To me, both are secondary characters who, while they’re onstage or on the page, tend to steal the show. They’re both so compelling that I find myself looking forward to their next lines. And, when their respective stories are being performed in the theater or on the screen, I’m riveted to their every movement.
I’ve never liked Lady Catherine — she’s pompous, arrogant and rude — but I’ve always loved to watch her, and Pride & Prejudice just wouldn’t be the same without her in it, causing trouble for the would-be lovers at every turn. And, well, irritating almost everyone else.
As for Mercutio, my high-school heart was crushed the first time I read “Romeo and Juliet” and discovered that he’d actually died! WHAT?! I was so ticked at Romeo for being such a clueless klutz that he got this great character killed. (I’m still not over it…) My English teacher tried to explain, however, that his death was necessary. That the smarty-pants Bard had to kill him off because Mercutio was so much more interesting than that moody, moony Romeo.
Of course, I love Elizabeth and Darcy and have never pined to see Lady Catherine for long without them but, I must admit, it’s particularly exciting to watch or read that delightful Rosings scene where the three of them are in the same room together. The tension Darcy’s not-so-sweet aunt adds to that moment at the pianoforte is simply delicious.
Sometimes, even with characters I’m writing about, I find that there’s a secondary player who walks onto the scene and seems bent on drawing attention away from the others. In According to Jane, I have one character like that. His name is Andrei Sergiov, aka “The Russian.” I loved writing him and trying to get his accent and his attitude just right, but I thought it was a personal pleasure — mine alone. I was completely unprepared for other people’s interest in him…
Turns out, aside from my leads — Ellie, Sam and, of course, the spirit of Jane Austen herself — Andrei is the character I get questioned about most often. I’ve had book-club members and readers, from teenagers to senior citizens, ask me (more often than anything else), “So, Marilyn, can you tell us more about The Russian?” And my husband has even been asked about Andrei at work! An English teacher and fellow school-district colleague, who’d read my debut book when it first came out, stopped him in the hallway one afternoon and said, “You’re that hot Russian, right? You’ve gotta at least say you’re The Russian…” LOL! My husband and I still laugh about that ;).
What about all of you? Has there been a secondary character you’ve read in a novel (or written about in one!) that seems determined to wrestle the spotlight away from the story’s hero or heroine? What’s his or her name, and where can we find this scene stealer?