Thursday, February 13, 2014

On trusting characters (aka: why I let them make mistakes)

Okay, so, I get this question a lot (like, a LOT, a lot--it's also a heavy topic of discussion over on the Team Keeper page):


Which, as those of you reading the KEEPER series know, this is referring to something that happens in EXILE. And I'm going to try to keep this discussion relatively spoiler-free for those who haven't had a chance to read yet, but I still thought it might be time to address the issue, since clearly a lot of you are wondering about it--and are maybe even a little sad about it. 

And here's the thing: it made me sad, too. 

In fact, I avoided writing those scenes as long as I could, and when I finally wrote them it broke my heart. I love Sophie. And I love Fitz. So to let him say and do such hurtful things was very, VERY hard for me. 

But I had to do it.

Because here's my number one rule when it comes to writing: I have to trust my characters.

I know this might sound a little weird, but my characters are very real to me. I know their strengths and weaknesses, hopes and dreams, fears, regrets, and deepest, darkest secrets. And because I know them so well, I have to trust them. Even when it means letting them do something I don't like. Because that's the other thing we all have to keep in mind: characters aren't perfect. 

Sometimes they do the wrong thing, say the wrong thing, even feel the wrong thing. That's what makes them real. But it also means that sometimes we all want to scream, "NOOOOOOO!" as it's happening. And that's okay, because that's what makes the story interesting. It gives us something to root for, hope for, keep turning those pages to see how it all works out. And maybe sometimes it doesn't work out as well as we'd like. But that's okay, too, because it's something we can all relate to. Life is messy. Characters' lives need to be the same.

So in Fitz's case, yes, he was mean. And it was sad and wrong and we all want to yell at him for it. But he had to. Think about it. Overnight, he'd basically lost everything--and that's about 10,000 times harder for a character like him because remember, he's grown up in a world where things like that just don't happen. And while there are lots of ways he could've reacted, I knew in Fitz's case he was going to be angry. 

So angry. 

I also knew that his anger was going to be targeted at poor Sophie, because of the role she played (in *his* mind) in what happened, and that it was going to be this ugly, explosive thing. But I had to let it happen because I had to trust Fitz. I had to let him work through his grief in whatever ways he needed to. Only then would he be able to heal. And now that he has, he can start making it right. 

So I hope that answers your question--and I hope you guys can see that I (and Fitz) had very good reasons for why things happened the way they did. 

Also: Can I tell you how much I LOVE that you all care this much about Sophie and Fitz??? You guys are the best. fans. EVER! 


  1. I'm finding out in my writing that your characters aren't supposed to be alike and there has to be friction among them at times. I've recently had two of my manuscripts critiqued by a professional writer and I've had things like that pointed out to me. So, even though I wanted my cast to get along all the time, I've had to make a few changes. I'm learning. It's kinda like watching a soap opera - it drives you crazy at times when they do things that you know is going to get them in trouble later on - they never learn :o)

  2. Those scenes weren't my favorite, and I felt like yelling at Fritz, but it felt real and right. It may have been hard, but it was the right thing for him and you.

    1. you mean fitz. lol not fritz!

  3. I love so much when you let your characters make mistakes. :P Like when Vane, in LTSF, when he runs away from Audra after he finds out... basically, that the other windwalkers don't want him with Audra (so hard to be vague and avoid spoilers!) I hated it, but at the same time I loved it because it felt like something a real person would do!
    People say and do hurtful things when they're sad. So yeah, I was mad at Fitz for hurting Sophie, but it felt realistic.

  4. I actually was very pleased with Fitz; his character became deeper when he showed his flaws. He felt more real. :P Looking forward to Everblaze!!!!

  5. I felt slightly betrayed by Fitz. But I also knew in the back of my brain that what he was doing was the right thing for his character and the story. So it totally broke MY heart to read those scenes, but I knew they were super important. I think I'll love him even more in EVERBLAZE because of what happened in EXILE. But I'm still a little bit mad at him for being mad at Sophie.

  6. I love this post, Shannon. <3 Thank you for sharing :D Sigh. I understood why Fitz was so angry in Exile. And I didn't really blame him for it. Might be because I adore him, hiih. <3 And I'm so so hoping that Sophie and Fitz will be together is book three :) *Fingers crossed*

  7. Possibly the hardest part of being a writer! Bravo being brave and trusting the story inside the characters. :)

  8. While I was sad to see Fitz become so angry with Sophie in EXILE, I loved that you went there, because it made it more realistic. When you're young, it's easy to become angry with your friends (for good or bad reasons).

    Looking forward to EVERBLAZE!

  9. I agree....totally emphasizes "No one's perfect', and it's pretty realistic.

  10. I made a poem inspired by your old dwarven poem in EXILE (hope you like it) Moon swan/croon song/let the stars go/to tuck you in your quiet nest to croon tonight

  11. I have an idea for an ability for Sophie if u want to take it idk wat you'll think of it: Sophie can shape-shift into animals (since she can read the minds of animals)

  12. I haven't read the book yet........ trying to find it........ but still thnx for not spoiling it for me. I love your series and would love to read more!!!!!!! your a great author and inspired me to wright too. if you can (OR ANYONE ELSE) tell me where to find your books. I have the first one. :) thnx and your awesome expecially for me and my sister grace. (were kids)

  13. Thank you sooo much Mrs. Shannon. one of the reasons i love your Keeper books is that I'm literally living it! I am a 12 yr old girl with light golden brown hair and 'freaky' brown eyes and I just came to a new place where a boy who is two years older than me was the first to be nice to me. and I'll admit that my heart does some weird tap dance things when he's around. My best friend is a boy and it recently got out- through my very annoying sister- that he likes me. so anyway, I'm literally living your books and I just wanted to say thank you for your books being on my shelf whenever I need to feel better about myself so I can open them and Imagine me as Sophie and focus on the good similarities we have. (and especially not think about doctors! *slight shiver*) THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!

  14. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this book series!!! And I think that Sophie would be awesome at empathy! Don't you? I mean she can already feel animal's emotions with her mind. That might also bring her and Keefe more together! ;) And if not we still have Dex and Fitz. Go Team Keefe!!!


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