I recently received a comment about Clemency and the ‘state’ of its characters. The critique was that my characters were all very ‘base’ in nature. Put in different terms, the suggestion was that they were very crude.
I believe that a story needs to be event driven to keep a reader moving and engaged. But on another level, I think that it is critical that it be character driven as well. Let me explain. What I think it’s important to establish a journey for a character. They should start in a specific position and end up in a somewhat different position in a story. What kind of position? Well that depends. It might be emotional, moral, practical or some combination of all of these. But characters, just as we are in life, need to be exposed to constant change. After all, change is the only constant.
We all walk some road to redemption in life, and my characters are no different. If I polish my characters on page one, and make them perfect from the beginning, then they have no journey to make and they have finished their roles in the story before they have even begun. They have no road to redemption, no means to improve either their outlook or their lot in life.
In Clemency, I exposed the main characters and established their flaws almost immediately. Why? Because their shortcomings become highlighted throughout the rest of the story, and end up driving the multiple storylines as they develop. By the time the book has finished, the reader is left with a host of questions about their feelings for eachother, their fate and their future. But this is why we have sequels, right? Now lets take a brief look at a character in Clemency who is relatively complete.
What about the Captain? His ‘character cycle’ is not unlike one that you would find in a book not connected to a series. In that case, all the characters need to be developed, apex and be resolved within the covers of the single story. The Captain’s life is similar in nature. He was established later in the book, and his character apexed when he was no longer needed. His life as a character was relatively short, but his development as a character was pretty complete. What does this illustrate? I think it demonstrates that because the Saint Chronicles is a series, that immediate and full development of all the characters would do nothing more then shorten their use in the story. So am I tipping my hand about character development in future sequels? Probably.