.
Whenever I showed up, her lips always compressed a bit at one corner and her brown eyes narrow as if to prevent them rolling heavenward. Once I overheard her tell Bob that Lillie of the field was waiting to see him.
That was pretty clever of her, really, since I found bodies for them. Often in fields.

25 comments:

Erik Ivan James said...

~Laughing~

Bernita said...

Er, depends on what you're laughing at,Erik.

Scott said...

That inspires me to not make everyone so black and white, so to speak. It's not realistic, and too predictable.

Bernita said...

I think the constant advice to pare down and get to the action can lead us into the black/white trap, Steve.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

LOL...the way you wrote that reminds me of a Sam Spade novel!

Bernita said...

Oh dear.
That may be bad.
Don't think I ever read any Sam Spade.

raine said...

I like Rhoda, lol.

And must add--the name made me think of "roto-tiller", a machine used to--what else?--dig into the dirt...

She's a keeper. ;-)

Bernita said...

Maybe I'm being juvenile with her name, Raine.
But. I. Just. Could. Not. Resist.

Erik Ivan James said...

I was laughing at the great humor in your writing here today, Dear Gal. Chocked full of tidbits.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Erik.
Just goes to show. Except for Rhoda Tiller, I didn't think it was funny.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

No, that's a good thing! He wrote great murder mysteries!

Bernita said...

Yanno, Bonnie, when I began this I intended a urban fantasy thingy - romance problemtic, a maybe - but it keeps edging into mystery.
Thank you. I'll just have to see how it goes.

December Quinn said...

Whatever it is, I'm completely enchanted.

Kate Thornton said...

Had that Sam Spade ring to it for me, too - Dashiel Hammet was the best! How delicious to have a character whom you admire but who does not return the compliment. Exquisite writing, Bernita - as usual!

Bernita said...

Schweethearts... awfully hard to write when you're bumping along the ceiling...
Thank you, December and Kate!

Gabriele C. said...

It's such tidbits about secondary characters that make a book come alive.

Great job, Bernita.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Gabriele!

Holly Kennedy said...

Bernita, I love the voice the way you've written this. Rhoda Tiller might be a minor character (love her name btw) but it's often minor characters who add such wonderful seasoning to a story, don't you think? If done well, they can help crank up dramatic tension or offer levity in a scene that's gotten too tense.

I wish you'd written more... :)

Bernita said...

Eeek, Holly!
I thought I was pushing people's patience to have posted as much as I have of the WIP.
I agree, secondaries are most useful.

kmfrontain said...

*Chortle.*

This is so good, Bernita.

Bernita said...

Karen, thank you.
I keep wondering though, if I set up an expectation, and therefore you all see humour, or if the voice really comes through.

spyscribbler said...

Those are some great thoughts. I just realized all my secondaries admire my firstadary. It's definitely more useful to consider how and why and what will serve the story best.

Thank you, Bernita!

Bernita said...

Can make for easy conflict and complication, Natasha.
It is tempting to have the hero/ine universally loved/admired.
And then there's the other extreme.

kmfrontain said...

I don't think it's an expectation of humour. For me, the character is coming through with a dry sense of humour.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Karen.
Because I don't want a let-down if she loses it on occasion.