I had read somewhere that a writer must love her characters. Seems pretty logical, because if the author doesn’t care about the lives of the people she’s creating, why would anyone else? I got to thinking about this in conjunction with Shades. Do I love these characters? Actually, there was only one character in Shades that I couldn’t respond with an immediate “yes”.
Raphel is my favorite character, hands down. Do I love him? Oh yes. Too much. I occasionally I have to make sure I’m not lavishing too much attention on the guy. He has such a strong personality that if I let him have too much leeway, he would take the story and run. Nix that, he wouldn’t run…Raphel would dangle the storyline in front of my face, smile at me with that sexy, challenging glint in his blue eyes, and dare me to try and take it from him. Who could resist? (Apparently, not me 😛 ). I like to think that somewhere in that dark heart of his, he harbors a soft spot for Saeli, but honestly, I’m not sure. Beefing up the world around him, Aschera, the raider culture, etc. has actually helped keep him in line. Raphel might want everyone to think he’s got everything under control, but I have a whole world of problems I can use to take him down a notch, if I have to. I’ve already given him a rival cabal to worry about (that was a godawful chapter to write, btw).
Mora is actually keeping her distance from me in this rewrite. I do love her, though, because she’s always cool, and unflappable, and quietly sardonic, if the occasion arises. She’s such a tragic character, in that Raphel had already stolen her soul before Saeli ever met her. She’s a strong woman though, with a lot of history you only get glimpses of. She represents what Saeli could have become, if Raphel had really had the chance to break her. (I think that Saeli has more inner strength than Mora, and that Raphel would have never been able to completely conquer her, but it would have been a near thing.)
I’m having a lot of fun with Kaladan this time around. He’s a complicated man, and next to Saeli, he probably has the biggest character arc of anyone. You have to love a character who can throw out one-liners like this one:
Geris licked his lips. “You can’t blame me for being careful. This is enemy territory,” he said.
“Aye, we’ve only remained undiscovered in the largest Mantle city in the region for two whole moons,” Kaladan remarked. “Clearly Raphel’s subterfuge skills leave much to be desired.”
But his history is what really makes him fun to work with. In a way, as a Mantle turned Cowl turned Gray, he has the most perspective of any of them.
Cara is great because on the surface she seems like a typical young woman, flighty, scatterbrained, and doesn’t care for much other than socializing. But on the inside, she has an unwavering spirit and deep affection and loyalty to those she cares about. She’s the type of person who would never take charge unless they were forced into it, and then they would do an amazing job. Her early optimism and carefree nature is something I regret taking away from her at the end…but everyone in this story has to lose something.
Brendan…eh, who wouldn’t love Brendan? He’s the classic boy-next-door, who is willing to suffer in silence while the girl he loves dates someone else, just so she can be happy. Until he finds out the other guy is hurting her, of course…he won’t stand for that. Unfortunately, he’s a character that only really becomes important by dying.
Geris is like Peter Pettigrew from HP: one of those cowering, whiny villains who are so pathetic that it’s incredible how much trouble they manage to stir up. I like him for that, and because he gets what’s coming to him in the end. The High Priestess, aka Linserae. Avalgo. Othau. Isharyel. Hakarin. Adna. The Keeper of the Oath. Jalil…those are all my minors that really get screen time, and I love them all, for various reasons. And there are my gods: Yuril, Scisaxar, Naeth.
I considered every single character in Shades, and interestingly enough, the only one that I’m not sure I love is…Saeli. And I was like “uh-oh…I love everyone except my PROTAGONIST? That can’t be good.” It’s not that I don’t like her, it’s just that I don’t seem to have any real perspective on the matter. She is so much of ME, in this story, that I can’t distance myself from her. Saying I love Raphel or anyone else is like saying I love my husband…I’m analyzing my own feelings for another person. Trying to decide if I love Saeli is like me trying to be someone else trying to decide if they like me. She is…transparent, to me. I have been trying to give her more backbone this time around, and a few definite quirks that are NOT like me. But for the most part, how she reacts to things is pretty much how I would react, were I in her shoes. However, I’m pretty sure she’s not a Mary Sue…she screws up too much. She doesn’t always make the best decisions (clinging to Raphel for so long being the chief of these…but interestingly, I’m pretty sure I would make the same mistake).
The rewriting is going more slowly than I would like. I worry, sometimes, that I just don’t write quickly enough to survive in this industry. Even when I have a block of five hours to work with, I still don’t get a whole chapter done. I don’t know if I could really write a book per year, even if I had huge blocks of time to work in. I guess either it’s something you learn, or you find a publisher willing to let you take two and three years to produce a work. I’m beefing up some of the sexual tension in this story, even though I still don’t think I could market this as a genre romance. But the story is about Saeli and Raphel’s relationship, so I’m trying to keep the focus there, where I can.