Today i’m welcoming Lou Hoffmann to the blog.She’s brought her new release, Wraith Queen’s Veil, and is talking about mistreating her characters. 😉 She’s also brought a giveaway, though, so I’m pretty sure you and i are safe.
Thanks for visiting, Lou!
Hi, I’m Lou Hoffmann, stopping by on my Wraith Queen’s Veil tour. Thanks Charley Descoteaux, for hosting me today! I’m going to talk about hardships today—the ones heaped upon unsuspecting fictional characters.
Like a lot of authors, I’ve been accused of cruelty to characters. Guilty as charged! And this post is by way of explaining why I beat the poor, hardworking, well-meaning people in my fiction over the head with adversity.
First, a quick aside. One thing adversity does that is very important in fiction is give characters an opportunity to help and get help from others. I’m storing that away as an idea for a post some other day. For today, I’m gliding past it. I want to talk about the character’s solo growth, okay?
For a short and sweet summary response, I love this quote:
Great fiction is fueled by bad decisions and human weakness.
— Kristen Lamb, quote (from Great Characters–The Beating Heart of Great Fiction)
Sounds a lot like life, doesn’t it? I mean we might, on one level wish we hadn’t chosen to ride our brakeless bicycle down Suicide Hill at age seven, because ouch! On the other hand, we learned something about safety and the next time we rode those bikes down those Suicide Hills we made sure we had brakes. Which is when we learned that there’s more to the safety formula than brakes, and also when we learned that changing something in response to a problem is very likely only the first step in fixing it. So, for instance, at age 10 when Judy Blue-Eyes copied our homework and then did it again after we told her not too, we weren’t disheartened. We simply hid our real answers and let her copy a paper that had stuff all wrong.
But wait, you say! No, really, go ahead and say it, because you’re right! Every bad thing that happens to the character isn’t a result of bad decisions!
Okay, we need an example, and since this is the Wraith Queen’s Veil release blog tour, I think it’s perfectly appropriate to look for our example right there in The Sun Child Chronicles. And believe me, nobody has a rougher time of it than Lucky, the fifteen-year-old protagonist.
Let me get this out there right now. No, it was not Lucky’s fault that he was banished from his home world Ethra and left alone in a world called Earth with no one and nothing—not even his memories. Listen to what he said about the experience.
“It was cold, dark, wet. At first I couldn’t see anything at all, but then I realized that to one side there was a glow, so dim I had to stare to be sure it was there.” He had heard water, waves on rocks, maybe, and something splashing. “I pictured some horrible creature—it was the first thought that made enough sense to scare me. From then on, I was terrified every single minute, even after Hank had me safe. It only lasted one night, I know that now. But then it was all I knew, all I remembered of life. Forever.”
That’s horrible, right? I know. I cruelly persecuted this character. But the point of this blog post is that authors write such things because characters need them. The focus of this event in Lucky’s life isn’t the horror he endured, but what Lucky made of it. And the change it wrought in him stated immediately. Here’s what he told the wizard Thurlock and his uncle Han about it, three years later.
“It scared me even to move, but finally I stood up and crept toward the glow. I found a passage, and I followed it.” He’d clung to the walls even though they cut his hands, crawled where the ceiling dropped, slithered over slime that stank like rotten eggs….The whole way, I kept saying, ‘No, I can’t do it.’ Eventually, though, I did. I reached the end of the tightest, slimiest, smelliest stretch of tunnel, and I had to close my eyes, the light was so bright.”
Do you see the key words in there?
“Evenutually, though, I did.”
This is a survivor’s attitude—that simple resilience that fosters a rewarding life. Oh, and yes, in fiction, it builds great, round, believable, characters that we readers love to spend time with. You know who I think said it best? Langston Hughes.
“Though you may hear me holler,
And you may see me cry–
I’ll be dogged, sweet baby,
If you gonna see me die.”
The example is from the early part of Lucky’s story, but let me assure you, life goes on for Lucky. And that means new problems, bigger challenges, crazier circumstances. Here’s something that happens in the course of his adventures in Wraith Queen’s Veil:
The eyes slowly closed in on them, followed by shadows blacker than the rest of the night. They hadn’t tied their mounts, and now as the predators drew close, the horses began to whinny nervously. Soon at least one of them let out a blood-chilling scream and bolted, scattering some of the creatures on the way out.
“Cats,” Zhevi said. “Damn! They’re dawn cats! Luccan, listen to me. These cats are really, really vicious. Deadly. But they’re called dawn cats because that’s when they kill. They close in on their prey—”
“Like they’re doing to us, right now?”
“—in the hours before dawn, and then just as day breaks, they strike. And it’s almost impossible to survive. Or so I’ve heard. That’s why their other name is death kittens.”
Frightened beyond clear thinking and appalled at the image that nickname conjured, Lucky pushed his hair out of his face, and asked, in a hoarse whisper, “Kittens?”
