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December 19, 2014

Writing Male Hero Characters in YA - Guest Post by Skylar Dorset


Skylar Dorset's Otherworld series folows Selkie, a Bostonian teenager who learns a terrifying secret: she's a half-faerie princess and her mother wants her dead. But Selkie isn't the only protagonist in THE GIRL WHO NEVER WAS and THE BOY WITH THE HIDDEN NAME (which came out on December 2nd!) --- there's also her quasi-boyfriend, Ben. Below, Skylar talks about why she wrote Ben the way she did...and a bit of a pattern she has when it comes to creating charactors.




Someone asked me once recently to describe my perfect hero, and it’s probably predictable that it would be someone like Ben. After all, Ben came from my head! Possibly more than anything else an author writes, the romantic leads in your book really betray what you yourself are attracted to!

Most of the time my characters just show up in my head fully formed. I’m really bad at discussing any conscious choices that go into them. They start talking, to me and to each other, and I just follow along for the ride. But I know I’m getting them right if I’m a little bit in love with them. I am a little bit in love with Ben, and with Will, and with the Erlking, all in somewhat different ways. I am also a little bit in love with Safford, and with Selkie’s father. I’m also a little bit in love with Selkie, and Kelsey, and Selkie’s aunts, and oh, dear, I hope I’m not missing anyone. Because I love them all.

As for Ben, here’s how I hoped he would be: I wanted him to be funny, the sort of character that makes you laugh; and I wanted him to be sweet, but not overly so, because a lot of the times that’s how the sweetest people you know are --- they’re sweetest on the second layer, like Ben is. I wanted him to be good at teasing Selkie, good at making her blush and laugh, but I also wanted him to listen to Selkie, to appreciate how awesome she is. And maybe he gets it wrong sometimes, but what I also wanted him to be --- what I want all my characters to be --- someone who learned from mistakes. It’s one of the hardest things to do, but it’s so important.

What always surprises me when I read the book over again is how very vulnerable I find Ben. I didn’t realize it as I was writing it, but I just want to reach in and cuddle him up and keep him safe from the world.

Then again, I want to do that with all of my characters.