Monday, August 2, 2010

Beware the Trauma!

You may be wondering why Aerin, the main character in my most recently published book, Academy 7, hasn’t said anything. This is because getting Aerin to talk is like pulling teeth. (You should ask Dane. He knows).

People talk to Aerin. And she thinks back.

Working with a traumatized character can be tough. I didn’t know about this when I started Academy 7.

As a reader, I love the dramatic scenes. Go ahead! Drop your characters off the side of a castle. Stick them in the middle of a raging forest fire. Kill off both their parents and their best friend.

But as an author, if you put your main character through serious trauma, you have to deal with it. For the REST OF THE BOOK. Or the series, as Robert can attest. This isn’t like a nice little physical wound that can go away after a month. Or if you fast forward in time. (Very nice of Dane to let me do that).

Trauma doesn’t go away. At least not easily. And once your character is seriously traumatized, everything is traumatized. The stairs. The hall. The scrap of paper with the password to your dorm room on it. Here’s an example from Academy 7 to show you what I’m talking about.

Aerin was alone. She slowly crossed the room, then wound her way up the tight staircase to the third floor, and entered a stark hallway spotted with rows of closed doors. Nothing else moved in the hall, not a voice or a breeze or a scrap of paper. Her throat constricted, and she had an image of herself walking unknowingly to execution.

There. She stopped at a door identical to the others except for the number 307 etched in the chipped paint. With trembling fingers, she opened the envelope in her hand and shook out a slick piece of paper. The numbers written on it blurred before her, but she blinked to clear her vision and forced her hand not to shake as she punched the code into the keypad. The door screeched its way open.

I mean, really, an untraumatized character could walk down a hallway and push a few buttons without making a big deal about it. NOT Aerin.

But you stick this girl in a fight. Surround her with twenty hulking guys and a grenade. And she could lay them all flat in about sixty seconds.

Which is SO totally worth it.


  1. Dane does know; getting Aerin to talk is tough... but worth it! :) I too as a reader LOVE the drama - but have never really thought of the long term effects of it on the characters. Good thing I am just a reader and don't have to deal with it. *wink* I just enjoy the fruit of all of your labors. :)

  2. As a reader, having an author that considers the effects of enduring such experiences and then actually taking that into account and carrying it out in the story is so good to see. Honestly, I do not see it very often. Things are glossed over and never given a second mention when they would have had tremendous impact on a character. Thank you!

    Also, do we ever, maybe, get a chance to see Aerin take on twenty guys and a grenade? That would be SO awesome:)

  3. Yes, Dane is rather a miracle worker, actually. I think he is definitely more successful at getting her talking than I am!

    As far as Aerin and the grenade, I have no idea. It's possible I may be exaggerating. And it's possible I may not.

  4. Honestly, I'm not even sure how to express how much I love her. She is one of my favorite characters, of all time.

    My little side thought: (I wonder about Yvonne, however. You would think, after observing Aerin’s exceptional skills in physical combat that she would not ever even contemplate attempting to stand against such a furious fighter. Whether she has a laser in hand or not. She needs a smack in the head with the common sense stick. Mmhmm.)