Ok friends, time to get a little personal. Again. Not many of you know this about me (well, some of you might but hey, I’d love it if you stuck around anyway) but I am a big supporter of mental health. Why you may ask? Well, I have some family members and dear friends with mental health issues and/or who work in the profession so it’s something near and dear to me and one day, I hope the stigma that surrounds going to see a therapist and the general misunderstandings that telling someone who suffers from anxiety or depression to just “get over it” isn’t how you make things better. It’s why I love my flawed characters in books and other media. So, I invite you to come with me on this journey if you will.
There’s something about “hero” characters that suffer with anxiety, depression, or have panic attacks that I really resonate with, and that’s probably because I recognize that I deal with those issues personally, as well. But to me, it just feels so real. Sure, everyone loves the hero to swoop in and save the day and make it look easy. It gives us hope that no matter how crappy the world gets, that someone somewhere can just make it all better. They have a clear path, know exactly what they need to do and just… do it. There’s never any uncertainty about what they need to do, they never falter or feel overwhelmed. But that’s not real.
And I know, I know, it’s fiction, it’s not supposed to be real. Fantasy books and movies are the places we escape to when we want to forget our troubles in the outside world. That’s why there’s nothing wrong with a hero who doesn’t have problems, it can be gratifying and I totally get it! But you can’t relate to those guys either. I mean, I have yet to meet someone who didn’t get scared or freaked out when they found themselves in an unexpected situation. So imagine, if you will, that all of a sudden you are the chosen one and the fate of the world rests on your shoulders. That is a lot of responsibility and pressure. I’d expect you to freak out because well, anyone else would.
That’s why Tallis has anxiety and panic attacks in my books.
Tallis is a strong, badass woman, but the responsibility and the weight of the world that gets thrust on her when she was never looking for it and certainly didn’t want it, is a lot to handle. Especially for a young adult who’s never needed to be 100% responsible for themselves let alone just one other person. Can you imagine having to save a whole country? Being freaked out would be natural and, hopefully, make Tallis feel more relatable even in a fantasy setting.
Same goes for Tomas and Rosslyn. Tomas is a brilliant introvert trying to learn how to fit in. I challenge anyone to tell me they have never felt that way or known someone who’s struggled with trying to find their place in a new group of friends. And Rosslyn may be carefree and live by her own rules, but she’s a bisexual who, at least in the main cities, cannot openly love the people she wants to. All of my characters have interpersonal challenges because the end goal, the goal of saving the world, is not and never will be the entirety of their, or even my, stories.
At the end of the day, I wanted to craft characters that people who are struggling with doing their jobs or living their lives because they feel overwhelmed, scared, or depressed can maybe get inspiration from. I wanted to give a kind of hope to those that don’t believe they are strong enough or don’t know how to manage the things their feelings. I wanted to create characters people could look at and say: “Hey, if they can find a way, so can I”. And all because when I encounter characters in books or movies that have these issues and find a way to still be badasses, It gives me hope and makes me feel a bit better myself.
Tallis will always feel like the world is sometimes just too much for her to handle, but she finds a way to deal with it in a healthy way and, usually, with help. I want others to see her example and not feel small or helpless, but like they can do anything. Because they, and we, absolutely can!
That’s why I love my flawed characters, and I hope you do too.