Monday, June 16, 2014

The Darker Side of Controlling your Characters, by Katie O’Sullivan

You get to a point when you’re reading a book when you understood all the characters. Who’s the hero, who’s the heroine, who are the bad guys… You’ve got them figured out. Then someone goes and does something you totally didn’t expect. That completely changes your perception of them.

That happens to authors too.

At least, it happens to me.

In the second book in my Mermaids of Cape Cod series, one of the key characters is the sorcerer Zan. He gets a mention in the first book, but all of his scenes were cut from book one during the editing process. Even though he’s part of the inner circle of evil guys trying to overthrow the Atlantic kingdom in Son of a Mermaid, we never actually meet him in the first book.

But we see the deadly consequences of his magick. The tornado that destroys Shea’s home in Oklahoma. The storm that kills Shea’s grandfather and uncle. The poison that makes its way into food at the Solstice banquet. Prince Demyan may have given all those orders, but Zan followed through with their execution.

In Blood of a Mermaid, we meet Zan right from the get-go, with the first chapter in his point of view. We know he’s still in league with the evil prince and signing up for more dirty work. When I started writing Zan, he was pretty one-dimensional. A bad guy.

Originally, Zan was only going to narrate the very first chapter, to give the reader insight into what the bad guys were up to, setting the whole plot into motion. But as I was writing subsequent chapters, Zan’s voice kept popping up, asking me – begging me – to let him tell the scene from his perspective.
I decided to let him have a voice. And he surprised me!

Something happened to him when he went to kidnap Kae. Giving him one of the point-of-view voices let him show me what was going on inside of his head, and gave voice to his inner doubts.
Bad guys aren’t supposed to have doubts. But Zan did. He wanted to be better, to be worthy of a mermaid like Kae.

By the end of the book, he’d redeemed himself in my eyes. Even though he was originally going to die – yes, really, I planned to kill him off – I didn’t want to punish him at all. He’d done terrible things under orders from Prince Demyan, but I convinced Shea to let him off the hook… except a full pardon didn’t sit well with beta readers or with my editor.

Evil deeds demand consequences.

Zan’s character at the end of the book is not who I thought he was going to be. I gave up trying to control him and I like the way he grew up.

What do you think of characters who change and grow into something different? Or do you prefer to read characters who are black and white, with no grey wiggle-room for redemption?
About the Book: 

Mermaid blood.

When Shea MacNamara fell into the ocean for the first time, he found he could breathe underwater. The son of a mermaid, the sea is in his blood. Literally. The best part of Shea’s new life? His girlfriend Kae, who also happens to be a beautiful mermaid.

But darkness lurks under the sea. When evil mermen kidnap Kae, the king reminds Shea that having royal blood means making tough choices. 

An Arctic dungeon, a fiery plane crash, the legendary halls of Atlantis…and narwhals? 

Having mermaid blood just got a lot more complicated.

Grab your copy of Blood of a Mermaid on Amazon today.

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