The third topic for our Read Around the Rainbow webring is What was your character like in high school/as a teenager? And to be perfectly honest, I considered sitting this one out. You know me; I write short, slice-of-life stories mostly under 20K words (with a few exceptions). Emotional stories. The kind of stories that rarely calls for in-depth character portraits that go into every minute detail and dig deep into the teenaged years of the characters. My kind of story calls for enough backstory to make the characters come alive, so everyone reading ends up rooting for them. There can’t be too much information, though, because a short story doesn’t have room for it. That doesn’t mean I don’t know lots of backstory about my characters when I write them; it just means it never ends up on the page. And very little of it is related to the characters as teenagers or young adults. So what would I even write about in today’s topic?
But! Based on everything I do know about my characters, I can make assumptions.
Didrik in Strike a Pose was undoubtedly a confident, creative, and ambitious young man in high-school/university. He was also a horny teenager who enjoyed the attention of pretty boys and never said no to a detour to a dark corner for a hasty one-on-one groping session. Henrik in It Rained All Night clearly went to a posh, high-brow private school, because his mother, the Countess, wouldn’t allow her precious son to go to a plebeian public school, are you crazy?! Adrian in They Met in the Library obviously spent all his school years with his nose in a book, Runar in Secrets on a Train didn’t have many friends because he was competitive, stand-offish, and perceived as a hard-ass, and Buck in His Steady Heart didn’t go to high-school, because fuck that shit.
This is information I never thought about when I wrote the stories – I figured it out as I wrote this blog post – because that’s not the kind of writer I am. I don’t have character sheets detailing everything about each and every person in my books, I have scribbled, close to illegible, notes in my bullet journal with the most important traits to remember. But! I don’t write complex murder-mysteries where there needs to be a motive for the character’s actions, a motive to commit the crime, where the reason for the incident must be believable to the reader.
Because my stories are about falling in love, and falling in love needn’t necessarily be believable, does it? In fact, the falling completely for someone can be pretty unbelievable, and sometimes we fall head over heels when we least expect it. Like when we get lost in the forest (like Måns in They Met in the Woods), when our neighbor knocks on our door on Christmas Eve in desperate need of someone to play Santa (Sigge and Kristian in The Santa Emergency), or even when we really shouldn’t fall in love because the one you fell for can’t really be out (like Sully in Late Night Poetry), or the relationship won’t be accepted by the significant other’s family (like Kieran’s in All I’ll Ever See). And when that happens, does it really matter who you were in high-school?
I don’t know. Maybe it does. Maybe Adrian wouldn’t have come to Manne’s rescue when he panics in the library if Adrian hadn’t spent every second with his nose in his books when he was fourteen? Maybe Didrik wouldn’t have been so confident if he hadn’t had the support of his best friend’s father during his teenaged years?
Would my stories have been better had I come up with these details before I wrote them instead of when trying to come up with a topic to write about on my blog?
Again, I don’t know. What do you think?
Make sure to check out the other blog posts on the topic written by these fabulous people.
Books mentioned in this blog post: