Secondary Characters

For my September guest blog at A Bibliophile’s Bookshelf I wrote about my love for secondary characters. I have utterly fallen in love with each of the characters I have created or expanded upon, some more than others, and was delighted to talk about a few of them. Hope you all agree!

When I began writing the short story that eventually evolved into the larger saga it has become, my only focus was on Darcy and Elizabeth. Of course I knew I had to mention the various servants since they are an integral part of Pemberley, but I took my time before I inserted other characters to the mix. The reasons for this are myriad: I wanted to spend quality time with the newlyweds, I wasn’t too sure what I was doing, I feared getting overwhelmed by the massive number of secondary players, and so on. I started slowly with just a handful of familiar folk from Austen’s novel and one or two original creations. And then, to my surprise, once I had opened the door to crafting new people and expanding on the ones already within Austen’s pages, I couldn’t contain myself!

However, this posed a new problem. Have you ever stopped and really thought about how many characters Austen packs into one of her novels? It is mind-boggling! I instantly knew that there was no possible way I could adequately deal with each of them. I had to pick and chose, leaving some of them quietly dwelling in Kent or Newcastle for the time being while I centered on those who called to my heart. In my second novel – Loving Mr. Darcy: Journeys Beyond Pemberley – I was able to greatly incorporate a wealth of secondary players as Darcy and Lizzy travel beyond the borders of their country estate.

Col. Fitzwilliam is so minor a character that Austen did not even give him a first name! I saw this man, Darcy’s cousin, as someone who probably would have known Darcy all his life and thus better than anyone else. Plus he was a military officer in a time of war. Great fodder for storytelling there! I named him Richard and developed an entire history of kinship with Darcy. Richard is the gregarious, humorous contrast to the serious, reserved Darcy. They compliment each other and are the dearest of friends. As the story unfolds, Richard’s arc is woven in and he has many moments to shine. I really love him!

Anne de Bourgh probably struck a chord within me due to my medical background. Who was this mysteriously ill woman living under the domineering shadow of her mother? Did she want to marry her cousin? Was she devastated when he married Elizabeth Bennet? What became of her? Again, I saw a chance to create an individual dear to Darcy, someone with a history and hopefully a future. I scoured through medical articles until I found an illness that could have been partially treated in those days. I wanted to give her a personality and voice, and a life beyond just the cast away “fiancé” of Darcy.

Georgiana Darcy is the Wickham-abused younger sister of Darcy. End of story. We know that Darcy loves her and would go to great extremes to protect her, but that is about it. Over the course of my saga I allow her to grow from a shy, insecure adolescent to a confident, mature woman. She is a young lady who has been alone most of her life with limited female confidantes. Lizzy is near in age, so I gave them a sisterly relationship. As with all these relatively unknown characters, I create a complex personality for Georgiana with individual interests and memories. I have taken her so far as to write a companion novel all about her romantic entanglements that I someday hope will be published.

Mary Bennet is the Bennet sister I highlight most prominently in this novel. Jane is there, as is Kitty, and both are a part of the story with tidbits offered. But it was Mary that I felt strongest needed her time to shine. I bring her into the social whirl surrounding Lizzy in London, giving her the chance to see beyond the narrow confines of Meryton. She gradually blossoms, her eyes opening to a world with promise. And naturally since I am in large part a romance novelist, Mary falls in love!

Most of Austen’s beloved characters are in Loving Mr. Darcy to some degree. I tried very hard to at least mention all of them, even if they never show up in the flesh. However, as much as I felt a tug on my soul for the existing ones, I yearned to invent others wholly mine. The Saga is replete with individuals who serve a purpose, all with distinct personalities. Some I created with the idea that they would be prominent, but then they weren’t. Others were planned to be short-term, but grew on me and exerted their presence.

In the latter category are the two personal servants of Darcy and Lizzy: the valet Samuel and ladies’ maid Marguerite. Wait until you read what happens to them! Then there are Lord and Lady Matlock, Darcy’s uncle and aunt, who provide necessary support dozens of times. And my favorite of all, the one character I absolutely adore, is Dr. George Darcy.

This eccentric, wandering physician uncle of Darcy’s was supposed to breeze in for comic relief, ruffle Darcy’s stoic tail feathers, and diagnose Anne de Bourgh. Then he was to sail away. I just couldn’t part with him! And I think my online readers would have hunted me down if I had sent him packing! I am so proud of George. I love the relationship he forges with Darcy. I love his humor. I love his irreverent attitude. I love his intelligence. I love his radically progressive outlook. I simply love him!

This is just scratching the surface. Thank you, Bella, for giving me the opportunity to talk about my characters and my novels. I hope my essay and your review have piqued your readers’ interest!

