It took me a bit to think about this particular entry. I wanted to do it justice, and I definitely didn’t want to make it sound like I was saying Hey, I have [certain kind of person] in my books! Ain’t I progressive? Where’s my gold star?
I try to give my characters some kind of depth when I’m creating them. Some of them pan out, some of them don’t*, but most of the time I’d like to think I give them some kind of unique personality. Someone I’d run into on a random day, have a conversation with, get to know as a coworker, and so on. I’m fascinated by the quirks and habits of people, their strengths and their weaknesses, and how they use those bits of their personality throughout their life.
I didn’t set out to include any token characters when I started writing A Division of Souls. In fact, I was doing my best NOT to do that. Almost from the beginning my game plan was “Nah, that’s a trope/stereotype, it’s an easy out. How do I take that one extra step to make it different?” It’s kind of funny, really; each time I did try to write a stereotypical character, I completely failed at it. I’d get a ways down the road in the story and get completely bored by this flat-minded idiot I’d created. It’s the nonconformist in me, I guess…heh.
Anyway, when it came time to write the Bridgetown Trilogy, I wanted to create the most realistic characters I could, so I decided to pick up on various personality traits of people around me. I was working at the candle warehouse by the time I started A Division of Souls, and it was quite the large warehouse, so I met and worked with a LOT of people of different stripes. No character is based on a specific person from that time; it was just various traits I borrowed from quite a few people.
Did I plan on Caren and Sheila having a short romantic relationship? I don’t believe I did…it was just a background thing that I’d come up with when I wrote the Questioning Room scenes in ADoS. Caren was there to calm her friend down, and I knew they had a long and very close friendship, but it wasn’t until I wrote that scene that it just seemed right; it felt right to have them be very close physically and emotionally just then. I thought about it for a few moments: what were their sexual preferences? Sheila’s loud and free-spirited, and would probably be open-minded on that subject, so I felt she should at least be bisexual. As for Caren…she’s more tense, more reserved, but she’s also quite open and honest with her emotions, so she might not have been truly bi, maybe just curious. They never show any romantic feelings towards each other in public, but the reader can tell there’s still a deep connection there, even after the relationship is over.
As for Saone and Kryssyna…that was a little more deliberate. I wanted Saone to be someone who did not fit in at all. She’s intelligent, but not as smart as her sisters. She’s Shenaihu, but she doesn’t measure up to her father’s high expectations. She’s resourceful, but no one bothers to ask her for help. She has all this great potential, but it seems everyone she’s supposed to impress won’t give her the time of day. The only person who sees her for who she really is, is Kryssyna. But why? Because Kryss is honest, both with herself and with others. She’s an ARU agent who has no time for judging others by their status. She sees past Saone’s rank and place, and sees that potential. This relationship, then, was going to be less about any sexual attraction than it was a personal one. Kryss loves Saone for her drive and determination, especially when it’s to do the right thing. And Saone loves Kryss because she’s always there to take care of her; she inspires her to keep going. I knew then that was going to be a very strong, very long-lasting relationship.
I have no idea how other writers decide how to build their characters, to tell the truth. I just know how I do it to my satisfaction. There are a few other LGBTQ characters in the Trilogy, because it just made sense to put them there. I won’t set out to write a specific type most of the time, I’ll just choose one at random and roll with it. I’ll admit there is a bit of self-conscious selection: I may deliberately want to have a character be gay or lesbian, but I’m not going to shoehorn that trait in if it’s not true to the character. Nearly all the characters in the Bridgetown Trilogy came to me at the inception of the scene, really. I just choose to keep a very long and extremely varied list of possible traits to choose from and go with what seems to fit. And that seems to work out just fine.
* – My trunked novel Love Like Blood was a good example of flat characters. I had some neat ideas in that story, but it was my attempt at completely commercial fiction. Most of the characters ended up all flash and no depth. It was definitely not one of my best works.