Okay, let’s play a game.
Think about your favorite books. Can you remember the joy or despair or fear or happiness that you felt when you read it for the first time? Did you cry at the end? Did you do a happy dance? Did you have a book hangover for days after you finished it?
I bet there’s probably A TON of books that have made you feel that way over the years.
So why do you think you felt all those things? How did this simple thing made of paper and ink rip you to shreds? Why is it your favorite book?
I think that’s an easy answer. The book’s characters.
Maybe that book did have an amazing plot and a cool cover and great editing and even better writing. It most likely had all those things.
But none of those things would matter without the characters who steal your heart and never give it back.
Here is my hypothesis: A book is only as strong as its weakest character. As a writer, you can have an amazing plot line with all those crazy plot twists, but it doesn’t mean a thing if a good character isn’t experiencing them.
As avid readers, I think we can all spot a book whose characters just don’t seem real. An entire scene can be ruined by improper character motivations. You can spot cheesy dialogue from a mile away. And after reading a hundred pages of a book, you know when a character is falling flat.
And there’s nothing worse than that right?
As a reader, I completely agree. As a writer, I know how hard it is to write great characters.
When I started writing The Lost One, I knew I wanted the focus to be on my characters. The first book I wrote, The Hunted One (which is the first book in my End of Days series), I focused so much on the plot that I had to go back and develop my characters. Maybe that’s why it took my six years to write it? Hmm…
Anyway, I didn’t want to make that mistake with book two in the series. I wanted The Lost One to be powerful. I really wanted my readers to feel like the characters were sitting beside them, leaning over their shoulder and breathing down their neck as they read the book. So the very first thing I did before I ever started outlining scenes in the book was to outline my character arcs.
A character needs an “arc” to be dynamic. They need to start the story at one point with certain ideas and beliefs. Throughout the course of the story, those beliefs needed to be tested and pushed to the limit. Eventually, by the last chapter, those beliefs need to be forced to change and adapt. The character changes fundamentally. That’s my definition of an arc.
My biggest arc in The Lost One was Michaela. She’s my main girl in the End of Days series. She’s a wingless, disgraced angel, who took a lot of hard hits in book one. In the second book, I wanted her to start rebuilding herself. She has to learn how to love when it’s not obvious or easy. It’s a hard lesson for an angel, because love should be inherent and unfailing. But when you’re disgraced and betrayed, that kind of love doesn’t exist for you anymore.
I said from the very beginning that I wanted to write a story about redemption. And in The Lost One, Michaela starts that process.
It’s a hard line to walk between showing a character’s true emotions and still giving readers hope. I wanted Michaela to struggle but not piss off readers. I wanted her to hate Gabriel at times but still leave a spark of romance. She had to be misunderstood but not angsty.
It’s a tough balance with Michaela, and she’s a hard character to write.
Many, many readers of The Hunted One fell in love with Clark. He didn’t have a huge character arc in The Hunted One, but I wanted to start developing him in The Lost One. He’s this human born into an ancient order established to help protect the angels on Earth. He doesn’t take his birthright seriously. He doesn’t take much seriously, actually. But in The Lost One, he’s forced to examine his beliefs and past.
Clark is always a fun character to write. He gets the crap end of the stick in The Lost One, but I wanted to set him up for a really powerful arc in the last book of the series, coming out this summer. He’s Michaela’s rock and best friend in the books. I think he even handles adversity better than Michaela at times. My main goal with Clark is to make him original and funny. I want him to be a character readers haven’t read before.
Actually that’s my goal with a lot of my characters.
Whether it’s Gabriel, Isaac, Iris, the other Archangels, or Lucifer, I want them to be original. Originality comes from the flaws and the character traits that make up a character. I think Stephen King is the master of making his characters so unique by adding in quirky little traits that suit the characters perfectly.
The one goal that I hoped I achieved with The Lost One is realistic, powerful characters. I want readers to understand them and experience their trials with them. Fingers crossed I pulled it off!