Character Development Case Study #2 – Shaun Mason (Newsflesh trilogy by Mira Grant)
(There will be Spoilers!)
Shaun Mason, adopted sibling of Georgia Mason, is an Irwin – a journalist whose purpose in life is to poke dangerous things with sticks. Specifically, Zombies. Together with his sister, he forms a core part of a news business that provides the largely housebound populace with insights into the outside world, though news articles, fiction stories and Shaun’s Irwin antics.
Interestingly, Shaun starts in the first book of the trilogy as a fairly passive character. He likes to poke things with sticks, that’s sort of his highest calling. It’s Georgia who has the drive and wants the success and Shaun is happy to follow on behind her.
So, when (SPOILER) she dies at the end of the first book, Shaun suddenly has to start finding his own way. His motivation becomes muddled. He wants revenge, but he’s also pretty sure he’s going crazy. He’s still largely directed by other people, but he’s a loose cannon – reckless and not completely in control of his own actions. His grief and naturally reckless nature combine to make him a dangerous character for everyone he encounters.
But ultimately, his recklessness leads to an important discovery – one that could have been the end of him, but instead provides a potential solution to the world’s zombie problem. By the end of the series he’s motivated by the thing that will give him his happy ending – which is the truth about this discovery coming out.
Shaun’s story is very much about him learning to think for himself. Without his sister to tell him what to do (okay, so he still hears her voice in his head, which means she is kind of telling him what to do) he lacks direction.
But, as the situations he ends up in demand, he is forced to become more of a thinker and to plan rather than just act. His ability to lead becomes stronger, and with that comes the difficulty of responsibility – made harder by the vulnerable state of the world. When everyone can turn into a zombie at any time, it can be hard to make decisions about keeping people safe!
By the end of the trilogy, Shaun has really been through the wringer. The loss of his sister, the subsequent madness he endures, the way he has to step up and become a leader and a fighter to expose the truth – his is a journey that takes him to many dark places, but ultimately leads to a happy ending. By the time you’ve finished riding the roller coaster with him, you definitely feel he’s earned it!