5 Comments for Secondary Characters

  1. Dear Sharon, it is so good to know that your saga is doing on an on….
    I can´t imagine that you´ll ever say: Well, this is the final sentence.
    About your characters, as I´ve said some time ago, I love them all, but my favourite are William and Elizabeth. Nevertheless, all the other give so much to your saga, they make the world of the darcys complete.
    And soon we will have another book from the Darcy universe!

    Have a great weekend and take care of yourself!

    Susanne

  2. Thanks everyone. I have to say, as much as I adore Darcy and Lizzy, there are so many other characters I adore as much. I have been working on the synopsis of Georgiana’s novel for my editor (even tho it is not finished) and it was a wonderful diversion to immerse myself into her and the characters who surround her.

    Great questions, Jenny! Richard is a confirmed bachelor…. or is he? 😉 Will Darcy finally get his chance to tease and torture his cousin? Stay tuned for future installments….. LOL!

    Lord and Lady Matlock. I haven’t tried too hard to see them as someone famous since they have an image in my mind. I have been asked this before and always think of someone like Helen Mirren or Meryl Streep for Lady Matlock. Someone very regal and very beautiful. She is tall, elegant, curvy but thin, silvery blonde hair, and very striking even though she would be well into her 50s. A slightly older Natasha Richardson or Cate Blanchett, perhaps?

    Lord Matlock is kind of the same. Not overly handsome but with a presence. A little like Anthony Hopkins or Ian McKellen or Christopher Plummer. Not that those men necessarily look alike, but they have the same aura as I see with Lord Matlock. Intimidating, but kind and will a faint humorous twinkle.

    You know, I am not sure what Darcy’s favorite dish is! I know he loves lemon and hot chocolate. He appreciates standard as well as exotic cuisine. He detests mutton and isn’t fond of trout. Basically he is a man who just likes food and has a healthy appetite!

    In general breakfast was served late, around 10 am, and was often a self-serve kind of thing. Not always, of course. Luncheon was maybe 2ish with tea time at 5. Dinner could be quite late. Typically 7-8pm, but if it was at a party or ball, it could be even later with food served continually well into the morning hours until nearly dawn.

    And if anyone is fretful over Charlotte or Wickham or more of Lady Catherine – bear with me. The saga is not done!

  3. When you list them all like this Sharon it is a true wonder how many extra characters you really do incorporate in your beautiful Saga. They all fit in so well its hard to imagine they haven’t been there all along!

    Richard is a real favourite of mine. The relationship he has with Darcy is one of the highlights if the whole saga for me. I could listen to them talk all day! Clever funny cheeky you name it he’s got it. He is a perfect male companion and confidante for our dear Darcy.

    Dr Darcy is another favourite his is eccentric very very funny and fatherly to our dear couple. They need him around. The story just wouldn’t be the same without him.

    I love how you develop Georgiana’s personality. She is afterall an integral part of Darcy and Lizzy’s life. She can’t just blend into the background.She has become a beautiful young woman, serene, intelligent and very accomplished.

    I have always been grateful that you gave Anne a voice and a life outside of Lady Catherine! She deserves it poor dear.

    All the way through your Saga Sharon, you create such a history for each and everyone of the characters. You fill in all the gaps of their life past and present life and it all fits together like an amazing puzzle. Its no wonder your head would spin with all this perect detail about all your delightful characters.
    Keep up the great work I LOVE it!
    TSBO devotee
    Vee

  4. Sharon,
    Once again it just shows what a good job you do!! You have thought out all the characters for the reader and, that is so fun!! I do love Richard and George, they are great guys!! Do you think you will ever have Richard marry?? She would have to be one cool cat! Also, I have been wondering what does Lord and Lady Matlock look like to you? I try to picture them but do not have a face. Can’t wait to see what you have in store for Samuel and Marguerite!!!
    I was reading about Darcy’s birthday suprise the other night and wondered what did you think his favorite meal was? Is there a place on your site that talks about what they ate and when? They seem to eat breakfast like we do but, I am unsure about lunch and dinner. I am sorry that I am so full of questions today..I guess I am just putting off "The Christmas to do list" LOL!!!
    I can’t thank you enough for giving me something so fun to escape to and give myself a little "me time"!!!!
    Thank you again,
    Jenny

  5. I love all the characters and how you bring them to life and the way Darcy and Lizzy enjoy them and are so easily part of the story line. They do not take over any chapter – you make them natural to the story – they are not forced in. I adored what you did with Mary and Anne de Bourgh- it was wonderful and unexpected. I know readers will love it and will what more of them. I cant wait for your novel to come out in January! and the next one after that!!

I love to hear from you!