Who is that surprised looking guy pictured above? I see him as my primary character, Jarah, in “The Six and the Crystals of Ialana” and it’s sequel, “The Six and the Gardeners of Ialana.” As writers, we often develop a strong image in our own minds of our characters: how they look, how they dress, their personalities, etc. down to the smallest detail. When I search for images for my characters it becomes more difficult, since they seldom conform to the images I have in my mind.
The image above came pretty close to how I saw Jarah. Perhaps Jarah had more zits, but I took this image and ran with it. Why did I say Jarah might have zits? Well, in the books, he is often the most hapless character and had so many self-doubts you wanted to shake him and and scream at him to love himself more. He felt inferior to his friends and companions, and did not see himself as having any leadership abilities whatsoever. He thought people laughed at him behind his back. He may well have been right. So why and how on earth did he become the leader of the group of six?
Tristan, another character he interacted with, had far more leadership abilities, and would have made a great leader of the group. He was a trained soldier, he was older, and knew things Jarah did not. Yet somehow Jarah was the Keeper of the Crystal, and as the story progressed had the say about what the group would do or not do. Adain, his close friend, was better looking, and the girls were all more confident than him, so any one of them could have become the group leader.
As I wrote, I realized why Jarah was the one chosen to lead the group, and not one of the others. Sometimes I felt like a secretary, just writing down what the book wanted me to do, and it became evident to me that Jarah had some excellent, but as yet hidden, leadership qualities, and that was why the crystal chose him as its spokesperson and keeper. He possessed humility. True, at times it became a hindrance, but he was able to rise above that without his position going to his head. He possessed a strength of character that, like Frodo in Lord of the Rings, uniquely qualified him to hold the crystal without being seduced by it’s power.
Although the other five in the group were also strong characters, they did not have the unique traits Jarah possessed. He was the perfect one to hold the crystal and keep it safe. He faced dangers with fear, but also with courage. He put the needs of the group and the crystal above his own. I realized that leadership is not about physical prowess, bluster, or inflated egos. It is often the quiet one, the one who is a little uncertain and thoughtful, who might make a great leader.
I wonder how many other writers out there are surprised by their characters? A character who might turn out a little differently than expected. A character who grows as the book progresses. It becomes rather like watching a dear friend grow into their potential, and I love it!