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Theresa Meyers | Getting Into Character

November 11, 2011

Theresa MeyersSHADOWLANDERYou know the funny thing about writing, is you get into your characters far more than you think. For a good story to grab you by the throat and hold on until you gasp, it’s critical that the characters aren’t just two-dimensional constructs. They need to have fears and weaknesses, strengths and motivations just as real as any living person.

Now this is not to say that some of those fears, weaknesses, strengths and motivations aren’t just as weird as real life. Take this guy for instance. He’s passing by a funeral procession at age 12 and is forced by the people in the procession to kiss the face of the 11 year old dead girl. It changes his life. He becomes obsessed with death and becomes a leading expert in Russian on Moscow’s cemetaries. He also turns out to be the man who’s stealing young women’s corpses and has them dressed up around his home. Creepy, yes. But look at how that one singular moment changed the direction of his life. And this isn’t fiction, it’s a true story!

The characters in our stories aren’t any different if they are well-developed. They have reasons for what they do, even if those reasons don’t make a bit of sense to anyone else, it matters to the character. Take the hero Rook in my recent book SHADOWLANDER. He’s a fae Prince of Shadows – next in line for the throne. Probably from the outside looking in, he’s got it made. But here’s the reality. He’s always desired a closeness in a relationship that wasn’t fostered by fae society. Remember how in Regency and Victorian times, those with wealth had the servants raise the children (nannies, tutors, etc.)? The children were only trotted out on social occasions and rarely spent time with their parents. Rook’s society functions in much the same way. He loves his parents, but they are virtual benevolent strangers to him in many ways. Plus Rook’s father has shown favoritism to his captain of the guard, placing him almost on the same level as his own son in many ways.

That’s part of the reason why Rook has gotten so attached to the idea of being around human Catherine O’Connell. She’s got a close knit intimacy with her sisters he envies. He could have any fae girl he wanted, but none of them hold the appeal of Catherine. Why? She isn’t going to defer to him just because he’s a prince. He wants to be noticed and appreciated for who he is, not what he is. She’s not so absorbed into fae politics that she’ll betray him for an advantage. She’s also stronger, a person who could be a true equal with him – that is until he discovers she’s a Seer, which puts her on a whole different social level than him.

In fact, it puts her in the caste above him. Really the moment he finds out he should have just walked away, but he didn’t. Rook is a guy trying to do the right thing. But when it comes between choosing what he should do for king and country (and literally his own family) vs. what he should do because he falls for Cate, it’s a choice of sucky and suckier. Either way is going to hurt.

But that’s what makes us love characters. When we see them struggle and survive, even thrive as they make it through and grow into someone better than they were at the beginning of a story. Characters are the heart of every story. We might not remember the book title, or even the author, but when someone says Scarlett, or Luke Skywalker you know precisely what they are talking about and it all comes back in a rush.

That’s what strong characters can do and why getting into what makes a character tick is the heart of writing a great story, no matter how long or short it is.

So now I’ve got to know, who are some of your favorite characters of all time (book, movie or television?) a commenter will get a copy of SHADOWLANDER e-book

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