Thursday, December 17, 2009


Since it's that time of year . . . I'm going to write about gifts today. No, not the Kindle or the Wii or the DSi or the latest Harry Potter movie or a visit from Nathan Fillion or any such material thing. I'm talking about the gifts our characters give (or should give) our readers!

No, I haven't lost my mind and I haven't dosed my coffee with Bailey's, though that is a thought. Okay, I've only had 1/2 a cup of coffee so far, so that might explain things.

Every writer knows (or should know) that characters require action and must learn something, or what's the point of the novel??? If a character begins/ends the same way, what was the point of years of toiling over the laptop? A character must grow, must learn, must accomplish something, or there truly isn't a point to the brilliance of the 1,456,798 page book a writer just wrote.

We all know this, but I think the reader should be given (i.e., learn) something from the characters we create.

For example . . .

Jared - I'd like to think he gives the gift of knowing that, sometimes, love just isn't enough to make a relationship work, and that, sometimes, the greatest thing a person can do is walk away from the comfortable to the unknown.

Sorcha - I'd like to think she gives the gift of knowing that forgiveness won't truly happen, but that acceptance of her regret will happen. She can move forward, as can the others hurt by her actions, and they will survive, perhaps a bit changed, perhaps a bit more jaded and cynical then when they first started out in life.

Alexander - I'd like to think he gives the gift of fully understanding the consequences of the choices people make in life, and knowing it is never too late to change one's mind and do what a person really wants to do.

The Man with a Gun (sorry, never have named this character) - I'd like to think he gives the gift of hope. When everything a person loves is taken from them, when all their dreams are destroyed, when their family is gone and there is truly nothing, nothing to live for, and only vengeance exists, sometimes, hope is found in the unlikeliest of places. This is the gift the man with a gun provides.

Okay, I could keep listing characters and gifts, but then I'd never accomplish anything else today. I could also list characters we all know - Bilbo Baggins, Frodo, Harry Potter, Anne of Green Gables. Each of these characters taught me something about life. Each of these characters provided a nice gift, not always neatly wrapped, that I treasure every time I open up one of the Harry Potter books, The Hobbit, and of The Lord of the Rings, Anne of Green Gables or any other book I've ever read, or ever will read. Every single book, to me at least, is a treasure chest of gifts, perhaps a journey of self discovery as well.

What will readers discover when they read your books? What gifts will your characters give? Are your characters giftless? Has the Grinch on top of Mt. Crumpet stolen all the gifts during that time when his shoes were too small, and his heart was three sizes too small? Have the Whos down in Whoville not started singing their Christmas song, bereft of gifts and decorations, but not of love? If so, perhaps a close reexamination of your characters might be in order!



Marybeth Poppins said...

But what if I really want a Nathon Fillion?

Come to my blog and love your award by the way :)

Robyn Campbell said...

Hmmm, now dangit. Isn't it enough that I had to teach place value (with decimals) this morning? Without you making me think even more? My brain is screaming, "no more thinking, PLEASE!"

But I'll give it a shot. Anna gives the reader the gift of hope. That despite all odds even a kid her age can make it through just about anything. And come through smiling and happy to be alive.

Claire shows the reader that she DOES know more than she thinks, which might also give the reader understanding that he/she knows more than they think also.

And you're right. Our characters must learn things. Must grow.

Great post. Oh and 1,456,798 really? COOL!

Davin Malasarn said...

Lovely post, Scott. I think I always had this idea intuitively, but I've never thought about it in exactly this way before, and I like it. What I struggled with in my last novel was this idea of what my protag gave to my audience. He was such a mean guy. But, then I realized that, at least for me, it gave me the power to forgive someone who was very important to my life. I'm not sure if it's true or not, but I'm hoping my book can also allows others to forgive the people around them.

Scott said...

Marybeth - I know you want a Nathan Fillion for Christmas! You'll just have to ask Santa and wait and see what happens. Thanks for the award! It's lovely!

Robyn - it's my goal in life to make you think, think, and think some more. I just figure it as my way of making you pay for advertising on my blog!! : )

Davin - thanks. I think even the meanest, most vile characters can gift us with something. Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter is a vile and despicable character with no redeeming qualities - perhaps her gift is to show people how not to act?? Or, maybe to show the consequences of such actions, since she did ultimately suffer for her ugliness. : )

ElanaJ said...

Excellent post! I know what I want my characters to give to people, but since my whole book is about choices and good/bad, I'm not going to say.

I want the reader to close the book and analyze their life. Wonder if they've done the "right" things. Wonder if they would do anything different.

And I think that's a good gift. (Right?)

Scott said...

Elana - I agree. If the book makes people think about their own lives and choices, then it's a great gift. One of my favorite books is Solstice Wood by Patricia McKillip. The book really made me think about choices, perception, communication, miscommunication, and acceptance. Yeah, a whole lot of stuff in a very little book. It definitely put things in perspective for me.