The following is a reprint of a post I made today on the website I share with four members of my critique group http://www.5scribesandtheirstories.com:
I like my characters for different reasons. In Runaways, I like Charlie because of his quirky grammar and mannerisms; I like the way Claire, Charlie’s wife, reacts like a mother hen to those around her; I love Jake for his bravery and the fact that he is an overcomer; I appreciate Hound because he is always loyal and protective of Jake.
So, that leaves the villain of the story, Ethan. For two-thirds of the way through the book, I didn’t like him. After all, he is a liar, a murderer, and abusive to his son. But, then something happened. Ethan started to come alive. He forced me to take a look, not at his outward actions, but at his very soul. He forced me to dig deep.
Ethan challenged me to tell the story of his own past in such a way that it could be woven together with the present, making him a character deserving of the reader’s empathy. He showed me that he was redeemable—that he was, in fact, someone my reading audience would end up cheering on in his struggle.
Yes, I like Ethan because he forced me to take a look at all of his ugliness and, yet, find within myself the desire and power to forgive him. If, as a writer, I could offer him unconditional love, then I could write his storyline in such a way that readers could, too.
Through the power of story, characters evolve and the life lessons they learn are sometimes ones we find that we need to learn, too. Jake, Ethan, and Charlie take us on a journey through their struggles and bring us all to a place of hope for the future.
Author’s Note: God willing, Runaways, will reach publication sometime in 2015!