The theme for this month’s Read Around the Rainbow posts, suggested by the lovely Addison Albright, is, what were your characters like in high school or as teenagers? Which is something I actually do think about a decent amount—I write (or I like to think I write) very character-driven stories, and I usually have a TON of head-canon and character backstory that’s never made it into the final drafts!
(Also, I just wrote a scene, or at least a memory, along these lines for the next Character Bleed story-in-progress…Jason in his parents’ house, thinking about teenage years…)
So, then: let’s see.
Since I’ve just mentioned them, Jason and Colby from the Character Bleed books are the easiest, because we actually more or less know this answer! Colby spent a lot of time in different countries, because of his father’s job; he was also (and still is; he’s only good at interviews because he’s practiced the “charmingly awkward vaguely English apologetic adorableness” persona a LOT) very much an introvert and not terribly good at meeting people, especially other teenagers, though if you ever did manage to talk to him about books or fantasy or medieval castles, he’d turn into one of those people who just can’t stop talking because he’s excited and enthusiastic and it’s overflowing. He didn’t have a lot of friends, being a) a shy fantasy nerd, b) very very gay (he figured that out pretty early on, and he didn’t run around shouting it from rooftops, but he also quietly started wearing Pride t-shirts, bracelets, etc, and if someone said, “so, are you, like, totally gay?” he’d shrug and say, “Yes, in fact?”), and c) perpetually a New Kid; but he didn’t really get picked on or bullied or anything like that—he also always had money (and he was always cute, in an anxious “am I doing the right thing?” sort of way) and he had wealthy parents who didn’t really care what he did, so sometimes other kids, especially in high school, would be “friends” with him so they could use his house for a party or so he’d buy them stuff. Which Colby knew, but he’d sort of wistfully do it anyway, like, maybe this will be good enough, maybe at least it’s something? Jason, on the other hand, was…less and more complicated? Jason actually was popular, in high school, in California: the kind of kid who’s everyone’s friend, not necessarily the leader of the group but the laid-back very chill genuinely good guy, the kid who was on the wrestling team but still got good enough grades, who was smart enough to be a peer tutor but very carefully not a geek, who didn’t join the drama club but would come help them build sets after school, and nobody would make fun of him for it, because that’s Jason Mirelli being nice, it’s cool. He had a steady cheerleader girlfriend. He got invited to all the good parties. (And he’d help with the clean-up after.) And if there were some other pieces that nobody knew—that he loved reading giant 900-page epic fantasy novels, or learned two dialects of Elvish, or looked over at the gold in Dustin Pearce’s eyelashes during a history class, in the sun of the afternoon, and forgot everything he’d ever known about the Civil War—he never told anyone, because he liked being the nice cool guy and having friends, and he was happy.
(This is one reason they’re good for each other, which is actually the part I was writing into the aforementioned WIP! They were lonely in different ways, I suspect, although—because we’re in Jason’s POV—he’s also thinking that teenage Colby was in some ways braver than he, Jason, was, about being himself, and not pretending not to love certain things. Colby would actually argue that point, though—because Jason was making choices about being happy, and he honestly was, he had a good time in high school, and choosing happiness is an act of bravery.)
Switching to the other current…is it a WIP if I’ve just turned in the bonus story? Oh, well: Gareth and Lorre from Magician, anyway, for a high fantasy version! Gareth is easier: much like Jason, he’s a Good Guy and a Hero, and always was: even teen!Gareth could be found helping fix someone’s fence or carrying someone’s market-basket or comforting a little girl who dropped her strawberry tart. He also likes reading and imagining faraway lands, though he likes doing that from home, in a big comfortable chair, by a fire, with the rain or snow in the background. He’s aware that he’s a prince (though, as the second son, not necessarily the next king) but it’s not that wealthy a kingdom, and both Gareth and his brother were raised to think that the job of the royal family is to help people, whether that means trade negotiations or picking up an axe and chopping firewood for an elderly widow. (And…unspoken, but they’re kind of starting to wonder if…their father might be…growing ill…? He says not, but he doesn’t seem quite the same…) Lorre, on the other hand, first of all doesn’t remember much about being young (or he pretends not to), and he was a teenager, like, three hundred years ago. (With the attendant late-medieval fashions!) He’d left home and seduced at least one baron by then, and he could talk gold out of the hills, and he’d made himself beautiful on purpose: every form of power he could think of, because that was armor. (Because, he doesn’t say, my mother didn’t want me, and even when I tried to find her she never answered, and my father only wanted to use my power for himself, and no one cares about anyone, not really, so the best thing to be is cynical and dazzling and strong.) (Gareth, very gently, in the present: “I’ve made you tea, with all the sugar; here’s a piece of Dan’s carrot cake; want a foot-rub, after you’ve been wandering around barefoot healing a forest all day? Or some kissing?”)
This is getting long, so I shall stop there! (I could go on…we didn’t even get to Ben and Simon from the “Leather & Tea” stories, or Kris and Justin from A Demon for Midwinter, and I’ve got trivia for both of those, for days… *laughs*)
Come check out other character discussions from our other Read Around the Rainbow authors, this month!