The evolution of a character

I originally conceived of Lucinda (from The Wanderer) as a younger character who has a kind of naïve faith that things will work out. Possibly this is because I started writing her years ago when I had a kind of naïve faith that things would work out.

But as Lucinda’s story evolved from a simpler love story to a more complicated coming-of-age story, Lucinda became more complicated.

We typically think of coming-of-age as something younger people do, so I’m not sure why she became older once I realized this was the direction I wanted to take. But I wanted her to have real reasons for resisting her talents, and those reasons, it seemed to me, needed to be based on her lived experience, so she couldn’t be seventeen or eighteen anymore.

But I also didn’t want her to be just a version of middle-aged me, so I didn’t want her to be too old. She had to have at least a little naïve faith. And I also wanted the possibility of getting pregnant to play role in the story.

And, also, I think as readers we want characters to become something. If Lucinda were already a wise woman as the story opens, she might go on adventures but she would already be complete and whole. I think in general readers resonate with characters who are seeking to make themselves whole, whatever that may mean.

So I had to start the character far enough back for her to be missing part of what she needs to reach her goals. It is this process of uncovering or recovering that missing part that keeps us readers walking side by side with a character.

As I was working on The Wanderer, I ended up envisioning another character, a fully grown and evolved character who doesn’t seek anything at all because she’s fully convinced she’s satisfied with her safe, calm existence. I wondered about writing a character who didn’t have a naïve optimism. An older, even elderly, woman who still has something to learn about life, though she doesn’t know it yet.

That is Lois Peterson, the heroine of The Mage of Motor Avenue, who sprang out of my head fully formed, a little like Athena and Zeus—and quite unlike Lucinda, who take many many iterations to get right.

You’ll meet Lois soon. I wanted to bring her up as a kind of comparison. Sometimes as an author you know exactly who a character is and what their path is going to be the first time you meet them, and sometimes you have to keep putting them in various plot events until you figure them out.

I love how Lucinda turned out and I love how Lois turned out, despite each taking a very different route into being.