I have this main character named Jacklyn. As I delve into who she is, I find I love her more and more. She is a strong woman, vulnerable but bad ass. She is confident in her sexuality. There is never a question of whether or not she thinks she’s pretty. She knows she is. She is foul mouthed, sarcastic, and a bit of a geek. Her logic? “If I’m going to be a superhero, I want to be just like the ones I grew up with.” She’s dramatic and romantic, believes in fighting the good fight and, as her character grows and evolves, she begins to see the guns she carries as the only source of power she can truly rely on.
Whoops! Where did that last bit come from? There are plenty of things about that description of Jacklyn that feel like natural extensions of portions of my psyche. There are some, one more decidedly than others, that I don’t feel terribly comfortable exploring.
Guns scare the crap out of me. I view them as death machines. I hate them. HATE. THEM. Which is why it’s so weird that one of my favorite characters to write loves them so much.
So how do you write a character with values so different from your own without completely endangering your belief system? Well, for one, you can create a counter balance. The story’s co-lead character is Kyp. He refuses to touch a gun, thinks they are instruments of destruction. He feels that if a tool can only be used for destruction, it should not exist. He is not against violence to protect others, but he understands the danger of relying on it too much. He prefers to use his supernaturally-gifted strengths to find another solution. In this way, he is my voice in the story. In many other ways, he is nothing like me – there are moments in which he can be an emotionless drone, and he often behaves as though everything is a game of strategy and not the lives of other people. But he provides that ability to speak my views on the topic within the story. Is either correct? No. They are two characters, disagreeing as people do in real life. There isn’t always an easy yes or no answer.
You can also try to understand the reasoning behind the value in question. Jacklyn likes guns. Why? They make her feel like she has power. Why? Because her own personal supernatural powers were taken away from her before and she feels like guns are a more reliable, more concrete, source of strength. Does she struggle with this? Yes. She isn’t entirely comfortable. But she isn’t entirely uncomfortable either. Do the guns help her out of situations Kyp’s “alternative methods” may not? Yes. But other times, Kyp’s method is smarter. Is Jacklyn’s gun toting a departure from her core personality? Somewhat, but it also plays into her need to be dramatic, to be showy, to be the next Lara Croft. Does it matter? No – Jacklyn needs her guns.
There’s a danger in opening yourself up to that method of thinking. You can actually develop sympathy for the other side of an argument – an interesting journey, and one that might frighten you. But the important thing is that you remember your role as a writer. You write what you need to write because it’s what the character dictates. You never ask yourself what you are okay with writing, what would embarrass you. You never ask yourself what would make the plot easier. You never ask yourself what other people will think. You write the thing based on the characters you have created.
You are the conduit through which your character reaches the world. You truthfully ask yourself how a girl like Jacklyn would cope with a loss of power that led to her own injury as well as the deaths of others. And when you find your answer, you don’t question it. You simply write. The rest will, hopefully, fall into place.