Fave Five

Authors want you to believe that we don’t have favorite characters from our books.  We’re supposed to love all our children equally and not play favorites.  But the simple truth is, some characters are more fun to write for.  With that in mind, I’ve come up with a list of my five favorite characters from the Messenger Series.  They’re in ascending order below.  If you’ve not finished the series and a character name sounds unfamiliar, jump over that paragraph to avoid potential spoilers.

5. Stelios.  Ah, Stelios, the Greek fisherman with that certain something extra.  I’ve always pictured him looking like The Most Interesting Man in the World from the beer commercials, older and rugged, with a suave handsomeness to him.  For me, he’s a favorite because he’s dependable in a pinch.  Sure, it could be argued that his activities included betrayal of Tristan—but that was before he knew whose side everyone was on.  (Not easy in this particular skirmish.)  He flirts openly with Rebecca, offers vaguely prophetic warnings to Tristan, knows his place with Wolfson, and defies the most dangerous people Consolidated Offshore can throw at him.  My kind of guy.

4. Anatoly.  I was fascinated by the concept of a weaponized human being, and I’d read stories about the children of Chernobyl growing up with unusual abilities.  In a time of psychic warfare, Anatoly is a nuclear weapon.  The mere threat of him should scare off an opponent; the actual use of him is an unspeakable atrocity, as Tristan and company learn personally.  We learn a great deal about him in book three, though he doesn’t speak a word, and what we learn makes his fate tragic.  This wasn’t his choice; he didn’t want to be a soldier, much less a weapon.  When he returns in book six, the pathos that is his life deepens, as we see the instruments of his downfall.  We realize that he has been a plaything for Consolidated and for Karolena all along.  A part of us wants him to make the right decision, give the information that will set him free and give him some hope of living a normal life.

3. Cassie.  By all rights, Cassie should be included in the roster of the series’ villains.  After all, trying to blow up your school is not exactly high on the list of activities that earn you the love and respect of your peers.  I had to walk a delicate line with Cassie.  I didn’t want her to be mentally ill; nor could I make her perfectly stable and ordinary.  She had to exist in that gray area of “desperate person with very little left to lose.”  Her actions are similar to far too many teens who make national news by bringing atrocities to their school.  Yet, at the same time, we’re told that she didn’t want to hurt anybody; she needed to create a diversion and attack the place of her torment, rather than the people.  While that doesn’t excuse her actions, it buys her a little indulgence and partial forgiveness.  On the road to Florida, the ordinary teenager comes out—just wanting to get there and get things over with.  But in moments of crisis, Cassie is extraordinary—bringing down Kalfu, getting the records she needs to help her father, and her big moment of bravery at the docks in Pensacola.  I took some heat for the decision I had her make in that scene, but in hindsight, I wouldn’t change a thing.  Cassie Haiduk, the outlaw, found her redemption.

2. Tristan.  “What?!” I hear you say.  “Tristan isn’t number one on the list?  But he’s your protagonist!”  Yes, he is, and I love him dearly.  That’s why he’s first runner-up.  The unwilling hero is a standard of fiction, and Tristan Shays is very much in that category.  I needed a motivation for this very rich, very successful, gently self-centered man to uproot his whole life and wander the world to help others. Physical pain did the trick.  I don’t know if you’ve ever felt unbearable physical pain; I hope you haven’t. I have, and I know one thing: when you’re in the throes of it, you will do anything to make it stop.  If you discovered that you could relieve the pain by warning people and potentially saving their lives, what would you give up to fulfill that?  Tristan often keeps his feelings to himself regarding the actual assignments, so we’re never quite sure if he appreciates the gift he’s been given or resents it.  Like a number of other literary heroes, he’s at his best with a companion, so the pairing with Genevieve and later Rebecca makes sense.  Here’s a man who’s used to having a team of advisors to help guide his actions.  A voice of reason external to himself is crucial to his success.  After six books, I feel like I’ve told his story.  A TV series deal could make me rethink that.

1. Ephraim.  Who else could take the number-one spot?  For me, Ephraim is like Christmas in human form.  I will admit freely that when I introduced him in book four, I wasn’t entirely sure what his evolution would be.  I saw him as a kind of quiet super-villain, with the power of having a perfect memory—even of events that haven’t happened to him yet.  Then something magical happened: every time he spoke, I couldn’t wait to write more.  I felt like I could do anything with Ephraim.  If I wanted him to fly and shoot laser beams out of his nostrils, I could.  (Good sense prevailed, of course, but it’s fun to have endless possibilities.)  When Ephraim’s first chapter came up in book four, I didn’t know if there would be a book five and six, but as he kept returning, I knew there was more of the story to tell, and I knew he would be central to the plot.  What I began to discover is that Ephraim is not a bad man, but a good man who agrees to do bad things.  His belief in SODARCOM and its mission makes it easier for him to commit acts that others might consider reprehensible.  To him, it’s in the job description.  It doesn’t hurt that he’s what I would call “morally ambiguous.”  A bit like Bruce Campbell’s observation in Army of Darkness: “Good, bad; I’m the guy with the gun.”  Good or bad, Ephraim’s definitely the guy with the gun, and he’s my number one.

Does your fave five list differ from mine?  Leave a comment and tell me who you liked and why.