“Um, yeah. Also thrall-gazers, because if you look at their eyes long enough… well just don’t do it, okay? Oh, and also they’re sometimes called venom cats.”
“Just guessing here, but maybe they bite?”
“And it’s poisoned.”
“Afraid so. I figure it’s less than an hour before dawn. You got any ideas?”
And then, this, a little later:
Lucky flung his arms out, searching in all directions, trying to locate L’Aria in the white world around him. He took a step in the direction he was sure they had been traveling and then another, searching about the whole time. Faintly, he heard her singing and Zhevi calling out and followed the sounds. At least he thought he moved toward them, but then the wind changed, and so did the direction of the calls. He turned toward the new direction and started that way, but the wind started to swirl around him like a dancing devil, wickedly carrying the sounds of voices to his ear from every direction
Then he fell to the snow in a sudden absence of wind. He drew a sharp breath deep into his lungs, desperate to breathe after the whirlwind had stolen his air. After he recovered, he stood and brushed as much crusted snow from his clothes and face as he could. He looked around, sure now that the gusts had died away, he’d find his friends not far off. But he couldn’t see them, and when he called out, their names hung in the frozen air.
Trying to ignore what felt like a boulder of dread in his gut, he took stock of his surroundings. A wall of white wind howled ten yards from his face—strange, because where he stood the air felt perfectly still and almost warm. Thirty yards to his left, a dark wall of sheer stone rose up from the snow, and an identical one to his right.
And, not to be forgotten, this:
Lucky ran around the still-twitching carcass of the beautiful monster Han had slain and knelt by his uncle’s side. From this close, he could tell Han still breathed—he could hear the labored breaths. He had the most horrible feeling that if he couldn’t help Han, and do it quickly, Han’s body would tire of the effort and stop trying to suck in enough air.
No I’m not going to show you now how he dealt with those big, scary events. (Join him in the book, and see what happens.) But one thing I will say, if he doesn’t grow, he’s going to be in deep trouble.
Like, the chorus of this song says:
Yeah, characters gotta get bad, strong, wiser, hard, tough, strong, cool, calm, and together. Because that’s survival, and that’s growth, and that what readers need to see in order to believe in the hero. And speaking for just one reader—me—I really need heroes to believe in.
When Lucky arrives in Ethra, the world of his birth and destiny, he expects a joyful reunion, but the first thing he notices when he reaches the Sisterhold—his home—is something false behind his mother’s smile. In a matter of weeks, the Sisterhold becomes agitated with worries and war plans. People he trusts—like the wizard Thurlock—frequently can’t be found. His mother seems angry, especially with Lucky. Even Han Shieth, the warrior uncle he has come to rely on and love above all others, maintains a sullen silence toward him.
When Lucky’s resentment builds to the breaking point, his bad decisions put him and his friends, L’Aria and Zhevi, in unthinkable danger. Han arrives to help, but he can’t claim invulnerability to the hazards and evils that threaten at every turn. Events launch Lucky, alone, on a quest for he knows not what, but every step brings him closer to his identity and full strength. Self-knowledge, trust, and strength lead to smarter choices, but even his best efforts might not render his world truly safe, now or for the future.
Buy the Book:
A couple of pieces of news:
You can get either or both Key of Behliseth and Wraith Queen’s Veil 35% off with discount code SUNCHILD2 at Harmony Ink Press or Dreamspinner Press store. Offer is good through 10/20.
And don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter! Four prizes, multiple chances to enter! Easy peasy, and you just might be the winner!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
This tour has several more stops fun and informational. Some already happened and some coming up. You can find them all by following this link: http://queerlyya.rainbow-gate.com/wraith-queens-veil-blog-tour-stops-links-are-here/ I always welcome comments, where possible, and I’d love to see you along the way.
Thanks once again Charley for letting me take up pixels on your site, and thanks everyone who stopped in to read.
Lou Hoffmann has carried on her love affair with books for decades, yet she hasn’t even made a dent in the list of books she’d love to read—at least partly because the list keeps growing. She reads factual things—books about physics and history and fractal chaos, but when she wants truth, she looks for it in quality fiction. She loves all sorts of wonderful things: music and silence, laughter and tears, youth and age, sunshine and storms, forests and fields, flora and fauna, rivers and seas. Even good movies and popcorn! Those things help her breathe, and everyone she knows helps her write. (Special mention goes to (1) George the Lady Cat and (2) readers.) Proud to be a bisexual, biracial woman, Lou considers every person a treasure not to be taken for granted. In her life, she’s seen the world’s willingness to embrace differences change, change back, and change again in dozens of ways, but she has great hope for the world the youth of today will create. She writes for readers who find themselves anywhere on the spectrums of age and gender, aiming to create characters that live not only in their stories, but always in your imagination and your heart.