Turning a “Bad” Character Good

By Becky Lower, author of The Reluctant DebutanteThe Abolitionist’s SecretBanking on Temperance, and The Tempestuous Debutante

The Tempestuous DebutanteOne of the pitfalls to avoid when writing a series is painting your secondary characters into a corner from which they can’t escape. While creating a truly thoughtless, or even evil, character may be good for the book of the moment, if that person evolves to have his or her own book, the author has to find a way to make the character’s motivation for being bad in book 2 plausible in say, book 4. Such is the case with Jasmine Fitzpatrick in The Tempestuous Debutante.

After The Abolitionist’s Secret was released last year, I received several letters from fans telling me they hoped Jasmine would never get her own book since she was such a mean spirited character in this book. But there were reasons why Jasmine behaved the way she did, and it was my job as a writer to explore what those reasons were and to turn Jasmine from a despicable person to a lovable one. Not an easy task. I initially had planned to make Jasmine the third book in the series, but I decided to give people a chance to forget about her a bit before she got her own moment in the sun.

In order to do make her into a lovable character, I drew from my own family. My younger brother and sister are twins and I remember from the time they were little, my brother would lord it over my sister that he was four whole minutes older than she was! Jasmine popped out first, so she had that edge, too. However, when Heather got engaged before Jasmine, even that little sliver of superiority slipped from her grasp.

But I knew that wasn’t enough of a plot device. So, I turned to some of my cousins. My family tree is littered with a considerable number of sets of twins. One pair of identical twin sisters dressed alike until they got out of high school. Their answers to my questions gave me a ton of ammunition. Their own mother couldn’t tell them apart with just a casual glance, and started calling them “twin” instead of by their own names. How awful, not to have even your own mother able to tell you apart! Or possibly not. Think of the games they could play on unsuspecting people. It was part of the fun my cousins had, and part of the enjoyment for the Fitzpatrick twins too, filling in for each other at awkward moments or just to torment someone. At least until Heather left home. Another plank in the plot line just got nailed in.

How about being assigned personality attributes before you could even walk or talk? Another set of cousins provided that answer. Since she was born first, Jasmine became known as the outgoing, flashy one while Heather was shy and quiet. But was that really the personality of either of them? It took special men to see beneath their carefully crafted exteriors.

In the end, the bad person can become a good person if the motivation for their badness is understandable. And if the right man can make them comprehend themselves better. Jasmine may have started out as a tempestuous debutante, but in the end, she listens to her heart and begins to make more sound choices. In behavior as well as in men.

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