As I work on the ending of Wraith (Blended #11) I know readers will think that I am undoing any good feeling toward specific characters by the narrators' perspectives on past narrators. (Ravon Mason is the main narrator. However, in the last portion of the novel, we (the reader) hear from three others)
Other than shown via other perspectives from past novels, readers do not know much about Raven. She was the daughter/stepdaughter, the niece, the sister/stepsister/sister-in-law. A quintessential teenage girl.
Raven Mason is not an unreliable narrator. She sees situations from both her perspective and the other parties'. So it's difficult for her to both be angry and empathetic at the expense of her self-respect, self-esteem, and self-worth. I felt this something many struggle with, especially women, and wished to put the burden to paper.
Reality is perception.
As human beings, we are inherently flawed. I've strived to make sure my characters are subject to the human condition. While in their heads, they justify their actions, and we (the reader) take their sides. They are not good nor bad, merely written to be human. I do this across all of my series.
Since we (the readers) tend to take sides while deep inside the narrator's mind, I worry as Raven makes peace with members of her family and in her community. I fear that our (the readers') perception of these characters will alter, no longer resonating with them or enjoying them as characters. While my purpose is to reveal 3D character, flaws and all.
I did this deliberately, as I think we need to mull over the motivations of the people in our lives before we take sides or gossip about NOYB topics. Let's be honest here. We are not saints. We all notoriously do this, especially within a group dynamic. We gossip. We pick sides. We generally do not try to be empathetic to the one being vented over or gossiped about, then we use that gossip as if it's gospel.
This is the plight of Raven Mason, the one vented about by past narrators. The teen girl with the messy bedroom, shown as entitled and spoiled and dramatic by narrators who were either not close to Raven or had their own agendas. This is a dynamic I've shown with Lisa Kline, Tina Kline, Nina Stone, Essie Mason, and now Raven Mason. It is a dynamic that most likely occurs with women as the target. Just as in past installments, as we face the fact that we (the reader) listened to the gossip without using deductive reasoning, and then were surprised when the targeted finally has a voice that they were not at all anything as they were perceived to be.
During Wraith, it will appear as if Violet, Malcolm, Ginny, Opal, Beth, Oliver, and Taryn are on my hit parade. Taryn's contribution is a bit more complex than the others, so I'm not offering any tidbits about it.
While Violet's behavior is not excused, and will be showcased in Wretched (Blended #12) Raven does give her a pass due to her age. I hope this will put readers at ease and not go into Violet's novel with a bad taste in their mouth, so to speak.
I actually wavered in a chicken and the egg scenario on which book to publish first, Wraith or Wretched. I felt as if maybe readers would be more sympathetic during Wraith if they knew Violet's justifications and reasoning, but then I realized Raven wasn't privy to the interworking of Violet's mind, and Wraith is how it impacted Raven.
After all, a major premise of Wraith is how Hurt People Hurt People. Raven steps out of the cycle, refusing to hurt others after being hurt herself. While Raven could sympathize with Violet, I felt as if I published Wretched first it would undermine the long-term damage Violet wrought to Raven, as if those meaningless justifications gave Violet a pass to harm Raven, where readers would just shrug it off. So readers may dislike Violet when they open up her novel, but that's more realistic than not.
Malcolm undeniably loves his children, but he was a walking mistake as a parent (since parents are human beings, this is reality most of us face) I do believe that no matter how hurt his eldest children are toward him, the readers will still adore Malcolm as his children still do as well.
Opal & Ginny, even when I wrote Wanton, I felt they were unreliable narrators, as we (the reader) could relate to their situation, but I (the creator) knew the other side of the story. They're not right nor wrong, nor am I trying to dismantle any love the readers have for them. But they are not infallible. They fixate on how events impact themselves while being insensitive to how it impacts others. They are subject to biases. They see what they want to see from their perspective, then run with it. They hold this thought pattern for life. How they see a sixteen-year-old girl will not alter when she is thirty, which is something many of us do. Not good nor bad, just being realistic. A reader can still identify with them while simultaneously seeing it from another perspective.
