Welcome to the next stop on the Whirlwind blog tour. Robin graciously agreed to write a guest post for you guys about secondary characters in a story and I hope that you enjoy it. Oh and stay tuned for information on a giveaway of an e-book copy of Whirlwind.
Ah, the supporting cast, otherwise known as minor characters. Those poor, undervalued characters don’t get much screen time, say only a few lines, and are usually only in the story to help further the main characters’ arcs. As critical as minor characters are, they just don’t get the same respect as the hero and heroine. But a rebellion is afoot.
Tired in their role of revealing critical plot elements or acting as an emotional sounding board, a few of my minor characters are dying to have their say. One in particular *coughMitchcough* is too big to ignore, so I’m bringing back and updating some scenes that were deleted from the first draft of Whirlwind. These two vignettes are titled “Meeting Mitch” and “The Apology.”
Mitch McAlister is the brother of the story’s hero, Jason McAlister. Mitch has known Melissa Williams (heroine and narrator of Whirlwind) much longer than Jason, and met her in a very unique way. He and Melissa formed a deep friendship during the years before the beginning of Whirlwind, but most of this backstory was cut from the final manuscript.
While Mitch is the focus of both of these outtakes, he’s not the only minor character that got the short shrift when they were removed from the manuscript. In this first peek at “Meeting Mitch,” we see what main character Melissa’s first day as a college reporter was like (almost three years before the beginning of Whirlwind). It’s the minor characters who let her strength and feisty-ness shine:
From the first day I set foot in the Daily’s office, Gary, the sports editor, had it out for me. I’d never laid eyes on the guy before, but apparently it only took one look for me to piss him off. His first disgusted appraisal accompanied an equally unwelcome greeting. “A freshman. Great. And a girl to boot. What am I supposed to do with you?”Not to be outdone, Mitch not only challenges Melissa in “Meeting Mitch,” he does his job as a minor character and provides Melissa a mirror that reveals one of her flaws (namely that she’s doing too much talking and not enough listening). Note: Melissa meets Mitch at a rodeo, so there’s horses (and road apples) ahead!
Pam, the senior editor, rankled at his words. “You treat her just like you would any other reporter,” she scolded, her glare sharp.
“Right. She probably doesn’t even know what a hat trick is,” he said, refusing to meet her gaze.
“Most common in hockey or soccer, it’s three goals scored by the same player in one game,” I replied, and Pam smirked. “But Gordie Howe hat tricks are unique to hockey.”
Gary shifted his weight from one foot to the other. “There is no such thing.”
“Sure there is. Even I know that one, Gary,” Pam said, then looked at me expectantly.
“A Gordie Howe hat trick is scoring a goal, earning an assist, and getting into a fight, all in one hockey game,” I said. “Gordie Howe actually only did it once in his career.”
Gary’s face turned bright red before he stomped off to his desk mumbling something about there not being a hockey team at Poly.
“What’s…your horse’s name?” I asked. Rather than check out the animal’s goods to find out if it was a him or a her, I carefully patted iton the rump.Mitch removed his hat, mopped the sweat with his sleeve, then jammed the Stetson back on his head. “You don’t know anything about horses, do you?”After this first outtake, Mitch celebrates his win a little too hard, and comes onto Melissa a little too atrongly. What happens is detailed in Whirlwind in Chapter 3, but suffice to say, a drunk Mitch ends up on the ground after Melissa knees him in the crotch. It’s a misunderstanding - trust me - and both Melissa and Mitch regret the incident.
He frowned at my hand and I pulled it away.
“Well…I read The Black Stallion four times,” I said. Mitch groaned. “No, I don’t know anything about horses.”
“Finally, the truth. It’s about damn time,” he said. Mitch put a hand on my shoulder and guided me closer to the horse’s head. He patted its neck, and I followed his example. “Don’t touch his nose, okay? He hates that.”
I didn’t miss the hint. “Okay. What’s his name?”
The ghost of a smile crossed Mitch’s chapped lips. “Buckeye. Can I ask you a question, Melissa Williams?”
“If you know so much about my stats, why are you here? Why come all the way out here to ask me about numbers you already know? Isn’t the real story what you don’t already know?” He scrubbed Buckeye’s neck.
My fingers stilled. I didn’t know what to say.
“I mean, I appreciate that you recognized my name, and know I’ve had a good run. The last guy they sent out here lasted about five minutes and then misspelled most of our names in his lame-ass article.”
No wonder he hated reporters.
“I won’t misspell your name, I promise.” I stroked Buckeye’s neck. “I’d really like to find out the story behind the stats, if you don’t mind. How long have you been riding?”
Mitch’s smile returned for good. “Okay, then. Before we talk about that, we need to get you fixed up.” He tied Buckeye to his trailer and then led me around the other side to an RV. “Beth and Linda’ll help.”
Mitch knocked on door. We heard a faint “Just a minute.”
He turned to me. “Could you do me a favor? Don’t mention the record to anyone else. I was serious about what happened to the last guy. Football players may slap each other on the ass to show support—these guys show their love with a handful of horse shit.” His puppy dog eyes rivaled the most manipulative two-year-old’s.
“We’ll see,” I said, not promising anything. “Maybe if you give me the five cent tour and an exclusive interview I can bury your record in the story. Assuming you win, that is.”
The trailer door opened and a woman my age appeared.
Mitch gave me a thumbs-up. “You’re on, though I’m not sure the interview is worth even that much.” He looked up at the silent, but obviously confused woman. “Beth, do you have a shirt Melissa could borrow for today? She’s new. I’ve got to get ready to win the next event.” He waved and wandered back to his horse.
The confusion in Beth’s face faded but didn’t disappear. “You’re a friend of Mitch’s?”
