loving your main characters

Day Three of Loving my Protagonists: Colin and Peter (and Ren)

While I was writing my protagonist list, the book with Colin in it hadn’t sold yet and I worried I was going to jinx it. But Red Lettering and Black Shades have both sold to MLR and the third book White Canvas is coming out in the spring.

Writing a main character who is a writer is one of the three or four books writers have to write when they’re learning how to write. You have to write about the magic sword/Prince as a pauper/white talking horse story, you have to write the story set in second person, you have to write the getting away with a perfect murder story, and you have to write your main character being a writer. You don’t have to write all of them, and the magic sword can be swapped out for the Star Trek/Wars story with the serial numbers filed off for science fiction writers, but they’re like milestones of being a writer.

Colin was my first main character who was a novelist. I bent what I believe is possibly by having him be a writer supporting himself at 22 on his writing which is possible, it’s just not very likely. I started writing at eleven, when everyone else around me was “taking notes” I had my paper under my textbook, scribbling away. I was so afraid that people would realize that in note taking, quotation marks aren’t really necessary, but I didn’t quite realize at that age that no one really paid that much attention to what kids were doing, as long as they were doing it carefully.

In the first book Colin says in the narration:

He’d been a quiet observer of the universe, narrating his field notes to himself. Now his biggest seller was a series about a man who had all the emotional response of a turnip but liked blowing shit up. But he’d known what it had felt like to be loved fiercely, and love just as hard back. 

He’s always been a quiet kid. When he meets Ren for the first time, he doesn’t realize that Ren just kisses all the young men he meets, gay, straight or any point in between. For Colin, who just had a computer problem that his friend brought a friend over to help him with it, he went from having a file that hadn’t saved when it should have to having a lap full of Ren who wriggled when he kissed people.

His life changed in an instant. They run back to Ren’s room because Colin would have died before he purchased condoms at a store. Ren opened the door and wheeled his roommate out into the hall, still in his office chair. Ren was the kisser of boys, not the answerer of questions, so when the summer apart didn’t go as planned, Colin realized he wasn’t just going to be saying good bye to Ren, the man he loved but also to the first bit of colour Colin’s life had ever seen. He’d lived a lukewarm, grey life that peaked at a four. Ren lived at eleven. They had seven amazing years together.

It’s no spoiler to say that Ren died. Ren died eight years before the story starts and Colin was still in mourning. I had just lost my cat and writing from the point of grief of an otherwise amazing life gave the story colour in ways I probably couldn’t have planned. My wife found the anthology call for a main character that hated Hallowe’en on the 27th of July due on the 31st, and what came out of me was a very rough 26,000 word story that was a reverse phantom hitchhiker.

I’ll talk more about Peter the next time, but Colin and Peter in a lot of ways were the same character. They were both artists, both quiet, both a little shy. Colin had everything work out perfectly before Ren died and it took him a long time to get over it, Peter was Colin in the way fear ruled his life but Peter without finding his Ren just pushed on without his life clicking into place.

And Ren was just Ren. You don’t get too many characters like Ren in your life. He was a drag queen who got voted the Homecoming King and campaigned hard enough as the write-in candidate to be the Homecoming Queen that he swept both categories. He was voted in both un-ironically. It was chemically impossible not to love Ren, but that wasn’t saying he was the easiest to live with. As much as Colin wants to, he can’t move on unless he can look at Ren as a whole.

Other than the fact that there are ghosts in the story, up until I wrote a straight up gay cowboy story this month, it was the closest thing I got to writing non-paranormal. I still feel like there’s a very private couple in BC that I’ve just been peering in on and airing all their dirty laundry.

Peter quotes the whizzing sound deadlines made over Douglas Adam’s head. Colin shoots back that the only sound this deadline made was “splat”. I love these boys so much they make me happy to have blown life into their stories.

Day one: Loving your main characters, the Finn edition

At WWC, I heard someone said your main character should always be the most interesting character. So I wanted to talk about my top five favourite characters in my stuff and which characters are in comparison much more interesting, but I’m starting off on the wrong foot because now that I think about it, Finn is probably the most interesting character in the Tempest series. 

I have always been exceptionally character driven, and up until Mercedes Lackey wrote the Chrome Circle, I honestly believed I could read about my favourite character reading a book for three hundred pages.My formally favourite character was going to work in a horse farm. I didn’t want to believe I was bored, but I tried to summit that book so many times I can’t even give you a number before I gave up on it. What I found interesting at fourteen and at twenty-one turned out to be two completely separate thing. But the SERRAted edge books are the reason I write paranormal.

My top five favourite main characters, in no particular order are Finn, Matt, Cy, Vision and Colin. 

Day one is Finn, my gay little selkie boy from Coral were his Bones.

Finn is a fascinating character to write. I’m putting this in present tense because I’m currently working on the book two. Susan MacGregor says it as succinctly as possible in her Letters to the Slushpile and again in her ABCs that alien or shifter POV’s have to absolutely nail that sense of other in an interesting enough way that the reader gets that the protagonist is not human, and yet relatable enough to your hopefully human audience that you don’t push your reader away. Finn’s a sea lion, which is both a fiercesome predator and also the powerbar of the sea for bigger fish and other mammals to munch on. Finn’s sense of smell and his awareness of the world in a 360 degree space is so much fun to write. I cheated, making Finn 49% human so that he can be in a relationship with a human and develop all the same human attachments. Some selkies gather in harem-like arrangements, though others, like Finn mate for life. 

Finn, like all my favourite characters has been wounded in ways that would crumple most people, but like Matt, he wants to be whole and complete. He fell in love with his mate and loves him as fiercely as he knows how, but if he hadn’t had his heart stolen away at his eighteenth birthday, he and Devon would have probably broken up by now. And since in this world, selkies can literally die from a broken heart, the stakes are really, really high. If Devon doesn’t hold his tether, he’ll float away on the tide and if he lets go, Finn will die. I love the world and the characters so much.

As a selkie, he has the most to lose because going back to Paul after his hard earned two week “vacation” will probably kill him or worse. He understands that his boyfriend could lose arms or legs and still be a whole person, but if he were to lose a limb, he wouldn’t be able to swim as a sea lion. Nothing rings the dinner bell so hard in the ocean as a prey animal swimming erratically. If he loses a hand or a foot, the only safe place he could swim would be in inland lakes or pools, and Finn was meant to swim in open water. If he were a sword, he’d be the one thrust into the forge and then bent back over himself time after time after time, but any shock to his system has a real chance of shattering him. He grew up extremely wealthy but had lost both his parents in a boating “accident” as a very young boy. 

Unlike the other four I want to talk about, Finn might actually be the most interesting character in the book. As other, he has a way of looking at life that is completely unique. His boyfriend, Devon, isn’t the shining perfect example of a human and has had to deal with a lot of resentment growing up being the boy-next-door to the kid who has everything except for a family. Eddie, Devon’s dad, is a trans man, though Eddie viewed his surgery as important in his life as getting his tonsils out. He’s always been Eddie and Finn is a bit awkward around him because he doesn’t think a straight man would understand what it could possibly be like to be the receptive partner in a relationship. 

There are two antagonists, Finn’s master/boss, Paul and the Pacific sea witch. Everything out there across the universe has a personification in this Council of the Infinites, and for any of them to be involved in the tiny life of a tiny sea lion is ludicrous. 

So, yeah. Most of my other stuff has at least one non-POV character who is more interesting than Finn is, but I don’t think that’s the case in Coral.