With Camp NaNo beginning this weekend, I’ve been thinking more about characters and what makes them tick. I have a couple of favourite types of characters that I write a lot, and they tend to fit well together.
The first one is The Tortured Soul. This person has had to deal with some kind of trauma in their past which influences the way they interact with others in the present. They either can’t see their worth or have decided they don’t want to risk sharing themselves with anyone. There’s lots of potential for angst with this sort of character. Checa is this sort of character, and he’s noble with it.
The second type of character is the lonely one craving his own true love. He’s lonely even if he’s surrounded by friends and family, and he’s a romantic, whether he’s prepared to admit it or not. In a lot of cases, he’s just an ordinary guy with his own personality quirks, who knows himself reasonably well, but still learns a lot about himself as he gets to know the one who’ll be his love. Heath fits this character trope. He’s comfortable with who he is. He even knows who his true love is, but he can’t achieve nirvana because Checa won’t accept it. Even once they’ve Bonded, tied to each other for eternity, Heath doubts Checa’s commitment.
I thought I’d share a small excerpt from Warrior Pledge—one no one would have seen unless they’ve read the book. It shows some of Checa’s reluctance to be the hero, and some of what has made him who he is.
Pretto spent a few seconds fluffing his gown around his feet until he was satisfied with the drape of the fabric, and then he addressed Checa. “So, now we know there won’t be any interruptions—” He glared at Heath who’d opened his mouth to speak. When he once again subsided, Pretto continued. “Why don’t you tell me what you’re thinking, Captain.” Pretto clasped his hands together at his waist and tilted his head so the light caught his bouffant locks, setting the red threads aflame.
“I’m not the Silver Shining from Rock, and Heath isn’t going on any quest that will get him killed.” That should be clear enough.
After a lengthy pause that had Checa fighting not to fill the void with more words and Heath fidgeting on the sofa, Pretto spoke again. Instead of the commanding baritone he usually issued orders with, the old man’s voice was soft and persuasive. “Why aren’t you the Silver?”
Checa paced, needing the physical activity to keep his anger and anxiety in check. “I wasn’t born with silver eyes. My eyes aren’t silver—they’re green. They only changed to silver after—” Shit, he’d have to be honest, even though the Seer already knew. “—after I killed a man.”
“Do you regret that?”
“Fuck no! Not the first one. The Bastard killed my brother. He’d done worse to him and to others. He deserved to die.” The response burst from him before he had time to wonder why Pretto suddenly wanted to talk about ancient history. “He won’t hurt another child.” He took a deep breath, settling the anger and fear and sorrow that always erupted when he thought of what the Bastard had done to him.
“So you avenged them and protected others.”
Checa stayed silent. He’d spent months explaining why he’d done what he’d done when it had happened. He didn’t need to go through it again.
“What about the second one?”
“The second was an accident. The idiot came at me from behind after he’d gone down.” The Bastard always hit him from behind when he intended to hurt him badly. Checa had reacted instinctively, even though he’d killed the Bastard years before. “That one I regret.” The guard had ignored training rules and wouldn’t accept that he’d lost, but he hadn’t deserved to die.
Pretto nodded and pursed his lips. The light caught the pink gloss, making his lips appear fuller. Checa looked away. “Have your eyes changed to silver since?”
“Only once,” Checa responded grudgingly, then stood tall, defying what Pretto called his destiny. “I’m not going to keep killing people just so my eyes stay silver.”
I was out to dinner last night and someone asked me why I write genre; isn't literary writing better? I can't say one is better than the other; I can only tell you what works for me.
I’ve never really had an interest in writing literary fiction. Literary fiction doesn’t provide the escape from reality that I read fiction for. I don’t look for realism or esoteric philosophical musings. If I want that sort of thing, I’ll read research papers on the topic. Fiction, for me is an escape, and that means genre.
I’ve always been interested in writing but never seriously considered a career as a fiction writer until, as an adult, I read several books in a row that were really badly written, yet still managed to be published. I decided I could do better than that, or if I couldn’t, at least I’d have a better understanding of the process and more compassion for writers.
It turns out that writing a book isn’t as easy as I’d originally thought. My academic writing history actually hindered my development as a fiction author because academic writing requires precision and proof, and is passive. Fiction writing has a different sort of precision, needs to feel believable but doesn’t always need the proof of it, and is most effective when it’s active. My first dozen or so stories have long since been relegated to the ‘too dreadful to ever look at again’ folder, but they got me hooked.
I don’t like not being able to do something so I keep working on it until I know I can do it. Some things I stop once I know I’d be able to do it well if I practiced enough. Other things, I keep working on because I love it. Writing is one of those things.
My life has become full of bits and pieces lately. All of them important, although not of equal importance. It’s difficult for me to focus on one thing long enough to achieve anything worthwhile. Sometimes, I just have to take time away from everything so I can focus on the important things.
I found this week that it was time to do just that. By the time I got to Thursday afternoon, the only thing I could manage was reading in bed. On Friday, I put everything aside except the most important thing: I spent time with my daughter. That alone calmed me enough to accept that I need to take time out to recharge.
That’s what I’m doing this weekend, along with a write-in tomorrow. Writing’s like recharging, isn’t it? If I don’t get finished the other things that are screaming at me to be finished, too bad. I’ll come back next week with renewed vigor.
One of the things I probably won’t be continuing with for very long is my art class. I’m really enjoying it and learning a lot, and surprising myself with what I can produce with some expert guidance, but it’s another thing I have to fit into my world when there are so many super-important things there already that I have to keep going with.
I’ll have time for one more project in class before the term ends. I’ll revaluate next term; perhaps I’ll do another project then but I won’t be painting past the beginning of June. Not this year, anyway.
The picture today is the first session on a new project in pen and ink. I have two more classes to get most of it finished, although I suspect it’ll take me four session, not three to be done with it. If you can’t guess what it is going to be, it’s a waterfall with vines growing down the rocks. It’s not going to be a realist painting.
Last week I spoke about how painting lets me turn my head off for a while. I've been painting because I've felt too tired to write. I'm still tired, but with the painting, I've also been editing.
This week I worked on my elephant some more. It's still not finished but it's getting there. I worked on the eye and a bit on the nose. The nose needs another layer. After that, I'll finish the tusk and add a bit of colour. I might finish it this week.
In between that, I've been editing Dragon God. I had some trouble with my computer in that it refused to save the document anywhere, or anyhow. It took several restarts before it began working properly again. It's a good thing I keep multiple copies of my files and I only lost 20 minutes work. Of course, in that 20 minutes I'd moved two chapters and rewritten one scene. I've started work on it again, reworking the chapter before the one I moved. It's so much better now, and I'm convinced it's because I've given my brain a break with the painting. I'll do another couple of chapters this weekend. Some of them go quickly, others need a lot of work, but that's the nature of editing.
E E Montgomery
About writing, life, and random thoughts.
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