Guest Post: Character Development in Deep River High Series

Today we have a guest post by author Shaina Cilimberg.

Shaina is the writer of the Deep River High Series and enjoys art, writing, reading/watching well-written stories, people watching, fancy coffee, the city, nature and bonfires

Character Development in Deep River High Series
By: Shaina Cilimberg
What I like the most about my books, Deep River High Series, are the characters. I like how I allow them to make mistakes and grow from them instead of typical Mary-Sue/Gary-Stu type characters. It looks into their lives, fears, hopes and dreams. They don’t have perfect families nor are they popular. The characters I write about are unpopular no matter what they wear. They do not fit in with a clique, just with each other. Kirk in Perfect Forgiveness wasn’t even so sure he fit in with my other characters.
As Christians, it is hard to make realistic characters. Let me let you in on a secret: we know how everyone is supposed to behave and we don’t want to lead people astray with our writing. Some of this weird, preachy stuff seems out of place because it is. We want to get a message across and write about whatever. Also, I do not like to put cursing in my books. Instead, it will either have mild curse words or “so and so cursed.” Andy does say an actual curse I wrote down, but I only wrote his once. In To Be Sane, he says, “Those bullies can cop a damn in hell.” Yes, I do say in the book cursing is wrong and he does realize he’s wrong for cursing. He also wants revenge on the bullies and hates Kirk for the school shooting that took place in Perfect Forgiveness as a freshman in To Be Sane looking back. He was bullied throughout his life and the bullying got worse for him in middle school during the events of Perfect Forgiveness. Andy only has a small cameo in Crowded and Perfect Forgiveness.

He and Selena form a band with friends from church in To Be Sane even though he is shy. Selena suffers from OCD and Asperger’s. This causes intrusive thoughts and compulsions. She second-guesses herself a lot, even though she is very outgoing. Even though it has been hard for her to have consistent friendships, she gets one with Amanda from Perfect Forgiveness. She gets her foot in her mouth. When she first walks into her high school, she drops something and people stare. She blurts, “It’s not like I have a gun!” This makes her the target of bullying through two very mean, stuck-up girls. She and Andy like each other a lot, but fear rejection from the other. To Be Sane differs from my other two books. The first two are about redemption and repentance. This one is more about accepting yourself the way you are, as long as the way you are is not a sin. Josh is very different than he was when we first see him in Crowded.
In Crowded, Josh cares a lot what others think and is a bully. He struggles with lust and his dark past. He really wants to be a good Christian but feels like a constant failure. It is about him overcoming his sins and forgiving his past. He learns to care about my other character, Cole, even though they want the same girl, Emily. Cole is from a broken home and was dumped by Emily for sexting another girl. He wants to make it up to her and doesn’t want Josh trying to have her. Emily is confused by this whole thing. She never had to deal with anything like this before and never saw herself as the pretty girl guys kissed the ground for. She and Josh’s sister, Lydia, become good friends. Lydia is loyal to Josh but also cares about Cole. She wants Josh to make the right choices and gets along with Cole. Cole cares about her too, but there is no romance on either side. I considered it, but changed my mind.
Basically, Josh is not what he seems. He can be an arrogant jerk, but also is very insecure and wants to do what’s right. By Perfect Forgiveness, he’s a friend to Kirk Williams. Kirk Williams is constantly bullied. There are two groups of friends. Josh and his friends are good for Kirk. Henry and Devin, the other school shooters, are bad for Kirk. Kirk wants to back out but doesn’t. He really hates what he did and learns schooting up a school is not an answer. He also learns who his true friends are. In To Be Sane he has sound advice to Andy during a brief cameo. Andy punches a bully, so the youth group has to go visit Kirk to teach where revenge takes you. Andy tells Kirk not to commit his sins.

While not attached to a parent or a teacher’s hip, the characters have each other. They hold each other accountable and grow to become better people. To quote Disney Channel show, “Girl Meets World,” friends are supposed to help each other be a better person. I really hope readers get themes of redemption, friendship and how to be true Christians through my books. As a writer, I am still learning. I am twenty-seven and no prodigy, so bear with me. I have Asperger’s and OCD, which makes it harder for me to have the characters interact perfectly. I love my characters and they have been like friends to me and I really hope they are to teens and other young adults.

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