Writing the Main Characters

My brother once asked me if the characters in The Thirteenth Hour were based on myself. I don’t think so, at least not on purpose. I suppose every writer injects some of himself in the characters that he creates, but I didn’t set out to do this consciously, although I no doubt suspect that there were plenty of unconscious contributions.

The character of Logan was somebody I envisioned as being unassuming and initially kind of naive, not yet possessing the confidence that comes from having more experience in life. Despite losing his parents at a young age, I want to portray the rest of his childhood in as secure a way as possible. I think there’s sometimes a stereotype to portray institutions like orphanages as evil, bureaucratic places that are understaffed, underfunded, and poorly run. And while there are no doubt some places like that, I wanted to paint a better picture for Logan’s childhood environment in order to give him the kind of consistent, safe, caring support that I thought he’d need to equip him for the challenges that he would face in the story. I also wanted him to be someone that spoke to the reader in an honest, sometimes irreverent way, kind of like an adult who’s looking back on his life but has a good idea what it still is like to be a kid (although I didn’t specifically think of it at the time, the narrators from The Wonder Years, Stand By Me, and The Christmas Story do this quite well). I thought it important that he not take himself too seriously, because let’s face it, there are a lot of lousy, humiliating things that happen to everyone when they’re kids that seem a lot funnier years later.

If you’ve read the book, you know that the Logan narrates the majority of the story interspersed by sections told by Aurora. She was not based on anyone in particular, but rather a compilation of characteristics that I thought would make her an interesting independent character yet a good friend and partner to Logan. The creation of young adult female characters has always seemed a bit more loaded than the creation of their male counterparts. I’ve often gotten the impression that some authors write their female characters with some kind of agenda in mind; instead of it just being a story about a human that happens to be female, it’s a story about a woman who is strong, or a woman who is not strong, or a woman who is not strong and becomes strong, or … whatever! While I wanted her to be able to stand on her own two feet, I didn’t want it to be for some kind of feminist or politically correct agenda; I just thought that would be the most realistic way of depicting her given what she has to go through in the story.

Like Logan, Aurora spends much of the book trying to figure out the world around her while navigating the challenges of young adulthood – namely figuring oneself out and finding love. This is, of course, something that all teenagers go through. It was this awkward mix of yearning, anticipation, and reckless abandon that I hoped to capture. Unfortunately, it took me about sixteen years to finally get it to where I was satisfied with it, but that, to me, was more important than any of the adventure parts of the story.

There are a few writers out there I’m aware of that have captured the world of the adolescent well – novelist Cynthia Voigt (Homecoming, A Solitary Blue, Jackaroo) and screenwriter John Hughes (Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful) come to mind – and it strikes me now that one of the most critical things you can do for a teenager is let him or her know that – hey, you know what, there’s someone out there who gets you, who remembers how lousy it can be, and despite all the eye rolling and grunts you might give, is going to hold you to a higher standard and isn’t going to talk to you like you’re a three year old while doing it. Of course, I didn’t understand or care about any of that then; I wrote the first draft of The Thirteenth Hour when I was a teenager. But the nice thing about having written the story when I did was that it gave both me and the characters time and space to grow. It often seemed that as got older, I got to know them better and better. I might even go so far as to say that we all kind of grew up together. So in many ways, The Thirteenth Hour is less about the physical journey that the characters take and more about the journey they take from children to adults.

 

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-Website: 13thhr.wordpress.com

-Art: 13thhr.deviantart.com/gallery

-Book Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hpcIUpwTiFY

-Free itunes podcast of the book: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-thirteenth-hour-audio/id955932074

-Read free excerpts at https://medium.com/@13thhr/in-the-army-now-852af0d0afc0 and the book’s amazon site.

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