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!