When you first create a character, you have a name, age, and physical description, plus more or less of an idea about how they’ll behave and grow throughout series.
In writing Arcane Solutions, I’ve had to ask myself some questions about Discord, and this one has been the most important one:
What pitfalls do I, as the writer, want to avoid with her, both as a character and for the series?
A disclaimer before I go any further: my first taste of urban fantasy was Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series. I really enjoyed the first five titles. Since those, it’s been a little hit or miss on personal enjoyment for various reasons.
As a reader, I’m not entitled to tell an author how to write their books, but I can vote with my money by no longer purchasing those in a series that I feel has deteriorated, and I can say why by leaving reviews.
As an author, I know that you can’t write by committee, and need to tell your stories your way. You can’t please everyone, so it’s pointless to waste time trying. But you also need to ‘touch base’ with your vision of the characters and their stories, to make certain you’re not making sudden, weird left turns in anything.
Discord’s series will have character growth ongoing. Most of the characters are young, so their attitudes and behaviors aren’t going to be set in stone. Plus, it’d be damn boring if you could anticipate their every decision, reaction, and action book after book, right?
Now for pitfalls, because I have well-developed opinions about what I see as ‘mistakes’ in certain stories.
Example: Anita mentioned her family quite often, but I don’t remember any member of it making an appearance in the books.
In fact, there’s a lot of absentee parents, or parents who are awful, running around in all genres right now. I’m not a fan of that trend. Discord has good relationships with her parents, and they will appear in the series from time to time, for various reasons. As a reader, I would have LOVED to have Anita’s step-mother show up, or see a Thanksgiving dinner at the family home. We all know how holiday dinners can end!
I’m frankly sick of vampires as leading characters and the heroine’s love interest, with only a few exceptions: Evelyn Lafont’s The Vampire Relationship Guide, Volume 1: Meeting and Mating is one (it was a fun read, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the series).
Because of that, Discord will definitely NEVER sleep with one, and she has a good reason to be distrustful of them.
Sex. I don’t think urban fantasies should have a million sex scenes in each story, but sex is a natural part of life, so it would be weird to never, ever mention a character having sex when you’re writing a series.
This one is a touchy topic. I don’t know about others, but I’ve read around, and the stuff put up by college students at various sites often proves they aren’t really worried about things like safe sex, drug use, or taking long breathers in between relationships.
Discord’s college aged, though not a college student. There’s a balance between what appears to be current behavior, and what is sensible behavior that she’ll manage to find. She’s going to do some impulsive things, in other words, when it comes to her sexual activities, but she’s not going to be a raging nympho or develop any major fetishes.
Power… Discord is not going to develop into some uber-awesome ass kicker who can snap her fingers to solve any problem, but never does because then there wouldn’t be much of a story if she did that, now would there?
She begins with certain abilities, some of which don’t work just because she wants them to, and she will gain new ones throughout the series, but there will be limits and she will have to adjust and learn.
She’s not going to be able to handle everything herself, no matter how many abilities she gains.
In short, I want to show continual character growth, not a boatload of heavy dramatic angst all the time, and a little romance and heat, without screwing over the solving crimes/problems part of the series.
Can I do it? I think so, and I’m certainly going to try.
(After thought: I do still read the Anita Blake series, but skip over the parts in each book that no longer appeal to me. I think it has to be really difficult to write on a single series for years without losing some of the ‘excitement’ of first books. Kudos to those authors who can keep going!)