I grew up in a big family, but am close in age to twin sisters three years younger than me. As teenagers, we used to read the same books, play the same video games, and watch the same shows. Yet, we couldn't have been more different about which characters we loved best. I was a staunch hero supporter. I cared about what happens to Drizzt Do'Urden in R.A. Salvatore's books and Link from the Legend of Zelda. My sister K gravitated towards villains. She felt a multi-faceted antagonist like Magneto from the X-Men offered a fascinating glimpse of how even a great person could choose the dark side. Finally, the other twin, L, chose the quirky, often obscure characters to obsess over. If you even know who Ildon is, you're the fourth person I've ever met who does.
Fast forward to the original release of Final Fantasy VII. The three of us largely played it together on our single Playstation. I predictably loved the main character, Cloud, who appeared early on in the game to have a relationship with his childhood friend Tifa. Villain-loving K hoped the mysterious and probably up-to-no-good Sephiroth would eventually join the team. L fell in love with the quirky Aerith, who personally irritated me because she vied for Cloud's affections.
2-DECADE OLD SPOILER ALERT: Part of Final Fantasy VII's popularity hinges on a major character death that happens in the middle of the game. Don't read on if I'm ruining it for you. (Although, seriously. Go finish the game! Square Enix just did a remake and it is fantastic.)
For those of you who've never played Final Fantasy VII (and/or don't care), all you need to know is mid-game, villain Sephiroth kills quirky Aerith, right in front of hero Cloud. This resulted in the following reactions in our trio:
- Me, the hero character sister, ecstatic: "Yes! That means Cloud and Tifa will be together!"
- L, the quirky character sister, crushed: "No! I loved Aerith! Why, game, why?"
- K, the villain character sister, disgruntled: "I guess that means Sephiroth's never joining the party. That sucks."
Funny family anecdotes aside, as a writer, I think it's important to flesh out all the character types in my books. Even though I'm still pro-hero, I think of L when I write my supporting cast. What kind of quirks and personality traits will delight readers? And villains shouldn't be one-dimensional either. I channel my inner K as I try to explain the mind of the antagonist and why they might choose the path they travel. It's important for all those personalities to come alive on the page so that my readers can decide who they relate to most.