We all have certain beliefs, lines we won’t cross and vows we make with ourselves, and our communities. I have quite a few myself, particularly because I tend to be a bit melodramatic. One that I repeat over and over, because I constantly break it is that I will never date another man.
A little over twelve years ago, I broke that vow for the last time when I agreed to go out with the man who eventually became my husband. Three years later a new vow was made, and that is one vow I will never break. It was a quiet ceremony with just a few family members in the canyon, and it was rather slap-dash. We tied the knot for the wrong reasons, but I don’t regret my decision one bit. I am proud to call the man I love husband, even if we didn’t get the wedding either of us wanted.
So, why am I talking about all this today? Well I read an article on author Kristen Lamb’s Blog (click here to read) about using personal vows to increase the tension in your story, and it got me thinking. What are some of the vows that I’ve made over the years? What kind of vows should my characters make, or break, as my stories progress? Do they already have unspoken vows that serve to drive the story, and if so, how will knowing what these vows are affect me as I proceed?
Well, I’ve already told you about a few of my vows, so I won’t delve deeper into that today. Instead let me tell you about my main characters from my two books. They both have vows that they keep, and vows that they break, and I’ve written them this way without realizing it. I always strive above all to make my characters as believable as possible. Even when writing stories about space travel, or quests that take place in a fantasy realm, I want you to believe that they are real, at least in the context of the book, and one of the ways that I do that is I put myself into them where ever possible. From the most evil villain to the bravest hero, they are all part of me. So naturally, they all make vows, but I had never recognized it until I read that article today.
To start, let’s talk about Olivia Blake, the main character of my story Killer Therapy (working title). She definitely has homicidal thoughts, but she has vowed to herself that she will never let them cross from fantasy to reality. This is largely influenced by her desire to never go to prison, but once she does cross that line, once she gives in to her darker nature, a deeper more meaningful truth comes to light. She may have a murderous heart, but she has no desire to hurt the innocent, and that is one line she will never cross.
Olivia has a brother who is a detective with the UPD, the police force responsible for keeping the peace in Salt Lake City, Utah. As such he has taken a vow to uphold the law, but he is a very family oriented man, and because of his family’s troubled past, he has vowed to care for and protect both of his sisters from all danger, real or perceived. This could, and probably will, cause him a great deal of inner turmoil as he unravels the mystery of the serial killer plaguing his city, and comes to realize that his sister is the culprit he’s been searching for. Will he break the vow he made to himself, and turn her in, knowing that she would face the death penalty? Will he instead choose family, over his beliefs, and what will that do to him? Even I don’t know the answers yet.
In my story Road Trip (working title) the main character, Michael, comes home from his latest stay in a juvenile correctional facility to discover that he has a brother, who was left by their mother to grow up in the care of his abusive father. Michael’s brother tells him that when their mother left, she said that Michael had to go away, because he made a mistake, but when he came back he would take care of him. Broken by this revelation, and by the fact that his father is kicking him out of the house after only one night, he is tempted to follow his mother’s example and leave the kid, but remembering his own childhood, and witnessing the abuse his four year old brother is suffering, he vows to give his brother a better life than he had. Now, is that a vow that he can keep? It seems unlikely, as he is only eighteen, unemployed, and homless. He is certainly sincere in his desire to protect and care for his brother, but over the course of the story it leads him to make poor decisions that ultimately put both of them in harms way.
As I continue to write these stories, I will keep the vows of my characters in mind, and hopefully through understanding my characters better I will be able to portray their inner struggles ever more accurately, adding even more depth and intensity to the stories than I have until now. Of course it means I’m going to have to go back and do some rewrites, but that’s all a part of the process, and I truly want to be able to say that I wrote the best book I can write, so I’m happy to do it.
Have you ever made a promise to yourself that you couldn’t keep? How about one that you later learned was bad for you, or conflicted with a different vow you made to yourself or someone else? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. Thanks again for reading, and I hope everyone has a great week!