Most Sundays, I spend a little time watching TED talks. This one, recorded in 2011 by Brene Brown, looks at vulnerability and what it means for human connection.
While I watched it, I realized vulnerability as described by Dr. Brown is the true underpinning of why I write the stories I write. Why all my characters — my urban fantasy world and my contemporary romance world — are the way they are.
So I thought I’d share her talk here.
I considering making “Sunday Character Talk” an ongoing addition to my web site. Comments are welcome.
I’ve talked about how Rysa, the heroine of the Fate ~Fire ~Shifter ~Dragon universe, is based on a real young woman with real Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. The ADHD symptoms Rysa shows—the jumping, the inability to sequence, the internalizing—are all true to life.
She’s not the only character with issues.
I didn’t originally intend for Ladon to suffer as much as he does in the first trilogy. I figured that all the long immortal—all the characters in the Fate ~Fire ~Shifter ~Dragon universe who have lived beyond a normal life span—would have some sort of trauma they needed to deal with. You live long enough as a warrior and after awhile, stuff’s going to be hard to take.
I figured that was the case with Ladon. That he’d developed ways of dealing and that he’d have his “issues,” and that they would become the engine of some of the story’s conflict.
Then I wrote this passage, from Chapter Nine of “Games of Fate”:
Against his chest, Rysa’s breath hitched. Her lip fluttered and her eyes grew huge. And Ladon knew all the pain he felt moving through her body was his fault.
Twenty-three centuries he and Dragon had fought battles and dealt with Burners. Twenty-three sets of one hundred year intervals, a meaningless measure of time for someone who’d lived through so many of them. Yet, they’d persevered and done what they were supposed to do. Every single one of those actions and reactions dropped onto their heads like a grain of sand blown in from the desert. Twenty-three centuries and sometimes Ladon wondered if he still had the strength to move through the dunes of his life.
I sat back and stared at what I just typed. And I knew Ladon didn’t just have “issues.” Ladon has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
PTSD is very different from ADHD. A good chunk of Rysa’s issues stem from how the world reacts to her. Ladon’s PTSD, on the other hand, stems from his mind and his body reacting to stimuli that are no longer in the world. It’s internal. It’s personal.
And it’s really, really shitty.
I decided not to deny what claws at the insides of my character. I decided that, like Rysa, Ladon’s is a voice that needs to be heard, though his is more common.
Fate ~Fire ~Shifter ~Dragon belongs to both Rysa and Ladon. It belongs to their entwined journeys out of what haunts their souls. And it’s about how they’re going to save not just each other, but the world.
To celebrate the coming release of “Fifth of Blood” at the end of this month, I’m answering questions about the universe, how I created it, and the characters. Today, I’m talking about Rysa’s ADHD.
Rysa, the heroine of the Fate ~Fire ~Shifter ~Dragon universe, is based on a real young woman with real Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. The ADHD symptoms Rysa shows—the jumping from one topic to the next, the inability to sequence tasks or events, the internalizing of social difficulties—are all based on the experiences of one young woman who is particularly dear to me.
The female ADHD voice is uncommon in fiction. These aren’t the girls who save the world.
I thought it was time for that to change.
The barriers thrown up by ADHD often hide specific and wonderful talents. The young woman Rysa is based on has a way with languages, but finding her talent takes extra effort, both on her part, and on the part of the people around her.
Rysa, for her part, is the same way: She’s smart but information slips by. Too many things happen at once and she gets overwhelmed. And she most definitely internalizes all the disapproval heaped on her while growing up in a world that frowns on attention issues.
Breaching those barriers is Rysa’s story. It’s the character’s true story, under the world saving. And it’s why she’s the Fate ~Fire ~Shifter ~Dragon protagonist.