I must admit to being torn between my love of the ordinary, that grows more every day, and my love of being weird. I think we should be content with an ordinary life, for it has a beauty all its own. But, we should all be and embrace a little weirdness. Balance. Life is about balance.
I’m one of those strange writers who doesn’t mind clichés. What I mind is when they’re slapped on because we all know that’s how the story goes, but delivered without conviction or chemistry. I love war movies and action movies. I like cop shows and westerns. Almost all of these stories are just a change of setting and actors, with the same plots, and the same characters. I eat it up. I’ll watch an anti-hero become good over and over. I’ll watch the drifter save the town and get the girl. I’ll bask in the story of the elite team that sacrifices itself for others, each one getting picked off one by one.
“Please sir, can I have some more?”
Because I don’t run screaming from clichés, I tend to have a few of my own. Whether I’m working on my YA Epic, one of my Huntsman and HearthKeeper stories, or a fairy tale retelling, I tend to focus in on four types of characters: the warrior, the dreamer, the forgiven, and the ordinary.
These four tend to make up my teams, my crews. They are my main characters and important secondary characters. And they come complete with their own symbols.
See, I’m a doodler. I love to doodle. Set a piece of paper in front of me and the next thing you know it will be covered with light bulbs, trees, swirling lines, mushrooms, antlers, axes and shields, and favorite quotes. It will also have arrows, feathers, tulips, and dandelions lined up in a row. This is my warrior, dreamer, forgiven, and ordinary.
The Warrior: I love humble warriors (proud warriors are dangerous and annoying). I love the broken ones who stand between darkness and the innocent. I love the ones who hunt monsters under the bed, evil, and danger, pouring themselves out for the rest of us. They are often dirty, dark, and cracked. They’re rough. A dull arrow can’t help you. A sharp one, a tested one could cut you, but it can also defend you. The Dreamer: I love the soft ones who see the joy in life. They’re gentle. They’re quiet. Their strength and power is far more subtle than the warrior. They have seen all the darkness the he has seen, but it hasn’t stolen their laughter. They face the storm with a song and a dance. They’re filled with hope. I often pair a warrior with a dreamer. It helps the warrior not break completely when he has this light-filled creature standing beside him. The Forgiven: One of my favorite shows is Fringe. It is brilliant, beautiful, funny, painful, oh so very painful. In it they use the Tulip as a symbol of forgiveness. This works for me because not only do I love the show, so me doodling tulip is an ode to my love, but I’m also a 5 point Calvinist. The Tulip is used by us to represent the five tenets presented against Arminianism. One of the beautiful points about Calvinism is that we aren’t good, we aren’t worthy, and we don’t deserve forgiveness. But GOD! God came. God supplied what we couldn’t and forgave us, sinners. Christ came and touched the sick, retrieved the dangerous, and befriended the villain. You will never read one of my longer stories that doesn’t have at least one of the villains being forgiven. I love having someone who doesn’t deserve forgiveness on any level getting it from the hero. Each of my forgiven characters represents my own undeserved rescue, because I didn’t deserve to be rescued. The Ordinary: In our day in age, ordinary is a bad word. If you want to live an ordinary life somethings wrong with you. Suburbia is boring and only for those who have given up on life. And yet, ordinary is amazing. The Bible often encourages us to be ordinary, to live an ordinary life. Don’t get me wrong, I love adventures, magic, and supernatural things. But, I think there is great magic in living an ordinary life, a quiet life. (My hobbitness is showing.) When I have warriors, dreamers, and forgiven characters running around, I will include someone who is ordinary. They aren’t the fighters, the light, or the villain rescued. They’re just a normal boy or girl drawn into an extraordinary situation. This appeals to me because I believe heroes are often ordinary people. Many men in battle are just like you or me with the only difference being that they’ve been thrust into an extreme situation.
I wish I could tell you, dear reader, who these all are in my YA Epic, The Artists Return, but spoilers. I have yet to introduce my “Forgiven” character. Once my patrons receive The Sparrow and the Star, and have time to devour the epic-ness that it is, I’ll be able to freely talk about my four characters. Maybe that will motivate me to finish editing!
As you read my stories, watch for these four characters. Sometimes they merge and blend, a character being both the warrior and the forgiven, the dreamer and the ordinary. Some of my shorter stories will have only one or two of them. But, no matter what I write, these four ideals rise again and again. They take on different skins, different quirks, different plots, but stay essentially the same: warrior, dreamer, forgiven, ordinary.