Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Tragic Characters

I've decided to suspend a project I started in January and move to a new project that I'm more excited about.  My new novel is about a young man named David Morton, and it's the backstory to a book I finished several months ago.

At first, I didn't know what attracted me to this story so much.  However, after much thought, it came to me - the main character.  David Morton's tale is so compelling in my head that it has to come out.  Morton starts the novel as a 22 year old kid who was given a commission as a US Army officer, and it follows him to his leading a global resistance movement against a threat to the very existence of humanity.  Over the course of 73 years, we get to see the pitfalls and triumphs in this person's life that make him so prominent to the people in Homecoming.

Still, the more I looked at Morton, the more I saw similarities to other works I've done.  Whether it be Seth Gendrickson from Akeldama witnessing the slaughter of his friends, or the raw emotion Mike Faulkner in Salvation Day goes through when he tries to go on without his wife, my characters, the ones I have the easiest time writing about, have been all but shattered.  Even Christian Gettis in Wrongful Death has to hit rock bottom before he can extricate himself and do what has to be done.

Is there something within me that attracts me to characters that have to go through stuff that would break any one of us?  I think it's because the tragedies these people have to go through makes them deeper.  And in a way, I think it makes them more relatable to all of us.

Of course none of us has had to go through our wife's suicide or the loss of a child, but such things help us empathize with a person.  I know I wonder what I would do in those situations, and the struggles these folks have to endure makes them more real to me.  Sure, I could write about some superficial jock that stumbles into finding the secret to the plot, but I don't find that interesting.  What I find interesting are the incredible odds, both story-wise and from a personal standpoint, that a character has to overcome to succeed.

Further, I just like stories centered around strong characters.  Morton, like several before him, is the focal point of the story.  It's told through his eyes, and it seems the world couldn't exist without him.  I find myself wanting him to overcome, not just in spite of but because of what he has to go through.  Yes, it may be a bit like a soap opera, but if the audience will care about him half as much, the book will be a success.  After all, we watch the news to see what happened to the people in the stories, not just about some random policy or crime.

That's what draws me to these creatures of misfortune.  That, and the knowledge that such misfortune, at least in my imagination, isn't forever.  In the end, the harder the climb, the sweeter the payoff.

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