Today I am pleased to introduce Danielle Jensen, author of the Malediction Trilogy, as part of her blog tour for the new prequel, The Broken Ones.
I *finally* and belatedly recently finished Warrior Witch, the third book in the trilogy, and I was blown away by it, especially because the book (and the series as a whole) puts characters into situations where the line between good and evil gets fuzzy, and where even villains can have redeeming qualities.
Shades of Grey: Writing Morally Ambiguous Characters & Situations
Guest Post by Danielle Jensen
When Grace sent me blog topic choices, I was pleased to see the suggestion that I discuss writing morally ambiguous characters, or characters faced with situations where there’s no clear-cut right direction, as the line between good and evil is blurred. The topic suggestion itself contains an important distinction, because there is a difference between characters that are themselves morally ambiguous and those who face situations where they must choose between paths with different negative consequences.
Tristan and Cécile (and Marc and Pénélope in The Broken Ones) are what I’d describe as fundamentally good characters, but I continually put them in situations where every path available to them will have negative consequences. I deliberately give them no good choices, leaving them to agonize over what they should do and, ultimately, make them pay, in one form or another, for whatever choice they make. As both a reader and a writer, I find this makes for more compelling plots, because the direction my characters will take is not as predictable. I also believe it helps engage the reader, because not everyone will agree with what my characters choose to do. This might sound counterintuitive, but I actually enjoy provoking my readers: I want them to sometimes disagree with my characters, to think they are doing something stupid, or to believe they are making the worst sort of mistake, because I believe it creates a greater depth of involvement with the story. If every decision is obvious and every character always makes the right choice, then the reader becomes a passive passenger along for the ride, nodding and agreeing and ultimately forgetting about the story the moment they close the covers. That’s not the sort of story I want to write.
Now, it’s one thing for a fundamentally good character to make a questionable choice, and quite another when making those sorts of choices is enough of a pattern for the individual that they stray into antihero territory. These are my favorite sorts of characters to write, because they are more complex, and that additional complexity allows a writer to do more with them. They make both morally right and wrong choices, which makes them less predictable, and also, in my opinion, more interesting. Just as purely evil characters (evil for evil’s sake) tend to be one-dimensional, so are wholly good characters equally flat and boring, because they provide little in the way of conflict. And without conflict, there is no plot.
This stands for protagonists, but also for villains. One of my favorite characters in The Malediction Trilogy is Tristan’s father, King Thibault. He’s the most layered and nuanced character in the series, in my opinion, and that’s because he’s the most morally ambiguous. In The Broken Ones, I dig much deeper into the Duke d’Angoulême character, revealing an equally unpredictable morality, and while the revelations parallel those of the King’s, they spark a much different sentiment in the reader that I hope everyone will appreciate.
About the Author
Jensen was born and raised in Calgary, Canada. At the insistence of the left side of her brain, she graduated from the University of Calgary with a bachelor’s degree in finance. But the right side of her brain has ever been mutinous, and it sent her back to school to complete an entirely impractical English literature degree at Mount Royal University. Much to her satisfaction, the right side shows no sign of relinquishing its domination.
About the Book
A prequel to the USA Today bestseller and Goodreads Choice finalist Stolen Songbird (The Malediction Trilogy).
Below Forsaken Mountain, a plot is being hatched to overthrow the tyrant king of Trollus, and Marc is the right-hand man of its leader. His involvement is information more than one troll would kill to possess, which is why he must keep it a secret from everyone, even the girl he loves.
After accidentally ruining her sister’s chance to become queen, Pénélope is given one last opportunity by her father, the Duke d’Angoulême, to make herself useful: she must find proof that the boy she’s in love with is conspiring against the crown. If she fails, her life will be forfeit.
Marc and Pénélope must navigate the complex politics of Trollus, where powers on all sides are intent on using them as pawns, forcing them to risk everything for a chance at a life together.
Except being together may turn out to be the greatest risk of all.
RELEASE DATE: June 6, 2017 (Angry Robot)
Danielle is also currently running a preorder campaign. Readers who submit their receipts and fill out the form will receive an exclusive swag pack, which includes a bookmark, signed bookplate, and 3 character trading cards. Campaign is open internationally and will run until release day or while until I run out of supplies. Details are here: https://danielleljensen.com/2017/03/06/broken-ones-preorder-campaign/