I just read some feedback from a customer regarding Crusade, and it really got me thinking. It centered around the decisions made by the main character, Loren Stone. I’ll try to provide context without giving anything away…
Loren lived in a universe of black and white decisions. It was right or wrong, good or evil.. His upbringing and life up to that point had led him to believe that if you stuck to the right path and played by the rules, everything would always work out.
Well, the story reaches a point where Loren has to decide if he’s willing to live with shades of gray. His wife’s life, in fact an entire planet, hangs in the balance. He is in a unique position to help, but he must make a difficult moral decision. The reader commented that what Loren did wasn’t what he’d hoped my character would do, and that it made him see the character differently enough that he didn’t think he’d feel the same about him again, and also that he didn’t finish my book as a result of his new feelings about the character.
My first thought was, “you should have finished the book!” Loren spends the rest of the novel with the weight of command and the responsibility of what he needs to do in order to save those people riding on his shoulders. He worries that if he gives in to taking the easy road, even if he succeeds in saving her, his wife won’t see the same person that she remembers. That thinking stays with him for the rest of the novel, and it will color his decisions as more books emerge.
My second thought was, “Whoa, this reader was interested enough in my characters that they were upset with something the character did!” While I really wish the reader enjoyed every facet of every story I’d written, I am heartened by the fact that they cared enough about the character to take issue with what I ‘did’ to him! 🙂
In any case, it makes me realize that I must continue to make these people as real as possible, and that, love or hate, sometimes I will generate a strong reaction.
I thought about that review a long time, and I wondered, would I make the same decision Loren made? If my family was at stake, how would that change me? Would I cross a line I’d normally never even realize existed? Let’s hope I never find out
However, Loren did, and he’ll deal with circumstances the best he can. He made a difficult decision and will carry on. He won’t use it as an excuse to go beat up his boss, sleep with the neighbor’s wife, experiment with drugs, or anything like that. I don’t want him to be the dark, anti-hero. He knows what is right and wrong, but that sometimes good people have to make difficult choices. He still wants to be the good guy, and will strive to uphold that standard as long as I write him.
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