Tuesday, May 02, 2017

The Evolution of a Secondary Character (Part III)

How about a SERIES buy link?
(And once again, SPOILERS ABOUND! So if you haven't read Beyond Fate, you'll probably want to skip this -- unless you want to view it as an excessive tease, I guess. but. I don't recommend it!)

So after I got my (very long and very in depth) editorial letter on the manuscript I had submitted to WWP (represented by last week's less than stellar scene work -- and to think at the time I thought it was some of my best writing. yikes.), I had some brainstorming to do, and some serious rethinking of Marcus's role. He was problematic as a character because, well, he didn't HAVE a lot of character. Maybe a little bit of jealous personality but that was all he had going for him when it came down to it. So what was I trying to DO with him? What purpose was he meant to serve? Jealous friend-zoned guy wasn't going to cut it.

There were two major elements:

  1. I wanted him to be a representation of Eve's dissatisfaction. For the first two books, Eve had been happy to embrace her role in the world, but after everything she's experienced, everything that's happened to her -- well, she's struggling. She's grown a little bit more jaded and a lot less content. I needed a love interest for her that could illustrate some of why that was. (And by love interest, I do mean "guy interested in her.")

  2. He needed to be Joe Normal. A John Doe. A human, mortal tether for Eve, to ground her in the world. Kind of like Garrit and the House of Lions, but on a smaller and far less successful scale. Ultimately, he wouldn't completely succeed, and maybe he was being set up to fail, but he had to be positioned in such a way that he could give it his all. Marcus had to be the normal person who might have been perfect for Eve -- before Adam and Thor.

Maybe those two elements are more just one really complex element, but ultimately, those were the purposes Marcus had to serve in the book -- in Eve's story -- and so that was the shape I needed to grow him into. And it needed to start with their history.

In the Draft One (his second incarnation) Marcus had become someone who Eve had kind of grown up with. The Boy Next Door. But I hadn't done anything with that information, beyond using it as a reason for why he didn't buy Eve's blithe explanation of Adam as a long lost brother. (Something along the lines of "Uhhh, you never had a brother before? I think I would have noticed.") But in the final draft, I dug deeper into that. Marcus had to KNOW Eve. Or at least he had to know the girl he'd grown up with. And the struggles she'd faced. And I needed to give the readers a sense of how MUCH history they shared with more than just a one-off line.

It was still an awkward meal, though in a very different way than it might have been. Marcus had temporarily given up his planned romantic overtures, evidently believing that Thor had gotten to her first, and neither Eve nor Thor dissuaded him of the notion. Not that it had stopped Marcus from showing off.

“Anna can’t stand to be around children,” he said at one point. “Didn’t you ever notice the way she recoils? I’m sure you must have run across packs of them during your adventures, overseas.”

Thor had just refilled her wine cup, and if Marcus didn’t notice the way he hesitated, his hand hovering frozen with the bottle for just a heartbeat longer than it should have, Eve certainly did.[...] Marcus may not have realized the significance of what he was saying, but if Thor had watched her all this time, he surely did.

“The elderly, too,” Marcus went on. “We tried to get her to volunteer at a retirement community during our Twelves, and she had an anxiety attack. Head between her knees, trouble breathing, the whole works. Lucky for her, I was there. But she was always odd about large groups of people, anyway, growing up. The most introverted of introverts.” He smiled. “Good thing I was friends with everyone for her or she’d never have made it through grade school. Don’t you remember, Anna?”

She remembered. She remembered Marcus’s encouragement and kindness on their first day of school, his hand wrapped tightly around hers, lending her the strength to face their classroom when she’d been overwhelmed by even the thought of so many minds. He’d never understood. How could he? Marcus loved people so easily. And they loved him back. Because he never judged, never faulted. Hadn’t she been that way, once? Before she’d learned her lesson. Before Adam had left her. Before Elah had drowned her in silence. She couldn’t even remember how she’d managed in her past lives, not when the noise of it stretched her so thin, now. So brittle. She’d been devastatingly lonely in her last life, walking a fine line on the edge of sanity, but this? The way the world felt to her now, all yawning green pits of despair and starvation. In its own ways, it was worse.

“First day of our Nines, when we got off the bus, I thought she was going to faint,” Marcus said, laughing far too lightly for a friend treading much too near to truths they’d sworn never to speak of in company. “Her face went whiter than snow when she saw how many of us there were. My poor, socially stunted girl. Her parents tried to put her on medication for the anxiety, but she was having none of it, even then. And now? Forget it.”

“Enough, Marcus,” she said. The weight of Thor’s curiosity had shifted toward concern and she was fast losing what was left of her patience. Marcus had never understood, but he had promised not to tell anyone about the severity of her troubles, as a child. Not her parents. Not their few mutual friends. Certainly not Thor.

It had been difficult for her to readjust to living within the world. Difficult to live. And maybe Marcus hadn’t understood, but he’d been there, always, to help her through. Crawled in through her window to keep the nightmares away, when they were children. Locked the other girls out of the bathroom for her at school when she’d been crippled by migraines and had to get away from all the noise of undisciplined minds and furious hunger. Cut school to take her home for the same reasons, when they were both older. And she’d never been certain if he’d done everything he’d done because she’d called to him, manipulated him, or because he’d just . . . known.

