I met someone recently who told me that people come into our lives for a reason, a season or a lifetime. In almost every encounter we have with people we already know, and the ones we meet perhaps only once, we make choices in how we behave. These choices can have negligible effects, and be forgotten at once. Other times they can turn our lives in completely unexpected directions, for better or for worse.
Almost all of my choices are determined by my upbringing and values, my (for better or worse) seemingly unshakeable sense of responsibility and what seems right to me because of those values. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been urged by well-meaning people who genuinely care for my happiness to let go some of the ties of responsibility that rule so many of my choices. But in the words of Emmett from The Twilight Saga films, “Not in my nature.” Will I look back on opportunities missed with regret? Or with relief?
Fiction is the one place we can try out personas and test the boundaries of our own morality, and of our own realities, from the relatively safe place of our imagination. As a writer of fiction, I’m in the amazing position of taking each of my characters’ journeys with them. As many writers will tell you, as we tell their stories, our characters take on lives and wills of their own. It’s a fine line, letting each one tell you where they would go if you let them be themselves, and gently nudging them along the pathway your story outline intended for them to go. Villains and love interests are the trickiest, and the most fun.
I’m a happy ever after kind of girl. I want all of my characters to end up with someone they can be happy with, and I’m not even writing full-on romance. My stories are young adult paranormal romantic suspense: mystery and mayhem, danger and delight, with the freedom of youth and the impossible realities of magic. People get hurt, and people die, but I still yearn for a happy ever after for each character. Does that say something about me? Or is it something that almost all of us want, for ourselves and for others?
One thing that is true for all of us, and so must be true for our characters, is that none of us are one thing only. We are all complex, fascinating, bewildering and often bewildered creatures, made up of multiple facets and motivations, dark issues and bright shining light. I strive to let this truth show in my characters, especially my ‘bad’ characters. Sometime the choice is theirs, and the consequences must follow, changing our stories. The one that is on my mind the most right now is Jarrod, leader of my cursed sea people the Nemaro, and half-brother to Hunter, who is hero and love interest of my human heroine Skye.
Jarrod is beautiful, flawed, selfish and almost amoral. In Immersed book two Follow Me, he encounters Skye’s best friend Morgan, and begins to glimpse very faintly what he lacks in who he is, and what he may never have. I’ve got a real soft spot for Jarrod. It probably means I’m a cliché and I like bad boys, but like my other characters, I’m turning over the possibilities of happiness in his future. Is he beyond redemption? Does he deserve that kind of happiness after all that he has done? Or is that a question for all of us?
Happiness is something that other people seem to have in spades, but for many of us it is like quicksilver, slipping through our grasp. I’m so grateful to share the lives and loves of my characters, feeling their joys as well as their sorrow. Writers, embrace the many dimensions of your characters; no one is all good, or all bad. And for all of us readers, no matter where you are in your life today, the experiences of a lifetime are only a few pages away. Pick up a book you’ve been meaning to read, and let your imagination take you to places you want to be. You never know, it may give you insight into your own heart, and shine a light on the path before you.
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