When writing the character of Lily Frost, I didn’t have a set view in mind of who she was or who I wanted her to be. I like the idea that as you write, characters grow and evolve. That’s exactly what she did.
In the early drafts of Where Shadows Dwell, Lily was a college student who had chosen a small college in Berrien Springs as her place of study. Lots of great scenes and fun interactions with characters that eventually got cut happened in those early drafts. But I had to let it evolve. I hadn’t really discovered who Lily was yet.
Eventually, the real character emerged.
Lily, as it turns out, has a base fear of abandonment and being alone that drives her decisions in the novel. I didn’t realize this about her at first and it took a lot for me to get to the bottom of what was driving her. But I loved it when I discovered this because it so clearly explained to me why she was unwilling to get rid of her relationship with Ryan, and why she was so driven to look for Randy, the father who abandoned her when she was five. I saw where that belief had given her a lot of strengths (determination is among these) and also where it gave her a lot of weaknesses (willing to lose part of herself to make sure she isn’t alone). I got to explore these aspects of her character, and I got to watch her grow and develop, reducing the impact of her weaknesses and increasing her strengths. Realizing that part of who she was was perfect for the evolution of her character.
I also realized that Lily gives her heart away easily and she has a propensity to see a person for their strengths, rather than focusing on their weaknesses. With Ryan this trait acted to her detriment. With James, it was something that helped him grow into his own strengths and ultimately free himself of the past that had him so tightly wound in its grip.
For me, Lily is, to a very large degree, a metaphor of my own experiences in my life. That doesn’t mean I’ve dealt with attempted rape and murder – I haven’t – but the progression she takes is something I connect with. Lily develops from a place of very little confidence and self-worth, to a person who knows that she’ll be okay, even if everybody she loves walks out of her life. It’s not easy for her to realize this, especially when James does almost leave, but by the end of the novel she has figured out that she can stand on her own two feet.
I didn’t realized I had infused a lot of my own emotional experiences into Lily until I had completed the novel and went back to read it for an edit. It was then that I saw that Lily is part of me. Literally. Her character development was really me looking into my own life experiences and putting them on paper in a way that made sense to me. Personally, I believe that all characters are, to some degree, a look into some part of the person who wrote them.
They say that the act of writing is very healing. I think in some strange way that I did that with Lily. By writing her experiences I was able to give voice to some of mine, and put them out there in a way where I could safely experience them, explore them, and ultimately let them go. And I did it with experiences that were so completely opposite of my own, which means I really got to explore and look at the emotional side.
I love Lily because she will always be a part of me and a representation of some of my life experiences. I love her because, ultimately, she is one aspect of me that I’ve chosen to put onto paper.