Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A ten day project turned into a six-week one. Granted, I had a full-time job, took a week-long business trip, and had a family emergency that took up some of that time, but the “project” became bigger than I ever dreamed. And it made my manuscript much, much better, resulting in my first sale almost two years ago.

So what was this simple project that escalated into a huge rewrite?

I’m talking weaving existing secondary characters points of view (POV) into a manuscript that is already completed.

If you have the slightest idea that you might add a second, third, or fourth POV into the manuscript you’re working, plan on it from the very beginning. Don’t assume you can just add that POV later.

My manuscript begged for additional POVs, but I didn’t write them into the story in the beginning. I finished it and was very pleased with the outcome. But every so often, I’d be discussing length with someone and know that it could be 10-15K longer. 

The story could tell more of the villian’s goal, motivation, and conflict (GMC), as well as one of the key secondary character’s GMC, which was a kid, btw. And I really wanted to tell a little of this kid’s story.

But I put it off. 

I could add that part to the story with one hand tied behind my back, after I’d shopped it around at the current length. I already knew his GMC, and it would only be a few pages tucked in here and there.

It would be fun.

I kept putting it off though, working on a new story, shopping the existing one, until an industry professional (who later became my agent) asked me to lengthen the manuscript. 

Sure, I can do that. Easy.

And it was very easy in the beginning to tuck in a scene here, one there, set the stage, etc., but by the time I got to the middle (why is it always the middle?), things got tricky. And by end, it became downright complicated.

Just like figuring out my hero and heroine’s GMC’s, I had to do the same for these two secondary characters. As long as they weren’t “on stage”, the reader could insert any kind of reasons for their actions, but once they have their own POV, that’s when the horse kicks over the traces.

Try it. You might be shocked at how it changes the way your story plays out.

I had a pretty solid story, but as I started adding in these additional POVs, I realized I had these guys doing some things that wouldn’t be true to character. This became really clear when the hero and heroine figure out who the bad guy is.

The whole section where the plot fell apart was only 15-20 pages long, but it needed to be rewritten to beef up the tension and be believable for all parties involved. The remaining pages didn’t require a complete rewrite, just some wrap-up scenes from the two new POVs.

Think of a secondary character in one of your manuscripts, someone who sways your protagonist, antagonist, or your plot in some way. Plot out their GMC, and even if you don’t write them into the story, you might have a few aha moments where your secondary characters refuse to fit the mold you created for them.

Because you know what?

Secondary characters are people, too.

Pam Hillman was born and raised on a dairy farm in Mississippi and spent her teenage years perched on the seat of a tractor raking hay. In those days, her daddy couldn’t afford two cab tractors with air conditioning and a radio, so Pam drove the Allis Chalmers 110. Even when her daddy asked her if she wanted to bale hay, she told him she didn’t mind raking. Raking hay doesn’t take much thought so Pam spent her time working on her tan and making up stories in her head. Now, that’s the kind of life every girl should dream of! Claiming Mariah is her second novel.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/PamHillman or @PamHillman


  1. My main charcters best friend seems to be my fans favorite character. I love that!

  2. Aurora, did that surprise you?

    In Stealing Jake, Luke, the street kid with his own POV, stole the show. I loved him and his story, but I was surprised that so many readers mentioned him in their reviews. I figure he's got his own story to tell someday! :)

    In my current release, Claiming Mariah, a secondary character's POV is an odd mix of root for him/despise him. He's not as heart-tuggingly endearing as Luke, but he does get under your skin.

  3. Great post, Pam! My current WIP has five different POVs... In my first manuscript, one of the secondary characters I decided to include for a fun reference to the historical setting stole my heart, and I gave him his own POV in this sequel - along with the villian, the heroine, and two other people. I'm really loving getting into the hearts and minds of various characters, discovering more about them and letting them surprise me with their depth and their claim on the story. :)

    Yay for secondary characters!


  4. Amber, did you find that adding their POVs changed your initial plotting of the story?

  5. Pam,

    I confess, I'm sort of a "pantser," although I had general, big-picture ideas before I started writing, as this was the sequel to my first manuscript. :) So I started with three POVs - the hero's, the heroine's, and the villain's. But as events started to unfold in the story, I found places to start weaving in the other two POVs. This is probably a strange method, but eventually the plot brought about changes where other POVs could be necessary, and I've been finding the new insights into certain characters surprising and endearing. :)

    So, not exactly a traditional approach... I'll be curious to hear others' reactions to the POVs in my WIP sometime. :)



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