“Yeah, I guess I am.”
However, in her attempt to reconcile with Mitch, Melissa gets to know another minor character who plays an important role much later in Whirlwind—her future friend, Linda. The trusted girlfriend, Linda pops in and out of Whirlwind, giving Melissa opportunities to reveal more about herself, from her inner feelings to her sense of humor. Their relationship started on that same footing, as you can see from this longer snippet from “The Apology”:
Mitch never did call. Instead, Linda, one of the girls I’d met at the roundup, invited me to coffee at the local doughnut shop a few days later. Although I suspected an ulterior motive, I went, more curious about her than anything else. She seemed like a genuinely nice person. I knew the shop would be very busy at that time of day, so I felt safe in meeting her—and any uninvited guests.Both Linda and Mitch have important roles in Whirlwind, and while this backstory is fun and helped me define some of Melissa’s traits, it wasn’t critical to the plot. So, it got cut. However, nothing ever really gets deleted off my hard drive. And don’t worry, both Mitch and Linda will return in future books to keep both Melissa and Jason in line.
She was waiting at the door when I arrived, pacing nervously and peering into the parking lot. “Hi Melissa!” she called, spotting me before I’d finished parking. Her dazzling smile was hard to miss as she bounced up and down next to the newspaper rack. Linda’s dark eyes sparkled as brightly as her brilliant white teeth.
“Hi Linda. How are you?” I scanned the area, but didn’t see any one else I recognized.
“I’m fine. How are you?” She inspected me, then led me to the counter. “Mitch didn’t hurt you, did he?”
“No, not at all. I think he got the worst of it.” I paused. “Is he mad at me?”
Her eyes grew wide. “Mad at you? Why would he be mad at you?”
“Well, there was the kneeing him in the groin. And the manure in his truck—though I didn’t have anything to do with that. The senior editor put the story on the front page.” I managed to shut my mouth before the next excuse came blubbering out.
“No, he’s not mad at you. The guys were happy about him breaking the record. He just should’ve told them before the story came out, that’s all. And the article was great. No, he’s not mad.”
The barista interrupted her, and we ordered our coffees. After finding a table in the corner of the tiny shop, I took a careful sip from my cup and evaluated Linda. She stirred her drink much longer than necessary. When she realized I was watching her, she dropped the spoon and put her hand on the table, forcing it to lay flat. I barely knew her, but it was obvious that she was nervous about something. “Okay Linda, spill. Why am I here?”
“You’re not one for small talk, are you? No wonder you’re such a good reporter. Did I mention your article was great?”
“Yes, you did.”
She took a long drink from her cup as I stared her down. “All right, Mitch is the reason I’m here—at least part of the reason. The other part is I really enjoyed getting to know you, and wanted to make sure he didn’t scare you away from us. The team can be really sweet, if they are kept out of dive bars like the one the other night. One on one, they’re all great—they just get this pack mentality when they go out drinking.” Her unpleasant experiences with them showed in her face.
“No, Linda, I didn’t get scared off. Just don’t expect me to attend any more ‘after’ parties with the guys. As for Mitch…”
I’d managed to forgive him by focusing on the polite, helpful Mitch, but the loose, drunken image would never leave me completely. My finger circled my coffee cup. As time went on, I’d started to dread the awkward moments we would have the next time we met. I couldn’t ask to be removed from the rodeo stories—that’s exactly what Gary wanted—so I’d have to face Mitch sooner or later.
Linda nodded. “Yeah, well Mitch did ask for my help. When you blew off his lunch invitation, he finally realized how big an ass he’d been.”
“I didn’t blow him off. I didn’t get the flowers until after lunch was finished. It wasn’t my fault.”
Linda cocked her head. “Really? Huh.” She took another drink, apparently confused. The determined gleam returned to her eyes as soon as she put her cup down. “Anyway, he really wants to apologize, Melissa, face to face. You’re the first woman to get under his thick skin, you know? He’s needed someone like you for a long time to kick him back in line. None of the bimbos he runs with would ever do it. Someday he’s going to thank you for doing what you did.”
I sighed, feeling like I’d just fed a stray puppy and now he was following me around. This puppy just happened to be huge and rude. “Why can’t you or Beth slap some sense into him? You know him better than I do.”
“He doesn’t see us the way he sees you. I’m just an extension of Chase to him.” I raised my eyebrows at her. “You know what I mean! When I talk to him it’s as if Chase is talking to him, and Chase has told Mitch to dial down the Casanova act many times. Beth would never tell Mitch off; she’s still trying to get Todd to notice her. But you—”
“I’ve got nothing to lose and am just the bitch to do it,” I said with a wry smile. The truth didn’t bother me, but Linda frowned.
“No, that’s not what I meant. You’re an outsider, and he expects to hear the same drivel from you he gets from every other woman. When you stood up to him, you affected him in more ways than you might think.”
“Yeah, I affected him all right.” I thought of Mitch curled up in a ball on the ground and laughed.
After a pause, Linda soon joined me. “Can you just let him apologize, Melissa? That’s all,” she pleaded.
I’d be seeing more of Mitch in the coming month, assuming Gary didn’t assign me to cover the local snail races instead. Why put this off any longer? Better to rip this bandage of fast. “Fine. Where is he?”
Linda dropped her eyes to her coffee. “Whatever do you mean?” she asked.
“Give it up, Linda. I know you didn’t drag me all the way downtown because the coffee is so much better than the Starbucks on campus. He’s around here somewhere, and I’d bet good money Chase is with him.”
Her cheeks pinked, but she said nothing.
I sighed. “Let’s get this over with; I have class in an hour.”
Read the full outtakes here:
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