Reading, Writing Process

Writing Characters who Struggle

Hey, fam. Today I thought I’d talk about something that’s been on my mind lately… I’ve been in discussions on Twitter about writing believable characters and it led me to think about why I write characters the way I do.

Like all of my characters, TBH.

A Flawed Hero

You know the type. They aren’t a knight in shining armor, their hair isn’t perfectly coifed, and sometimes they make mistakes. Why are we so drawn to these imperfect characters?

Isn’t the hero supposed to be an ideal for us to strive toward?

Well.. yeah. But who can reach perfection like that?

No one, obviously. And as the HR manager at my day job says, having a goal that you can never achieve is demoralizing. I say living in the real world is demoralizing enough, so we need achievable goals.

We need relatable heroes.

That’s why characters like Harry Potter, who has messy hair and is as observant as a brick wall, and Katniss Everdeen, who has emotional availability issues, are so popular. We need to see people who are like us succeed in their endeavors. It gives us hope and helps us to step into their shoes for a little while.

In Justine Musk’s Lord of Bones, I really strongly identified with the protagonist. Jess struggled with addiction issues–and not only to substances. She was addicted to unhealthy relationships, and to magic, to the detriment of her body. While she’s clever and powerful and definitely a bad-ass, the human flaws she had resounded me with me and has made her books one of my favorites.

Side note: I’ve never been addicted to a substance, unless you count caffeine, but I had issues with relationships and with food at different points in my life.

How this relates to my characters

Literally every character I write has a problem. Due to my close relationships with some advocates in the mental health field, a lot of the traits I give characters are related to that. I usually go in with an intention once I’ve explored a character’s identity, but sometimes the traits just write themselves (like anxiety, because I have that problem and I don’t know how normal people think lol). In any case, here’s a list of some flaws and traits that my current characters have:

  • Dana Sailors, protagonist of The Wraith’s Bargain, is morally gray. She lies (but feels guilty about it), steals, and has an addictive personality.
  • Will Murphy, protagonist of The First Stone, quite literally has intrusive thoughts, and later on deals with alcohol dependence.
  • Kat Flores, protagonist of The Strategist, experiences emotional intensity–but has been taught all her life to conceal her feelings. She comes across as frigid and doesn’t allow others to touch her.
  • Annie Harris, protagonist of The Consequence (not yet released), is an eternal optimist who struggles to maintain her sunny outlook among so many horrible things happening in the world.
  • Jeremy Harris, protagonist of Landslide (not yet released), suffers from depression and delusions of grandeur.
  • Lillian Sailors, supporting character in The Wraith’s Bargain, was diagnosed with Schizoaffective disorder (whether she really has it is debatable).
  • Lee Sailors, supporting character in The Wraith’s Bargain, is an authoritarian and obsessed with things being normal. He shuns anything out of the ordinary.

And these are just off the top of my head! I find characters with flaws and mental or emotional struggles much more realistic and relatable.. and honestly, more fun to read (and write!)

But now I want to know what you think. Do you enjoy reading characters who have big problems like these? Or would you prefer them to be perfectly normal, or an unattainable ideal?

Let me know below!

PS- if you missed it, check out my latest freebie: Chapter one of The Wraith’s Bargain. Click below to get it!

Order of the Hunt, Reading, The Wraith

Now Available! The Strategist

Hey Fam. The day is finally here!!

The Strategist is now available to read for free on Wattpad (limited time!)

Posting schedule will be one chapter each Sunday and Wednesday, to be completed by the end of the month. I’m so excited for you all to check this out!

Between expectations of family and school, Kat only wanted a chance to make her own life. So when she was inducted into the secret society of demon hunters, she thought she had it made. Until the day a message arrived: the next big enemy was coming. And soon.
The last message preceded a battle that left half of their group in the hospital. Only barely healed, the four of them are far from being battle ready.
Now the demon hunters are working feverishly to master their skills in time to face this unexpected threat. But Kat still can’t channel magic. And one demon in particular has its eye on her.

I’d love to hear any feedback you all have. Follow me on Wattpad to be automatically notified of new chapters!

Book Review, Fantasy, Reading

Book Review: Lanterns in the Sky

Lanterns in the Sky (The Starlight Chronicles Book 1)

P.S. Malcolm – March 5, 2019

(Goodreads) (Amazon)

Blurb:

Everything was normal for Lucy Maisfer until the day a star fell from the sky and knocked her out. Upon waking, she comes face-to-face with Jason Woods, who also happens to be the mysterious new guy in her best friend, Valarie’s, life. 

Then the strange dreams begin, and she learns about the Starlight Princess— who must not under any circumstance be reawakened. Driven to uncover the meaning of it, she finds herself caught up in a strange twist of events that eventually lead to bigger danger than she ever anticipated. Before long, Lucy is forced to make a choice between saving the world, or saving her best friend; only to discover that Valarie cannot be saved… that she has an even darker secret, and that her supposed star-crossed romance with Jason might not be so destined after all…

My Impression:

This book is masterfully written. The prose is cinematic – you can see it playing out in your head and honestly this is just begging to be made into a movie. I’m astounded by Malcolm’s imagery and the level of detail and thought that went into every scene. The book is full of twists and original ideas that I haven’t seen elsewhere. I’m eagerly awaiting the next book!

