On Writing Characters in Untenable Circumstances

I write things.

More specifically, I write stories that I make up featuring characters I mentally spawned going on journeys I engineered myself. And more often than not, they’re bad. Not the stories (I hope), but the characters, their circumstances, their choices, what have you–something is kinda bad. That’s just how it tends to go.

With some stories it’s harder than others. My Irreparable books, I was sitting on my couch summer before last and I had this idea of this really terrible situation I could put all of these poor characters in, and the whole aim of this series (it was originally going to be 3 installments, but it’s actually only 2 now) was to decimate everything and see what was left. It was to put them through horrible scenarios and then build something with the irreparable pieces of their former lives. Not to say there’s no happy ending, but given the circumstances, given what’s done and what happens and just…all of the destruction, there’s a limit to how tidy things can ever really be. I’m going against nature by tying these characters together, I’m tying triggers into the mix and ensuring that it’s as hard as I can possibly make it to keep these characters both likeable and self-respecting.

It’s hard. Ethan, I’m finding, is the hardest. Because it’s a romance. Taboo, yes, but a romance. And it’s not a straight dark romance, like a WIP to eventually be revealed, where I can sort of unapologetically throw heinous things out there and be like, “He’s a bad guy, what do you expect?”

Ethan’s not a bad guy. He’s not an anti-hero. But sometimes it’s hard as hell to make him a hero, too. Especially considering I don’t just want him to be the good guy for one damaged young woman, I also don’t want him to be a heel to a woman whose years of love and life he completely betrayed. Nothing about his character’s journey is ever easy. He has a road full of difficult decisions and responses to situations he didn’t mean to create in the first place. All the while, he wants to be the hero of two opposing stories.

This isn’t possible. Maybe it is, but I’m probably not going to pull that off. Rather, Ethan isn’t. I know this because I write him, and the more I try to make him a good guy in one respect, the less he feels like the good guy in the other. I’m pulling him in several different (untenable and a bit unnatural) directions, and it’s probably pushing the release date even more (because when I finish doing the Stretch Armstrong on him, I’m gonna have some overall revisions to do), but at this point, this book isn’t the “3 months of fall/winter” writing that I planned it to be, and I just really want to get the ending right. I know it won’t please everyone, I know some people will struggle with his struggle/what inevitably makes him a better man than he could be, but it’s just who he is. The heroine loves him for/sometimes despite it, and hopefully everyone else will, too.

I shared this Facebook post today because it’s so true. Published and unpublished, I’ve written some crazy stuff. It’s just fiction. I’m just spinning a tale, trying to weave some reality and fiction together to tell a story that might entertain you for a few hours. I’m not condoning something because I write it. Some readers have this feeling like we should be punished for writing in distasteful scenarios, but I have news for them: we are, sometimes when we’re writing the story, and definitely later when it comes time to try to find reviewers!

God help anyone who reads my books looking for tips on how to navigate their own love life.

Anyway. It’s 4 am and I should really go to sleep, but I just left Ethan in a really crummy situation…so maybe I should write a little bit more….

Eh, on second thought, that’s Tomorrow Sam’s problem. 🙂

 

 

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