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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Characters are people too

There were several reasons why I wanted to write Better Than You, and one reason why I felt I had to. After Keep You was released, I got a little scared. And then a lot scared. It became a case of waiting for someone to slam me for "disapproving" of feminine women. I thought Oh, crap. Someone's going to read about tomboy Jo and think I'm trying to make a statement. And I hated having this thought because the last thing I ever want to do with fiction is make statements about any of the "-isms" in life, if you catch my drift. Because, by the end of Keep You, it becomes apparent that Jo has been quick to judge. And so has Delta. And Better Than You is the flip side of that coin.

In a perfect world, everyone would be sweet and accepting and bear no opinions. But we don't live in a perfect world - far from it; writing characters - real characters and not clipart images with names and rote taglines attached - is about capturing not just one, but all elements of a human. People are snooty. Sometimes characters are snooty. Jo's opinions are Jo's opinions - not mine - and the same goes for Delta. When we're in Jo's head, Delta is the frosty princess, snotty to the last. But in Delta's head, Jo is the snotty one, full of reverse snobbery and looking down her tomboy nose at the pretty girl. It's an unfair mindset on both their parts, but an accurate one, I believe. This happens in real life. Two people so outwardly different need time, and exposure, to see the girl beneath the exterior. They learn; they grow; they're sisters, at the end of the day. And that's what I wanted to explore with the series as a whole: the mosaic nature of families. Siblings are born related, but they aren't necessarily born similar or friendly. Walt and Jess and Mike are all preps - all in very different ways. Walt's serious. Jess is practical. Mike's a doof. Jordie's the jock, and the skinny kid brother, and the sarcastic, removed one. Jo's the baby trying her damndest not to be the baby. Jo envies Jess's grace; Jess envies Jo's don't-give-a-damn. It's messy. And then the spouses get sucked into the equation too, and the friction is heightened.

Okay, I'm rambling. And maybe I'm defending my choices when there's no need to. I've gotta have some faith in reading comprehension, right? But I guess my point is this: I see a lot of complaints from readers (of other books) that literature doesn't supersede the morals of real life, as if it were supposed to. This is impossible to ask. People are opinionated, and so too are characters. Jo and Delta, two polar opposites, are my favorite characters to write. I can like playing the tomboy and I can like glitz too. Each character is a window to a different room of the mind. So, yeah. I just needed to say all that. For reasons.

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