Notes:

This book (series) is a must read for those who love magic, royalty, and surprises while they’re reading. There’s a budding romance too, but it’s definitely taken a back seat to the action–there’s no time for that with everything that’s going on in this book! If you love Princesses who are strong enough to save themselves, you have GOT to read this book.

Enjoy this? Check out the rest of my book reviews HERE.

Fantasy, Reading

Three reasons Dark Fantasy is beneficial to readers

(Warning: This post contains spoilers for J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, The Divergent series by Veronica Roth, Blood Angel and Lord of Bones by Justine Musk, and Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff.)

Dark Fiction gives readers a safe place to explore difficult themes

Fiction, and fantasy in particular, beckons readers in with a promise of fantastical lands, impossible realities, and alternate universes. Within these wondrous stories, there is always at least one underlying theme. For example, in the Harry Potter series, Harry has to learn to deal with loss. He has to process, grieve, and overcome loss of a potentially happy childhood, friends, people he considered to be family figures, and eventually even his own life and future. The overarching story keeps the reader interested and their emotional investment in the protagonist helps them to experience the loss with him, instead of just reading about it. Because of the fantastical setting, it isn’t as threatening as reading about grief and loss in ‘the real world’ –it’s safer to explore.

A reader can draw strength and guidance from a character’s experiences.

When I read a book, I’m all in. I experience everything as the protagonist, the good and the bad. I expect this is the same for most book lovers, and for good reason. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve drawn on fictional experiences to help in my real life. Whether it be knowledge I absorbed, a moral lesson learned, or even a truth about the world.

In both the Hunger Games trilogy and Divergent series, the protagonists experience what it’s like to live under a corrupt government and learn how to follow your heart and do the right thing (Actually, so did Harry Potter. Boy those books sure get around!). These stories reaffirmed something that was hard for me to believe–those in authority aren’t always right, and don’t know everything. They also taught me that if something is wrong in the world, it’s your duty to work to correct it. Even if you’re young, even if you’re alone and think no one is on your side–there will always be others who undergo the same struggle. It’s always worth standing up for injustice.

In the Hunger Games, Katniss suffers from PTSD after the first book and struggles with Depression in the third. Her struggles with mental illness have made me more empathetic to the struggles that others have. Her memories of living in abject poverty and the class system within her district have informed my views on social equity. And the way she draws strength from those she loves has shown me how to overcome dark places in my life.

In Divergent, Tris experiences segregation of a different sort–separation by ‘types’ of people. Tris declares: “I don’t want to be just one thing. I want to be brave and selfless and intelligent and honest and kind.” (This is also seen at the opening feast in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix when the sorting hat questions whether it is right to sort people into different houses). This quote actually made me stop for a moment in reading (which never happens) and think. People cannot be segregated by any imaginary boundaries, for we all are an amalgam of every trait in various levels. When I was younger, like many people, I segregated people in my mind based on labels. Gender, income level, education, skin color, the way they acted or dressed. But as I grew older I realized that these labels were worthless. Fiction can teach us so much, if only we’re open to listening.

A reader can relate, discuss, and share with others to talk about personal issues.

Building off of the safe place that fiction gives us to learn about and experience darker issues, I’d also like to mention the benefits of sharing the stories with others.

The book Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff has several themes–one of which is dealing with an unwanted pregnancy. Willie, the protagonist, has many reasons for not wanting her pregnancy–she had an affair with a married man, she’s an ambitious college student, and she does not want to be trapped in her small town with a child like her mother was. Willie struggles with her emotions surrounding the embryo and the potential effects on her future while she tries to decide whether to abort. A reader who is undergoing the same struggle, or knows someone who is, can use the character’s experiences and emotions to help put perspective on their own. Do they feel the same way? In what ways and why? Did the character make the right choices, or does the reader have different morals? I firmly believe fiction can be a wonderful tool to encourage critical thinking and self-reflection.

The issue of addiction is explored in Justine Musk’s Blood Angel and its sequel, Lord of Bones. These books specifically helped me to understand and empathize with a friend of mine who confessed to using Heroin. While I hadn’t experienced it myself, I felt that I could somewhat understand the need and the drive to do whatever was necessary to fill the addiction–and how hard it was to stop. My friend had the strength, courage, and resources to get help, unlike some of the characters in these books.

While fiction is a gateway for many things, I strongly believe that dark fantasy specifically is ideal for readers who would benefit from empathy and introspection about difficult circumstances (read: everyone). The suspension of disbelief required to accept the fantasy elements of a story helps the reader to more easily relate to and empathize with the plight of the characters in a story. Dark fantasy’s trend towards the more difficult topics and themes sets the reader up to learn about experiences different to, or perhaps similar to their own. The books can be used to help others to relate to issues that the reader is dealing with in their own life.

Have you related to something in Dark fantasy and used it to grow? Comment below and let’s talk about it!