On Characters- Authors take very different approaches to writing characters. I have friends who are excellent authors, but who control their characters like puppetmasters. The characters perform the plot as they are directed to do. My writing is full of surprises and I love it that way.
Writing is an intensely visual experience for me. My stories play in my head with a nearly cinematic quality. I see the people places and events. They do not always come in sequence but I have faith that there is a complete story and if I continue to pay attention I’ll eventually see all of their story, write it down and it will make sense.
The big surprise for me was how much of collaboration it is between my characters and me.
In writing Was Once a Hero I had Shasti Rainhell, who was originally only a device, a way of keeping my everyman, Robert Fenaday, alive as he descended into the world of privateering to search for his missing wife. Shasti, genetically engineered, and more than humanly powerful, was not content with her role. She started telling me about her abusive past, about why she was
fascinated with Robert’s love for Lisa and his unreasonable search. I learned that as Robert was searching for Lisa, that Shasti was searching for her humanity. What started out as an adventure story developed a complex romantic underpinning.
This new character arc became almost as strong as the original main arc as Robert and Shasti followed their paths and eventually intertwined in their own affair. I preplanned none of this but it lead to the Fenaday trilogy and a standalone Shasti Rainhell book.
I found this to be even more the case in the present series I’m writing. Maauro is a 50,000 year old android made by a vanished species for a genocidal war. She is found on an asteroid base by Wrik Trigardt, a disgraced military pilot, on an expedition that turns out to be the cover for the both the government and the Thieves Guild.
This was originally a very gritty monster story without Maauro, and with an Alien-style creature. My writing group hated the story. I reached into my fascination with anime and came up with a character of the deadly but oddly gentle, Maauro. Originally she had a corpse-like look then repatterned herself on a game simulation to an anime appearance after capturing Wrik.
Maauro spoke to me in first person present tense, while Wrik spoke in first person past. I wondered why this was. Eventually l I realized Maauro, who had perfect recall of her past, and
did not look forward (being essentially immune to time) to the future, “lived” entirely in the now. Note however that I did not determine her voice. She did. I just had faith there was a reason.
I had no intention of doing what I call a Pinocchio story, where in the robot character, ala Data from Star Trek and so many others, wanted to become a “real boy.” But Maauro had other ideas. She did not want to become a “real girl” but as a machine made for a war that ended ages ago, she wanted to become more herself. Even her gender was an assumption, a choice.
Maauro preferred the more complicated existence of a female consciousness. She decided that
she wanted to explore emotionality and relationships; for all that hers are cooler than ours as they are not rooted in sex and death.
So I ended up with a girl robot, who acts more like a girl the longer she functions and frankly the trip has been richer for my listening to her
Author Edward McKeown is a writer and editor