I won't even attempt to explain the dynamic Raven has with Oliver, as I've written two books about it, one of which is a billion pages long. Ha!
Beth, who we last heard from in Wonder. To avoid spoilers, if you know the content of Wonder, you can read between the lines. Dr. Bethany Essex has some issues, and those issues impact her professionally and personally. If you're current, you know Beth has a tight bond with Opal, and through Opal, with Ginny. It's all in good fun- we've all done it. Toss in some wine and have a laugh at someone else's expense. Just imagine Opal & Ginny, sitting around, gossiping about NOYB topics, venting with the girls, and how that might alter how Beth sees Raven, then how seeing gossip as gospel would impact Beth both professionally and personally. This dynamic is also explored in both Wraith & Wretched. Love me some Beth- I'm not doing her dirty. But us ladies, we all get how spilling the tea works. We're empathizing with the person venting, and that person venting has a vested interest in us being on their side, as they unintentionally manipulate the situation to get us on their side. While this sounds like a complex dynamic, it's truly not. Messy is realistic. Welcome to Envy-Landia.
Raven is not a Mary Sue doormat, but in such a large family dynamic, members slip through the cracks. Those who are not squeaky wheels are often ignored and sometimes forgotten. Wraith presents complex family dynamics, where as long as you are benefitting, your perception of the black sheep alters to suit your own benefit- as long as you're getting something out of it, you won't speak up in defense. Through Raven, I try to show how that makes them just as culpable, more so perhaps.
While Raven truly is not a black sheep, she is surrounded by people who do not like to self-reflect. When they look at her, all they see is a mirror, so it's easier to either avoid her at all costs or tear her down so they don't have to face their own self-truths. *I'm looking at you, Ginny.
Readers will feel as if I pulled the rug from out beneath the feet of a few beloved characters. "C'mon, Erica! They're awesome!" Of course, they're awesome. It's First-Person, we (the readers) are deep inside their minds. They think themselves awesome, and justified, and right, and kind. This entire post is about how awesome, justified, and right I am. /s JK.
It's been nearly a decade since I wrote or read anything in Ginny or Opal's voice, yet I distinctly remember how difficult it was to stay in character at times. While wishing to shout at Opal, "You can't say that to Sage or in front of Sage!" Self-reflection was not in her wheelhouse, which was part of the personality traits I created for her. I had to keep in character, where Opal saw herself as in the right, no matter what. How freeing it is to have a character who can voice all the things I wished I could have said in relation to many of these characters. Since Sage is Raven's best friend for life, keep in mind, Sage is the one giving a voice to these things. (Here I am, planting little seeds to grow in a future novel)
I promise I am not issuing character trait lobotomies or rewriting events to suit the current narrator. As an avid rereader, some series or novels reread dozens upon dozens of times when I wish to evoke specific emotions within myself. While I realize many readers do no reread novels, for those that do, they will get a vastly different experience on a reread. After reading the later books (as the series slowly comes to a close) when they go back to the beginning, they will understand the other perspectives, offering an immersive experience.
"C'mon, Malcolm. I love ya man but you've got to be kidding me here! Your children are not free-range chickens!" "Do we need to get you an eye appointment to clear up this blindness you're experiencing?" "Willow Monster, leave Essie alone!" "Willow Monster, leave Clover alone!" "Auggie, do we need another intervention?" and so on and so forth...
Another dynamic explored is various abuses, along with how covert or subtle abuse can be, especially in hidden relationships and within a friendship. If the abuse isn't an eleven, we tend to rationalize or normalize the behaviors. This was a difficult task for me to to be sensitive to all sides, yet also show how all sides are impacted.
Wraith is a long book but it has rapid pacing, which makes it go by quickly. It has a whole host of uncomfortable truths on family, friendship, and relationship dynamics that shift as you age. I wanted my readers to look outside the book at their own lives as they read, and perhaps admit uncomfortable truths about themselves and how they fit into those dynamics.
Here I go, back to writing Raven's fellow narrators on a rampage, who are finding great glee in putting one of these aforementioned character in their place.
Wraith will be available this Halloween.
Delve into the mind of madness