Warning: this post contains book spoilers. Run away if you haven’t read the book.
I’m sometimes asked which character in The Fourth Descendant is my favorite. As I was writing, my answer changed, I think because I spent more time with one or another for a while as the story progressed. One week was Jonah’s week. Then Damien’s. Then Michelle’s.
I can honestly say Sharon was never my favorite.
Maybe that’s why she lost her way.
Writing Sharon’s character was a major pain. Her role was the most revised, most critiqued, most criticized, and more controversial than any of the others. This was a comment from one of my critique partners way back in June:
I knew pretty early on she would go whack-a-doodle, and I knew the discovery would have something to do with it. I liked the idea that one of the original four would become an antagonist. Deciding which one came from all that research. Historically speaking, the English ancestor would be most likely to work as a pharmaceutical researcher, and the Irish immigrant would have probably worked in construction.
The major challenge with Sharon was figuring out why her family’s tie to the eugenics movement would drive her to do everything she did. She was deeply connected to her family and intimately knowledgeable about its history. Could that be enough for her to defend it?
Turns out, no.
That same critique partner suggested a tie to politics, and that’s when Sharon magically acquired a beloved cousin who was recently elected to the US senate.
But was that even enough?
Imagine your family is important. Maybe they’re wealthy, and they definitely have standing in society. They’re decision makers. People look up to you and your relatives. Now imagine learning your grandfather was a Nazi general. He not only served under Hitler; he had a direct hand in atrocities of the Holocaust. Would you try to hide it?
An extreme example, sure. But it was a start in getting into Sharon’s head.
While her family’s tie to the eugenics movement was the beginning, the real catalyst for Sharon’s unraveling was when she shot Dave. It led to an unintentional Shakespearean reference that two critique-ers picked up on.
Yep, she’s Lady Macbething. I totally meant to do that.
Maybe Shakespeare has become part of the collective unconscious.
Anyway, for her, the shooting was the point of no return. Had she gone to a psychiatrist, she likely would have been diagnosed with PTSD and anxiety. That didn’t happen. Instead….
Well, I don’t need to tell you. You read the book.