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How My Character's Parents Influenced Choices

The smallest detail can mold and shape the character(s) of a book. Granted, it is at the author’s prerogative, but it’s true, nevertheless. A perfect example can be seen in the knowledge of a character. What I mean is how their skill set influences their decisions. A MFC knowledgeable in plants might choose to poison someone rather than stab them.

I also am of the opinion that a character’s parentage also impacts how they develop and react in various situations. When building a character, it’s important to acknowledge and detail every aspect of their life. It’s what makes them feel real and complex to the reader. Part of that detailing should include the character’s relationship to their parent(s).

Generally speaking, we do not get to pick our parents. This means the people who raise us from childhood into adulthood have a considerable influence on how we turn out as—hopefully—functioning adults. Think I’m mistaken? Just watch any reality show in America. There will always be one contestant who mentions their childhood and how their parents treated them. I think it’s our inherent desire for others to understand why we do the things we do and say the things we say, or maybe it’s justification. Who knows? Regardless, the imprint of our parents, or lack thereof, influences us. The same should be true of any character you imagine. I’ll use the characters from my book as an example.

Terren, the MMC, rarely trusts women, and as a result, is acutely hurt by Kiira’s actions because of his childhood experiences with his mother. His mother was caught in adultery, and as a result, was beheaded when he was a child and his sister a toddler. The betrayal his father felt by his mother’s actions trickled down to Terren, and Grayten became a vicious and degrading father toward both his children. When Terren catches his betrothed in a similar situation, it brings up feelings he thought long buried. Terren is, of course, angry, judges her brutally for the disrespect she’s shown him. My character’s reaction might seem extreme to some, patriarchal even, but I think it’s genuine. His betrothed is cheating on him, I think that deserves at the bare minimum anger.

Kiira, the MFC, had a stable home as a child but lost her mother traumatically because of an attack from a magician. Because of this, she was forced as a teenager to take on a role and a position that should not have been hers. She was forced to mature more quickly. This mentality made it difficult for Kiira to accept that, as a princess, she did not have the freedom she craved. (Which, if you ask me, is a total lie regardless of status. There is always something that feels chaining no matter what prestige you hold.) So, when it was announced she would be married to a man she didn’t know or love, she rebels against it. Yes, she technically agrees to the terms, but not without also taking part in multiple secret rendezvous with the man she wants to marry. If her mother had been alive when the arranged marriage occurred, she could have steered Kiira in an appropriate direction. Buuuut... then there wouldn’t be conflict. LOL.

In this post, I give examples of how my main character’s parents influenced who they were as adults. Losing a mother affected both my main characters, but in different ways. The characters’ thoughts and feelings run much deeper than the two brief examples above, but these are the things I consider when developing a character’s background story. Sometimes, even the smallest detail makes a tremendous impact on how a character behaves.

If you have anything to add, or want to tell me about a character you’ve read that was obviously affected by parental actions, leave me a comment! I’d love to hear from you, and if you want to keep up with my shenanigans, sign up for my newsletter!



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