But they weren’t children anymore. And he wasn’t looking to take up residence in her bed just because he was worried about her. Not this time. Though she couldn’t honestly say it wasn’t part of what contributed to his overprotective habits.

Is he kind of a jerk to go about things the way he does? Maybe. But his heart is in the right place. It had to be in the right place or Eve never would have tolerated him for long. But if Marcus was going to be protective and jealous, I wanted him to have a darn good reason for it. Not just "I want to date you." But "I want you to be happy and healthy and safe and I know you've had a hard time your whole life, and I'm going to keep standing by you even when you push me away. And yeah, btw, I think I could be the perfect man for you, but that's secondary to the rest of this."

Which meant our cafeteria scene from Part II got a revamp:

“Is it so impossible that alone, in a strange place, I might form a relationship with someone?”

“No, of course not.” Marcus raked his fingers through his hair. “But did it have to be him?”

“Did you have to date that gorgeous model from Sweden? Or what was her name? The transfer student when we were in our tens? Come on, Marcus. I never once stood in your way in all the years we’ve known each other. I don’t know why you’re getting in my face now.”

“You know exactly why, Anna. And even if you expect me to believe you don’t—you can’t compare this with any of that. You need me.”

She sat down with her fruit, and found her cheeseburger and fries already waiting for her, spit out by the printer. All she’d had to eat was some mint tea to help settle her stomach so she didn’t have to fake interest in her food to avoid engaging any further down that line of reasoning. It was too much to hope she wouldn’t have to engage any further at all, and Marcus plopped down across from her, looking absolutely miserable.

“Did you sleep at all last night?” she asked, frowning.

“I was too busy agonizing over having left you alone with an unknown quantity when I knew you’d had too much to drink. And the way you were acting—I know you haven’t had an attack in years, but after China, and coming back to school, for all I knew it might have been a perfect storm for a comeback tour of crippling brain-fail.”

“I’m fine, Marc.”

“But you’re different,” he said, scrubbing his face with the heels of his hand. “Every year, you push me further away. You push everyone away, and what are you going to do the next time you need help getting out of a situation that’s sending you down the rabbit hole? Or do you really want to be alone that badly? Because that’s where this is going if you keep this up, and I’m not even sure you realize it.”

She picked at her fries and said nothing. Of course she realized it. She’d been trying to shed him almost since he’d befriended her, and no one else had ever stood even half a chance. It wasn’t his fault he was exactly what she was hoping to avoid—a romance she couldn’t afford emotionally. If she’d met him before Adam, before Elah’s birth, before Thor . . .

But she hadn’t. And she was done with love. Done with these relationships that only ended in pain and loss, and that yawning green pit beneath her feet.

“Anna, I’m really trying here.”

“I know.”

“Can you help me out? Give me something.”

She shook her head. “That’s just it, Marc. I don’t have anything left.”

So once I had their history sorted out, there was still the issue of their romance -- such as it was. But giving them that history meant their romance made more sense. It was still about convenience for Eve, to a point (she *has* to be engaged with the world, and she can't do that if she's walling everyone off from herself), but it wasn't ONLY about convenience, because they both genuinely cared for one another.
“I can’t give you what you deserve.” The words were bitter on her tongue, and she grimaced. Hadn’t she just had this argument with Adam, and now here she was, using his excuse for herself. “I love Thor. I’m always going to love him, and you’re always going to be hoping for more from me, but it isn’t ever going to compare.”


“Just wait,” he said, his smirk shifting into something softer. He set his bottle aside and took hers, too, leaning closer in a way that told her he wasn’t at all dissuaded. “Let me make you an offer you can’t refuse.”

She crossed her arms, and eyed him. “Go on.”

The last thing she wanted was this night to end by having to walk him out of her room against his will. Not that she wasn’t above it, in self-defense. Anymore. But if she didn’t let him say his part, knowing Marcus, she could be sure he wouldn’t forget, and she’d be treated to it at their next meeting, all the same.

He grinned, an acknowledgment of his own foibles as much as it was his confidence. “If you need a distraction, I can give it to you. I can keep your mind tied up in knots of pleasure, if that’s what you want. And as a friend,” he emphasized the word with a comical leer, “I’m more than happy to provide you with that service. There’s no reason this has to be all or nothing, Anna. We’re not living in the dark ages, no matter how many paper books you buy.”

She shook her head. “That isn’t the kind of woman I am.”

“Then it’s going to be a long lonely life waiting for Thor to show up again,” he said, leaning back. “I don’t think you’re that kind of woman either. And don’t cite the last however many years to me. I’ve had a lot of time to think about all this, and when we were younger, you had no problem snuggling up with me. You were a lot more friendly across the board when you weren’t denying yourself every kind of affection. Case in point, tonight.”

Eve snorted. “Unbelievable.”

He wasn’t wrong, and that was what made it all that much more ridiculous. He really wasn’t going to give up. No matter how many times she told him she couldn’t love him the way he deserved to be, it wouldn’t make a lick of difference. He’d just change his attack plan and try again. Though she had to admit, this “it’s okay if it’s completely meaningless” approach was the last thing she’d expected.

“And yet, it’s all true,” he said. “You can’t lie to me, Anna. I know all your secrets.”
And Eve's pregnancy revelation -- that got a revamp too:

She let out a breath. “If I tell you the truth, you have to swear you aren’t going to go all noble on me. You’ve got a lot of youth left and you shouldn’t be throwing it away taking care of me. You should be out having fun with Sophia, or Ashley.”

He snorted. “Sure thing, Grandma.”

“I’m serious, Marcus. I’m not going to do this with you. I’m not going to do this with anyone. I’ve had enough of the grief that goes with it.”

“Anna, you’ve never had to go it alone a day in your life, and your life has barely been a blip on the map. Stop talking like you’re an octogenarian, and spill.”

She bit her tongue on a protest and ground her teeth. The problem with being Anna and not Eve at this age was the utter discount of her experiences. Marcus was the worst of all, because she couldn’t bluff on what her life had been like before they’d met. Well, fine. She’d given him an out, and she’d give him plenty more, and if that didn’t work, she’d find some other way.

“I’m pregnant.”

His jaw tightened, and he rocked back. “Whose is it?”

She shook her head.

“So it could be mine.”

“It doesn’t matter either way. You’re not ready to be a father, and I’m not interested in entering into any contracts.”

“Anna, for the last month and a half, it’s been you and me. No contracts, just us being us. You’re my girl, and no matter who the father is, I’m not going to leave you high and dry.”

“I’m not your girl, Marcus,” she said, even the thought of the old argument making her tired. “We have fun together, and you’re a great distraction, but that’s it. That’s all that this is ever going to be, and I made that clear to you from day one.”

“Now who’s being ridiculous?”

“You are! You’re supposed to be sterile. Why should you take any responsibility for a child that isn’t even yours?”

He shrugged. “I always knew my boys could take care of business, if they really wanted it. I mean, it isn’t unheard of. Sometimes implants fail, and you certainly didn’t impregnate yourself, but mine or not, even if you insist that we’re never going to be more than this, this still means we’re friends. And friends don’t ditch one another when things get rough. I’d never be able to look your parents in the eye again, if I did.”

“This isn’t about my parents.”

“No, it’s about you. And denial. And lie after lie after lie. I’m not even sure you tell yourself the truth anymore, Anna, because you can keep saying this is just about fun and you’re eternally in love with someone else, fine, but he left you, and it doesn’t seem like he’s planning on coming back.”

She rolled over, turning her back to him, and focusing on the wall. On the touch of Thor’s love in the back of her mind, promising eternity, if she could only reach him. It wasn’t his fault he wasn’t coming back. It wasn’t his fault they couldn’t be together. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“I know there’s no way you’d have let me in your bed if you thought this was only some vacation. If you really believed there was any chance you’d be together again, you’d have kicked me right back out of your room, no matter what secrets I knew.”

She didn’t answer. She didn’t want to think about anything that he was saying.

“Maybe what you feel for me won’t compare to what you shared with him,” Marcus said, much more gently. “But it doesn’t mean there isn’t something here. It doesn’t mean there isn’t love, Anna. And fun. And happiness. Tell me I don’t make you happy, and I’ll leave right now.”

But that had been the whole point. The distraction. The pleasure. She wouldn’t have been with him at all if he hadn’t given her that much. And he knew it. He’d known it from the start. She pulled the pillow over her head and shut her eyes.

Maybe Marcus was still in the dark about some of the truths of Eve's life, but he's loyal. Not just the jealous shoe anymore, but a steadfast friend as well as her lover. Someone who is consistently willing to call her out when she's overly maudlin, or acting inconsistently with the life she's engaged in. He's not just a sidebar, but a solid secondary character who is trying his absolute best to do right by someone he considers his closest friend. And yeah, sometimes he still gets jealous -- but it's not his defining characteristic anymore. He's also funny, even charming. Light-hearted and stubbornly supportive -- all the things Eve needs to keep herself balanced. And we see that it still isn't enough -- that it will never really be enough for her -- but he's going to keep trying.

Which is why I'm writing him a little epilogue of his own. I'll be including it in the anthology I'm putting together for the existing Fate of the Gods novellas and shorts, titled FACETS OF FATE.

Because maybe Marcus isn't everyone's favorite character -- he really can't compete with Thor and Adam and he's not supposed to be able to compete with them -- but I think he deserves an end to his own story, all the same.

Watch the blog for more information about FACETS OF FATE coming soon, including cover art and a release date!

Forged by Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1) Tempting Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1.5) Fate Forgotten (Fate of the Gods, #2) Taming Fate (Fate of the Gods, #2.5) Beyond Fate (Fate of the Gods, #3) Honor Among Orcs (Orc Saga, #1) Blood of the Queen (Orc Saga, #2) Postcards from Asgard
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Helen of Sparta By Helen's Hand Tamer of Horses Daughter of a Thousand Years
Amazon | Barnes&Noble