This post is part of a series of posts discussing characters and events in WARRIOR WITCH. They will all contain serious spoilers, so if you haven’t read the book, I’d suggest holding off on reading them.
A question I’m often asked is how I come up with my characters. For my protagonists, I typically have a sense of their personality before I even start writing, because I spend so much time thinking about characters/plot/setting before I ever create a Scrivener file and put my fingers to the keyboard. But my secondary characters are quite different. They tend to grow and develop along with the plot – the needs of the story are what determine who they are and what they are like. Or said another way, the significant secondary characters are the way they are for REASONS.
I wrote a guest post at some point (although I can’t seem to find it!) about how Tristan’s friends all represent certain aspects of his personality, but there is more to it than that. In this post, I’m going to focus on Vincent and Victoria (The Twins), and why I constructed their personalities the way I did.
I wrote the majority of STOLEN SONGBIRD while I was studying for my BA in English Literature, and one of my primary academic focuses was on 17th Century literature, which meant quite a bit of Shakespeare. Of great interest to me was the Shakespearean Fool, which, in a highly simplified nutshell, is a character whose scenes tend to be set apart from the action of the play and who provide comedic relief. These characters are typically quite clever, and they use wit or tricks against those of higher social standing. The Shakespearean Fool was the inspiration behind the twins.
There is a theory of thought that audiences benefit from comedic relief that pulls them out of the tension of the main action of a story. The argument is that an audience becomes numb from uninterrupted tension, and that providing them with a break actually increases the emotion resonance or impact of whatever tense event happens next. If you go back to STOLEN SONGBIRD and read the scenes where the twins are central to the action (the competition scene when Cecile has first meets the twins, the fishing scene, etc.), you’ll notice that the content of those scenes isn’t particularly necessary to the continued plot of the novel. They were comedic breaks that allowed the reader to relax before I dived into more tense, plot-intensive events. Their existence gave STOLEN SONGBIRD a great deal more levity than it would’ve otherwise had, especially in contrast to a novel like HIDDEN HUNTRESS.
The twins have very little screen time in HIDDEN HUNTRESS, and when they do, they are a grim version of their former selves. I did this purposefully, because I wanted the novel to have a darker, broodier feel than its predecessor. The first half of the novel has pretty much no comic relief, because I didn’t want to cut the tension – I wanted it to weigh upon the reader. This is what makes the first half of HIDDEN HUNTRESS a harder read and, judging from some feedback I received, caused some readers to take their own breaks rather than pushing through. The second half of the novel reads much more quickly, not only because it is the rising action to the climax, but also because I give the reader a few comedic breaks using the banter between Tristan and Chris (I couldn’t use the twins as they were in Trollus!). The refocus on Tristan and Cecile’s romance serves a similar purpose, because while it is no less tense, it is a break from the central conflict of the novel (the hunt for Anushka).
In WARRIOR WITCH, the twins have a much greater amount of screen time, and while they aren’t exactly back to their silly selves, they once again take on the role of comedic relief, especially as Tristan and Chris’s banter is missing for a good portion of the novel. But for this book, I wasn’t satisfied with that being the extent of their character duties: side kicks who provide the occasional chuckle. I wanted to pull their personalities into the central conflict, which is why I used their notorious pranking abilities (candy globe scene, moving the mountain town scene, etc.) as a weapon against the enemy. But as every plot arc must contain conflict, I had to have one of their pranks go dreadfully wrong (Vincent’s injury). Although I certainly led readers to believe there might not be a chance of him recovering, I always knew he would (he does fully recover in Arcadia, for those who were uncertain). Killing the twins, who were a consistent source of good throughout the novels, would’ve been undeserved, and I believed that their deaths would’ve dragged what was destined to be a tough ending into the territory of a tragic ending, which wasn’t at all what I wanted.