Writing Morally Gray Characters: A Guest Post by Laurie Devore, Author of A Better Bad Idea
Laurie Devore is stopping by the blog today to talk about her new book from Imprint, A Better Bad Idea, which is out now! This mystery/thriller/romance fusion is Laurie's third book, and it's a new twist on her usual contemporary YA stories. For this guest post, Laurie talks about crafting morally gray characters that your readers will still feel attached to and cheer on. Here's her best writing tips:
I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of what people will do when they’re pushed to their brink. While my new novel, A BETTER BAD IDEA, may seem like a departure in some ways from my previous novels, I actually think their DNA is quite similar. The stakes are higher, but as ever, this book is about girls making unimaginable choices because of their circumstances, whether self-inflicted or not.
I’m constantly thinking about what it means to write morally gray characters, and I think the main takeaway from me is that I’m just much more interested in what people do and why they do it than whether they’re “good” or “bad” people. Here are some of the things I keep in mind when writing morally gray characters:
- Bring the reader into your characters’ heads. The most important thing to me about writing polarizing characters is to get as close to them and their thought process as you can. By understanding a characters’ thoughts and motivations, readers are more likely to see some of themselves within the characters and that creates a connection between the reader and the character to allow them to be more forgiving of the characters’ questionable choices.
- Make bold choices. One thing I notice is that there is a real fear in allowing characters to truly cross lines in fiction – in many cases, this is completely fine when the mission of the book is to write a likable character. But if you truly want to dive into the darker side of your characters’ psyches, you can’t be afraid to push boundaries. I understand the fear completely – with both of my last two books, I knew the characters made choices so detestable, that some readers would put the books down as soon as they read them, but I had to do what I felt like serve my story best. I am not my characters nor my books, so I have to be okay with some readers hating my characters because they’ve done something terrible, even if I don’t (and hey, sometimes, someone emails you and lets you know that you lack morals :)
- Don’t judge your own characters. It can be really tempting to let your own judgements color how you write about a characters’ actions, but you have to separate yourself from that. I am always surprised when people react so viscerally to my books being stressful because I feel so objective when I’m writing them! But, when I return to my books, I often see that there are some shockingly bad choices made. However, the lack of judgement I have when writing by simply living in my characters’ heads and being true to them keeps me from preaching to my readers about why what my characters are doing is bad, actually (and so often, it really REALLY is)
- Let the reader decide for themselves. No matter what you do – whether you’re trying to write morally gray characters or not – some people aren’t going to like your characters and you have to let go and let God. It’s up to the readers whether they connect with the character or not. Some will not, but some will be grateful and see themselves in your work if you make those hard choices. The reason I like to write the books I do is because we all mistakes – sometimes, even mistakes that feel catastrophic. And I like to give my characters room to mess up badly and grow from that, even when it’s challenging. Because that’s real; that’s what life is to me.
I hope this helps to add some color to my writing process. There are so many different type of people in the world and I love when my morally gray characters get to shine. And I think if you read A BETTER BAD IDEA, you’ll see so much of the above in Evelyn and Reid.
Happy (morally gray) reading!
more about A Better Bad Idea:
Laurie Devore’s new YA novel is a searing look at a forgotten girl who has no good choices left, but one better bad idea...
Evelyn Peters is desperate. Desperate for a way out of McNair Falls, the dying southern town that’s held her captive since the day she was born. Desperate to protect her little sister from her mother’s terrifying and abusive boyfriend. And desperate to connect with anyone, even fallen golden boy Ashton Harper, longtime boyfriend of the girl Evelyn can never stop thinking about ― beautiful, volatile, tragically dead Reid Brewer.
Until a single night sends Evelyn and Ashton on a collision course that starts something neither of them can stop. With one struck match, their whole world goes up in flames. The only thing left to do is run―but leaving McNair Falls isn’t as easy as just putting distance between here and there and some secrets refuse to stay left behind.
A reckoning is coming… and not everyone is getting out alive.
Grab a copy of the book!
more about Laurie Devore
Up for grabs, we have ONE (1) physical copy of A Better Bad Idea by Laurie Devore. This giveaway will run from March 15th to March 22nd at 12:00 AM CST and is open to US residents only.
GIVEAWAY LINK: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/1e4a114d28/?
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