Monday, July 28, 2008

Call For Submissions: Drop The Needle

Let's roll up our sleeves and try something unique: A "How Poignant Is This Secondary Character" Drop The Needle critique round, inspired by Karen Duvall in the comments box. (See? I really do listen to what you all have to say!)

Secondary characters can make or break our stories. They are either strong, memorable, believable; or they are cardboard, weak, two-dimensional. Or worse -- clichéd. These characters aren't heavy on the action or the dialogue in the grand scheme of things, but we desperately need them to work for us. And sometimes we might be tempted to cut corners and not develop them as fully as we've developed our main characters.

So. Submit a 250-word chunk of your manuscript that showcases a secondary character. The scene can be dialogue-rich or action-rich; you decide. The main thrust of this exercise is, does my secondary character work? Is he developed? Intriguing? Hateful? Lovable? Unforgettable? You-wish-he-would-die-able?

Don't give us any lead-in or backstory. Just "drop the needle" and let us wade through. Strong characters will jump off a page even if we don't know the whole story.

Send your submission to facelesswords(at) Include the TITLE and GENRE at the top.

As for formatting? I had the most trouble with submissions that had double-spaced formatting and text that was centered (as in a title). Also odd fonts tripped me up from time to time. So let's do an experiment here. Please stick with Times New Roman or something similar. No uni-space fonts (like Courier; believe it or not, it caused problems when I cut-and-pasted). Not because I'm anal retentive or anything, but because I'd like to see if I can cut down on formatting glitches prior to our next big Secret Agent contest.

Submit any time between now and Wednesday, July 30 at 9:00 am EDT (that's 2:00 pm in London). Entries will go up shortly thereafter and you can begin your critiques.

Please leave your questions in the comment box here.


  1. Alright! Another contest. I like.

    When we're submitting our stories, do you want it to be simply comprised of secondary characters or can we include our main character as well?

  2. Can I submit my first 250 again??? That was my minor character....

    Okay, being good, I'll go see if I can find something to showcase another minor character.

  3. By the way... have I mentioned recently how cruel 250 words is?

  4. Totally agree. 250 words makes me cry. But I think I found my segment, maybe.

    (And my first chapter was a secondary character as well, though he doesn't survive long enough to become a "main" secondary character.)

  5. Drunken -- Your MC can be in the scene, too. You just want to make sure you choose an excerpt that showcases a particular secondary character, to see how well you're able to make him "jump off the page," as it were.

    And yeah, 250 words is NASTY MEAN. Muhawhahaaaa.

    But if I didn't limit the size of these subs, can you just imagine how LONG my blog page would be? It would be a scrolling nightmare. Not to mention the fact that I read all these as they appear in my inbox. There are only so many blogging hours in a day.

  6. This is much harder Are You Hooked? because I have to find a measly 250 words out of a whole manuscript. Ahhh! But, you're making me search through all the scenes with secondary characters and re-evaluating them. So, thanks!

    ... Off to find one that's halfway suitable to submit...

  7. All in all, I'm happy that we're choosing only a page because it makes it short a sweet.

    It's easier starting with the first page of the book than searching through a five-hundred page manuscript for a good portrayal of a character.

    You'll see mine within the next hour so, be prepared.

    Time to get back to searching.

  8. *sits back and twiddles her thumbs while everyone else is busy working their way through manuscripts*

  9. I took the last 250 of an epiloge for an unpolished piece. The minor character is a reoccuring minor character over several books but I'm thinking he might get a MC role somewhere in the distant future when I've wrapped up all the projects I'm currently working on!

  10. Yay! Another contest.

    Should we include the name of our 2nd char along with the title and genre, so the reader won't be confused if the 2nd char is in the scene with the MC or others?

  11. Hmmm, good question, fairchild.

    I think not. Ultimately, our secondary characters should be as well developed as our primary ones, right? So it shouldn't matter. All characters in your submission should be equally engaging.

    (Don't you love how I come up with challenges that I don't have to partake in? :D)

  12. This sounds like so much fun! I can't wait to read all of the scenes later in the week. Now I need to figure out which character I want to showcase. :)

  13. Okay.

    *grumble* 250 words is evil! *stalks off to edit some more*

  14. Yay! I love these things. Thanks, authoress.

  15. A whole bunch of us at Critique Circle have been debating what exactly is the definition of a secondary character. Is it the same thing as a minor character?

  16. Yes. Any character that you would not define as a "main character" would be a secondary or minor character.

    Think of Tolkein's Eomer of Gondor.

    Semantics, really. :)

  17. Yay, another contest! I have just the secondary character in mind. The challenge will be in finding the right 250 words.

  18. I just read my confirmation, thank you again.

  19. Waiting for confirmation...I hate submitting so close to the deadline! (only doing this cos got yelled at by people here on CC)

  20. Drat. :P I've been a day ahead or behind all month... :S And I kept thinking it was a Thurs. deadline again, so alas, no sub from me. ;)

    Will comment on entries, though. :)


    P.S. Thanks for putting comments in the same window! :D