When it comes to the worlds I’ve created, my general rule is to make sure the emotions are true to the characters rather than have every action and reaction be based in reality.
What does that mean?
It means that it’s more important to me that Landon and Bay sit down for a serious talk if they’ve had a misunderstanding than worrying about the fact that real witches don’t curse people to smell like bacon.
Yes, I’ve had a message complaining about that. For the record, I know. I know there’s not a bacon curse and that it doesn’t really exist – so there’s no reason to keep messaging me about it. That’s not the point of the story.
I want the emotional bonds between the characters to ring true. The other stuff – the ghosts, curses, wraiths, pouting reporters, and magical mages with glowing hands – isn’t as important to me.
Don’t get me wrong, I adore the action when it comes to the meat of the story. I still focus more on the characters even when mirror men are trying to kill my heroine.
That being said, a lot of the character actions ARE based in reality despite what some people think.
ARGUMENT ONE: No one would ever talk to his or her boss in the manner that Avery Shaw talks to her boss.
The thing is, I often talked to my boss the way Avery Shaw talks to Fred Fish. Out of all of my characters, Avery Shaw is the most like me. Newsrooms are not “office” settings by any stretch of the imagination. They may be housed in offices, but they’re not “normal” business settings. Strange, but true. My former co-workers and I used to have a good laugh about the oddballs in our newsroom.
I always had a theory that the journalism profession appeals to oddballs and loners. You’re not expected to dress in a suit and kiss the boss’s butt in a newsroom. That’s simply not the way it goes. Instead you’re allowed to come as you are (unless you’re covering a charity event or court case) and snark about with your co-workers while making fun of the television reporters.
Newsrooms are loose and fast with the rules and I had a tendency to whine when I didn’t want to cover something. In the books, Avery Shaw has a pair of shark mittens she uses to do puppet shows to explain to her boss why she doesn’t want to cover something. I got several messages about how unprofessional that was. Here’s the thing: I do have those shark mittens, although the mittens I utilized for my puppet shows were snakes (I still have them).
Why the snakes? They had long, floppy tongues that made the puppet reenactment so much more interesting. I did argue with my boss when I didn’t want to cover something but the puppet show was mild compared to what I saw other co-workers doing. The co-worker Marvin Potts is based on, for example, was prone to flying off the handle and yelling and stomping around whenever the mood struck.
And he not only got away with it but also was considered the best reporter in the room.
So, yeah, reporters are odd. Newsrooms are odd places, though, and they’re nothing like regular office settings.
ARGUMENT TWO: Grandpa’s antics in Avery Shaw are completely off the charts.
They may be but my Grandpa is based on my grandfather and he did a lot wilder things than what I have in the books. My family is also that co-dependent and we fight with each other constantly. We snipe, blackmail, mess around with and threaten to get our way when nothing is going on. We also turn up in a crisis and help, no questions asked or apologies for earlier fights offered. It’s simply how we roll.
ARGUMENT THREE: No one would put up with Avery, Aisling, Zoe, Harper, etc. and actually stay long enough to fall in love with them.
That’s actually a legitimate argument. In the real world, I can’t imagine anyone putting up with the stuff Avery does on a regular basis. She thinks nothing of it and Eliot is pretty much a martyr where she’s concerned. Aisling isn’t quite as bad but I know very few people in the real world who would put up with meddling brothers (to say nothing for a threatening father) like Aisling has. The same for the Winchester family. Bay honestly isn’t all that hard to deal with (for the most part), but putting up with Thistle, Aunt Tillie and Winnie on a regular basis would be soul-crushing for most men (delicious bacon aside, of course).
That’s why it’s a book, people. If I wanted everything to be exactly like it was in the real world I would stop writing and sit on my front lawn and watch the neighbors do nothing eight hours a day. The fun of a book is escape. I don’t pretend for a second that the bulk of my characters are people who would have an easy time of it in the real world.
ARGUMENT FOUR: The characters are selfish and not good role models.
I like to think the characters are more than one thing. They are certainly selfish when they want to be. People in the real world are selfish, too. The characters are also giving and loyal when things go bad, just like the people in the real world. As for the role model argument? I don’t set my characters up to be role models. I write them to be true to themselves and that’s pretty much it.
This goes back to the beginning, though. I like emotions that are realistic and actions that can be fantastic. That’s probably one of the reasons I like soap operas so much. I never once believed the Cassidines were going to freeze the world on General Hospital but I always believed I wanted Luke and Robert to stop them. To this day, I’m still rooting for Robert and Anna because of the characters … not the ludicrous stuff hey did throughout the years, like both of them dying and coming back from the dead, Anna being a double agent, Anna being kidnapped by a crazy person, their daughter dying and coming back from the dead, etc.
None of that bothers me because I’m invested in the character. Since that appeals to me, that’s what I focus on when writing.
So, for me, it all comes down to character development above all else. I don’t see that changing and that’s simply what I like to focus on.
What about you? Do you prefer a more realistic plot or are you focused on how the characters interact with one another?
When I was a kid, I was torn between whether or not I was going to grow up and be the Incredible Hulk or Wonder Woman. I flirted with being a Jedi Knight for awhile, but I wasn't up for the intense travel associated with the gig. In my teens, I settled on being a writer -- although I had no idea the effort that would entail.