What happens when an aspiring author is seduced by her hero’s best friend?
Something bad happened in the middle of my first book.
I always considered myself a one-man woman. And my book’s hero-graced with strength, looks, and an unerring moral center-was so perfect I thought he was everything I’d ever want in a protagonist. I would never stray. Never.
But then-poof!-his best friend appeared on the scene.
I didn’t pay him much attention at first. I only had eyes for my first love. But the best friend was always there on the margins. Always ready to help the hero pull off a narrow escape or point out the heroine’s strong points-the ones my hero was too stubborn to appreciate. Always the right man to supply some timely exposition or a much-needed slug of whiskey.
He was…different. More smart-alecky than my hero, the best friend had just enough humor to break the tension in a nail-biting moment, just enough skill in masculine trash-talk to make sure my protagonist never got too full of himself.
Just enough character to make sure I couldn’t ignore him.
And then one day I…I…
I checked out his backstory.
I took a good, long look.
And God help me, I was attracted to it. It was strong and well-rounded and very, very sexy.
I fell head over heels for my hero’s best friend! And it got worse-soon I was downright obsessed, stalking the best friend through my hero’s story, finding him in places he had no business being.
I had to spend more time with him. But not in my novel-his growing presence there was too disruptive. We needed someplace private: a new password-protected document just one window over, easily hidden with a single click.
Tucked away in our top-secret file, the best friend’s charm and sensuality tempted me beyond words. Actually, it tempted me to lots of words. Just a few hundred, I promised myself. Just a few hundred words to satisfy my curiosity. Then I’d return to my hero and forget I’d ever fantasized about his best friend.
But a few hundred words became a thousand. Then five thousand-ten! I lingered for sentence after addictive sentence, ignoring my original hero and wishing with all my heart I’d met his best friend first.
Can you blame me? The best friend was more fascinating, funnier, more carnal than my original hero. Certainly less demanding. The closer I came to finishing my first hero’s book, the more he wanted from me. He insisted on logical explanations for all his actions-and everyone else’s too! Sometimes things came out of his mouth that made no sense whatsoever, and I’d waste a half-hour translating it into standard English. And did he ever, ever thank me for how I kept his book nice and neat, tying up loose ends with every word correctly spelled, every line grammatically flawless and all the scenes organized into perfectly paced chapters? No!
My hero didn’t appreciate me any more. He didn’t care what I wanted, what made me happy. It was all about him-him, him, him!
His best friend wasn’t nearly as needy. He was always glad to invite me into his novel, for however long I cared to roll around in his rumpled paragraphs or rub up against his dangling participles. I could climb through his window whenever I wanted, even in the middle of a sentence. He was so thrilled to be on the receiving end of something only I could give him-his own book-that he never complained. Meanwhile, he gamely continued his supporting role in my first novel, never hinting there was anything untoward behind his sly smiles. My second novel was our little secret. The thought of syntax never crossed my mind.
I’d meet him in the oddest places-at Starbucks, by the neighborhood pool, on the kitchen table. Even while my kids were watching SpongeBob in the next room!
“Mommy’s coming!” I called from the office as I teased out a final, mischievous double entendre before shutting him down for the night. I’d chance anything to explore all the naughty, naughty things he could do in my laptop.
It was exciting. It was intoxicating. It was madness! I was throwing away a perfectly good book to cavort with a new one.
“Are you crazy?” a writer-friend screamed over the phone. “If you get involved with another novel you’ll never finish your first one! You can’t flit from book to book like some little…”
She bit back her words before she said something hurtful, but her sigh spoke volumes.
“Don’t do it,” she said softly. “I know what I’m talking about.”
That sad note in her voice forced me to consider the consequences of my reckless actions. After all, I’d made a very public commitment to my hero-I’d told everybody I was writing a novel. What would my friends-Oh, God, my family!-think if they knew I was not only abandoning my hero, sometimes for days, but also hooking up with someone else? And his best friend, of all people! What kind of author was I?
There was only one solution. I had to find him a girlfriend-fast.
Someone spunky. No-someone uptight, someone who wouldn’t find his snark as amusing as he did. Someone who’d resist him-at least for a while-better than I ever could. A woman who’d give him a taste of his own medicine.
I set them up to meet cute. Sparks flew, along with an unexpected dish. (How was I supposed to know she had a temper? I just met her myself!). And then, just pages into their tempestuous affair, the most astonishing thing happened: my back-door lover became just like his best friend, my original hero, now jeering from the sidelines of this new story. The best friend was still to die for, but he turned out to be as frustrating and time-consuming as my first love.
I guess I had to learn it the hard way.
So with the best friend distracted by the woman of his dreams, I crept back to my first book, a bit older and much, much wiser. To his credit, my hero never uttered a single reproachful word. And my heart had indeed grown fonder during our break. All those traits that once drove me nuts-his murky motives, his occasional inarticulateness, his infuriating tendency to tell, not show-were easier to deal with, even a little endearing. Sure, he wasn’t perfect; what hero is?
But before I fully recommitted to my first novel, I made sure the best friend had something to remember me by-a detailed storyline so he wouldn’t get lonely while I worked things out with my original hero. As thanks for the lessons he’d unwittingly taught me, I gave the best friend everything he ever wanted-the fiery girl, a rollicking family, the whole nine yards.
Maybe it was too pat, but it eased my conscience. And everything went back to normal, except…
You know that cheeky orphan the best friend and his new wife adopt at the end of their story? In twenty years or so, I suspect he’ll turn out to be quite the hero himself-gorgeous, resourceful and more than a little dangerous.
Wait a minute. It’s already twenty years later-in the new file I just created.
Only few hundred words, I swear.
Carolyn Martin’s original hero stars in her historical western Something Fierce, which placed third in the Music City Romance Writer’s 2008 “Melody of Love” contest for pre-published authors. Her hero’s best friend is still bumping around in his own file, waiting for his turn in the spotlight.