Owen was kind of an accidental character who was largely shaped by the archetype I assigned to him.
One thing I do before I start writing a book is figure out what the cast will be. I may look at the functional archetypes as in the Joseph Campbell mythological structure, and that’s a good starting point. Or I may just brainstorm the kind of people my main character will run into.
With Enchanted, Inc., I knew Katie would need co-workers at both her original job and her new, magical job. All along, I had the idea that one of her co-workers would be a guy that everyone else thought was gorgeous but that Katie didn’t see as very good-looking. For one thing, it would illustrate the effect of her magical immunity if he was using a spell to make everyone else see him as gorgeous, but it would also be part of her feeling just a bit out of step with the rest of the world, like there’s something she’s just not getting. I thought that was a nice metaphor for the times when you notice everyone’s ga-ga over someone you don’t find that appealing. I’m not entirely sure if the line ended up in the book (these days, there’s a big blur of all I’ve written, and it goes through so many changes that I keep forgetting what made it to the final version), but she compares it to all the swooning over George Clooney. That’s actually the way I feel. I don’t find him even remotely attractive.
It stood to reason that if there was going to be a guy everyone thought looked good except Katie, there also needed to be a truly good-looking guy around the office. Here’s where my subconscious was smarter than I am, because I had the vague sense of him being someone who didn’t get noticed a lot, in spite of him being so cute. But no, at first I had it in mind that the cute/ugly guy would fit the Best Friend archetype while the good-looking one would be the Charmer of the office. And then maybe Katie would become friends with the cute/ugly guy and learn to like him for his personality while everyone else thinks she totally snagged a hottie, while the one who was really good-looking was really not that great inside. But then I realized that was totally boring. It’s what you expect to have happen. The not-so-great-looking guy is always the Best Friend, while the too-good-looking-to-be-true guy always has to turn out to be a Charmer and a bit of a jerk.
And then I remembered that vague sense that the cute one would be the one who wasn’t noticed a lot, and I had the burst of inspiration of flipping the archetypes. What if the one who wore an illusion to make him look handsome was the Charmer? Wearing a handsome illusion was certainly something a Charmer would do. And then what if the really good-looking guy was the Best Friend, the one who was the reliable buddy who got stuck in the friend zone, in spite of his incredible looks?
There was a big mental click, and Owen was born. The Best Friend is a team player and good in a crisis, so he seemed like someone who’d be good to have in a crucial role at a magical company. He’s also not particularly ambitious, which I thought would make for some interesting conflict if I made him extremely powerful. What happens if the most powerful wizard in the world isn’t at all interested in ruling the world or really using his power, but rather just wants to be left alone to do the work he enjoys doing? That means there’s also conflict if a problem arises because he’s loyal enough to rise to the occasion if the company needs him, even if he really would rather not be a part of a major magical power struggle.
I knew then that a super-powerful, extremely good-looking wizard wouldn’t be so easily overlooked, and he was a bit too-good-to-be-true, so I needed to give him a major flaw. Since I’d already decided that he would be dark-haired, fair-skinned and blue-eyed (I have a type, I’ll admit it, and I’ve had that type since my huge crush on Speed Racer when I was in kindergarten), I thought it would be interesting to make him painfully shy so that he blushes furiously at the slightest thing. That increases the Best Friend vibes because he’d be the kind of guy who was totally comfortable being a friend but who’d tend to panic and freak out if it turned into anything else. It also made it more of a challenge for him to step up and take the leadership role that was required of him at work. And it added some comic relief, in a way taking this superhero-like guy down a peg and making him very human.
He still wasn’t supposed to end up as essentially the hero of the series and the main romantic interest. He was just one of the cast. And then I started writing, and by the time I got to the scene where Rod and Owen meet with Katie to recruit her, I pretty much knew it was over. All my grand plans of having a variety of love interests so that fans might have massive Internet debates about who she should end up with were totally shot. There was no doubt that this was the guy who was going to take the lead. He pretty much took on a life of his own.
My friend Rosa, who was reading each chapter as I wrote it, then asked me why he was that shy. During a sleepless night, the whole backstory then came to me, and Owen became even more of a dominant force. You sort of see part of it in Damsel Under Stress when we go home with him for the holidays, but the rest of it is the main plot for Much Ado About Magic. Me knowing that stuff colored all of the books leading up to that point.
There may seem to be Professor-like traits in Owen, what with his love of books, his skill at research and his tendency to go off on a tangent when someone asks him to explain something, but that’s not what drives him. He’s not out to solve puzzles or get the right answer. Books are just something he enjoys and part of his job. It’s what he feels he has to contribute to the greater good. He’s a little uncomfortable with his power (though getting bolder with that through the series), so he’d rather dedicate his research and translation abilities to the cause. He may at times also look like a bit of a Lost Soul, since he’s orphaned and doesn’t know anything about his past, but he doesn’t react to that in a Lost Soul way. He’s never been too curious about his past, and he’s content the way things are. He certainly doesn’t keep himself apart deliberately out of a lack of trust or cling desperately to the sense of home he’s found.
In case you can’t tell, I LOOOOVE this guy. A part of me worries that I’ll never create another character who captures people’s imaginations so well, but hey, if I did it once, lightning could strike again. Right?