Ben is a secondary character in Debra's This Can't Be Love.
Secondary characters are hugely important in a story. Most of the time, unless we're talking stranded in the wilderness or snowed in by a storm type of scenarios, our characters are interacting with other people throughout the course of their stories. Secondary characters often help us provide depth to our characters. They can act as a sounding board or a shoulder to cry on. They might be part of the back story. We don't want our background characters to take over the story, but more often than not, they are vital to it.
Ben O'Connor is the grandfather of Jessica Hart, the heroine in This Can't Be Love. Ben only has about eight total pages (if that) of face to face interaction with Jessica or Zach, but his role is vitally important. It's his absence in the story that sets up two conflicts between Zach and Jessica.
Jessica arrives at her grandfather's secluded cabin needing to get away from the emotional fallout of a failed relationship. She craves the peace she'll find there, but also knows spending time with Pops (as she calls Ben) will help her regain some equilibrium and put things into perspective. Instead, she finds Zach has taken up residence because Pops has gone on a month-long trip to trace his roots in Ireland. Jessica quickly lets Zach know in no uncertain terms that his service as a house-sitter is no longer required and the door shouldn't hit him on the way out. Zach, however has made a promise to Ben to take care of the place while he's gone, and he doesn't take that likely. Not to mention that he's sublet his apartment for the duration and doesn't have any place else to go. Jessica also comes to quickly realize that she wouldn't be able to handle everything that Zach is able to in Ben's absence. So, although neither is really comfortable with the idea, they wind up calling an uneasy truce and decide both will stay at the cabin.
As they get to know one another, an attraction grows. Zach is reluctant to act on it, however, because he doesn't want to betray Ben's trust in him by hooking up with his granddaughter. For her part, and for very personal, emotional reasons, Jessica is desperate to hook up with Zach before Pops gets home.
Ben doesn't make a physical appearance until page 188 in the book, but his specter 'haunts' both characters for most of the story. When he finally does make an appearance on his arrival back from Ireland, we still don't hear much from him, aside from now its his presence back home that's now keeping Jessica and Zach apart since they're no longer living in the same place, until almost the end of the story, where he provides the much needed shoulder to cry on and some sage advice that helps Jessica put her feelings for Zach in perspective.
I never knew either of my grandfathers, so it was fun to create and live vicariously through this imaginary character. And for a guy who wasn't around a lot in the story, he certainly played a huge role in it.
Until next time,