Since I sent “The World That Forgot How to Dance” into the world, I’ve gotten some good feedback on Denise – one of the secondary characters in the story. People liked her passion. They commented on how a character can be brave in a quiet way. They enjoyed the juxtaposition between her methodical ways and Lester’s rashness.
What most people don’t know is that Denise originally had a much larger role in the story.
If fact, in one of the earliest drafts, Lester didn’t even exist and Denise was the only supporting character to Ellsie. (Hard to imagine now, but that sort of thing happens a lot.) I liked Denise from the start, and going back through my notes, it seems that I considered making her the POV character instead of Ellsie. I even had plans for her to be Officer Grove’s daughter – a fact that wouldn’t come out until the climax, at a moment where Denise’s intervention is what ultimately saves Ellsie.
And then Lester showed up. Don’t get me wrong, I love Lester. (Loooove him.) But I didn’t have room for both him and Denise in this story because at the time I was struggling to keep it under 4000 words. I could (and did) tell the story with just Ellsie and Lester, but it felt like it lacked some of the earlier tension.
I put the whole idea aside for a few years before deciding the try again with both Denise and Lester. I’d learned about the Writers of the Future contest, which had very generous word count limits. (I didn’t win anything for this story, but I’m immeasurably grateful to the contest because it gave me the permission I thought I needed to write a 14,000 word story.)
Once I decided to serialize the story – and afterwards I published it as a novelette – I knew I had the option of adding even more back into it, which I did. Ultimately, I didn’t keep her relationship to Officer Groves in there, because I felt sure that the resolution had to come from Ellsie. I was able to add back in the backstory with her father, though – which is something I’ve always loved.
I adored Denise as a character, so I definitely would have found her another story (I have several ‘unemployed’ characters who are waiting for the right plot to come along) but all the same, I’m glad she ended up in her original book.
Of course, an author knows much, much more about her characters than what makes it to the page, so if anyone has questions (or thoughts in general) about Denise, sprinkle them into the comments and I’d be happy to answer them!