Character Spotlights are a weekly Wednesday series where I talk about some of the characters from the novels I’m working on, or have already completed. They’ll just be little snippets of their lives so that you can get to know them a little, and hopefully one day read about them in a published book!
This week, we’re talking about my absolute favorite asshole in the world: Theodore, a demon accidentally summoned into the heart of Salem by three very startled witches. What they don’t know? He’ll do anything to stay with them, as far from his father as he can get.
If that brief summary of how Theodore came to be has left you scratching your head a little like, wait, what? That sounds ridiculous? YES, YOU’RE CORRECT. My friend recently started reading this and went wait it’s hilarious. Sister witches, sometimes called Monsters Included, is kind of a parody, also kind of just my excuse to write the most aesthetic novel ever, and really just a way to write about witches and demons coexisting in downtown Salem. I wrote about my journey to the end of this novel, as well as shared the first chapter, and I’m hoping to return to their world in October.
But Theodore. He was the last character to really form in this story. I knew, long ago, that I wanted to write about sister witches. Women who were not sisters by blood, but by magic, who formed a small coven together simply because they wanted to belong with other like-minded women. I also knew that I was going to pull from the witches in my own life and sprinkle them throughout the characters. I started creating our three female leads, and while I knew that there was going to be a demon, I hadn’t really put a lot of thought into him yet.
It’s just a demon.
I had some preliminary ideas going in, when I first started writing the novel. I knew that he could turn into a cat. I knew that he wanted to be topside. But that’s about all I knew. When I started the first chapter, I wasn’t even totally sure of his name. And then, this happened.
The thing reeled back as the light flared across its face, lifting an arm to shield its eyes as one of its Converse-clad feet staggered back. “Oi!” it exclaimed, “Way to ruin a moment!”
Ah, Theodore, hello at last.
Long, long ago, waaaaay before our witches were even in a blip in the universe, Theodore was born to a charming, always singing, fiery redhead named Caroline. She had a doting husband that she believed was Theodore’s father, and who dashed every amount of love and adoration on his family that was possible.
They raised him to respect the wildlife around him, to sing to the plants and care for the animals he came across. They showed him the magic in crystals and herbs, in the sun and the moon, and in the simple act of kindness. He was a sweet, carefree boy right up until his true father came to snatch him away.
Little did Caroline know that a demon had snuck into her home in the night and sired a child through her, but when Theodore turned eight, his demon father rose from the depths of hell and snatched him away.
For years upon years, Theodore survived under the cruel tutelage of his father, his quiet, sweet nature slowly being twisted and torn apart. He clung to the remains of his humanity, suffering whatever punishment that was bestowed upon him because of it. At night, he dreamt of his mother. During the waking hours, when he crumbled beneath the pressure of his father, he whispered her songs to himself.
But then, something began to happen that neither of them expected.
Little did Theodore’s demon father know when he crept into Caroline’s house was that he was entering the domain of a witch, and that to sire a child through her was to contend with the magic already lingering in her son’s blood. For when Theodore continued to cling to his humanity, when he absorbed his father’s training and let his demon nature blossom, he created a space for the two halves of his life.
And suddenly, Theodore’s father realized that the son would very soon overpower the father.
Wanting to keep Theodore under his thumb and unaware of the true breadth of his power, the father quickly set about binding his son to him, creating a tether that would suffocate Theodore’s power, that would never allow him to tap into its true potential, and that would slowly erase all memory of the magic he might have utilized. For centuries, Theodore was ground into dust and remade.
And when, many, many years later, he was finally allowed to return to the human realm, it was to find his mother dead and the world changed. Theodore slunk back to the demon world, intending to never leave again. He was, of course, occasionally summoned and bade to help the witches of the human realm. For a brief period, he traveled with a band in the 70s who enjoyed the hectic aesthetic of a cult following that worshipped the devil. But it was not until the 21st century, when a group of fumbling, terrified witches accidentally summoned him that something snapped inside of Theodore.
They were young. They were foolish. They were scared, and Theodore couldn’t understand why. He had been spat on. Forced into the shape of a bug and stuffed inside a jar. Beaten. Twisted inside and out. Reminded that he was not good enough. Why were they afraid of him?
As they rushed to figure out a length of time to make a deal with him (for they had to house him for, at minimum, a month, or he was free to do with them as he pleased), he saw something strange in one of their expressions.
One of them was frowning at him. The other two were frantically trying to decide how long it would take to figure out a banishing spell complex enough to get rid of a demon of his stature, but one of them was frowning, her mouth turned down and her brow furrowed and something like understanding in her eyes. In that moment, she saw him as no one else had before. She saw that he was desperate to be anywhere that didn’t contain his father. She saw that he wanted to run, and run far.
“A year,” she said.
When he’d arrived, he’d done it creepily. Crooked shoulders, haunting gaze, a wicked smile. But at her offer, at her understanding, Theodore shrugged it all off. She had seen him when no one since his mother had, and she deserved the humanity still left in him, however small, however dark. He took a step toward her, his feet shushing across the floor, and held out his hand.
“Deal,” he said, and she shook hands with him.
A year from that fateful day, Theodore’s luck was about to change, and he was nowhere near ready for it. Because despite the budding friendship between him and his witches, Theodore expected to be sent back at the end of their year deal. He expected for them to brush their hands of him and say good riddance to whatever that hiccup in their lives was. He was ready to be back in hell.
What he didn’t expect was for his witches to fight for him. What he didn’t expect was their promise to figure out how to break his bind with his father. What he didn’t expect was to find love and joy again, and particularly not from a bunch of ragtag humans.
What he didn’t expect was to not want to leave, but rather to stay with them always. And, in the end, after battles with rogue witches and close encounters with his father and too much pain, Theodore was just too tired to be surprised anymore.
When a path had been swept through the salt and rose petals, Henley yanked Theodore to his feet and pulled him close. He felt so familiar, his bony shoulders and his towering height and the uncertain way he flapped his hands before he placed them gently against her spine. “Hug me like you just almost died, asshole,” she said, and then he was squeezing her tight, her giant witch demon boy thing finally back where he belonged.
For better or for worse, he’d finally found his family again.
And that is Theodore! Resident demon/cat/witch thing, tucked away in the heart of Salem, MA with his three best witches. What did you think? Would you read a story with Theodore’s snark and cynicism twisting through it? Let me know in the comments below!