Recently, I asked those who follow me on twitter and Google+ what they’d like to see me address here in my regular posts. One of the first responses I found troubling and interesting at the same time:
What is the most difficult character for you to write?
My first thought was that I just get rid of said characters, but that’s not an entirely honest answer. I was confused as to how to answer for the longest time.
To answer the question properly, I had to dig deep into the history of writing my characters. I had to find a time when I thought interesting characters were bland. One case of this comes from Mind & Machine.
Of the lead protagonists, the one who is the most different from the others is Rainier Forrester. Since he’s not a telepath like the other protagonists, he’s immediately different. I always intended for him to have super-speed, but I didn’t have a reason for it. Two things came along to change both his status and the way his powers work, making him not only a more interesting character, but giving him a role in the story that no one else could possess.
First, I made him the financial backer of everything the protagonists are doing. A minor change, yes, but it allowed him to be in a position to benefit from new technologies, a lot like how Bruce Wayne gets his hands on the Tumbler in Batman Begins. In Rainier’s case, he gets his hands on a body suit that allows his limbs to move at a faster than normal rate, a proposition that’s nice enough, but it needs a reason.
I made the reason that Rainier was a playboy, one who got hurt in an accident, unable to fully use his legs. The suit is supposed to allow him to walk again. Instead, his natural state is to go much faster than a man is supposed to go, so much of his conscious effort has to go into moving slow. Despite all this, Rainier still uses the same muscles, heart, and lungs to power all his motion, so he needs a lot of carbohydrates. His first scene subtly involves him eating or preparing three bowls of ramen.
However, I did mention there were two things that I changed about Rainier. The second change was one I toyed with and found made Rainier more diverse and slightly more driven. It also motivated one of the tech support characters, Michael, to a stronger degree. What did I do? I made Rainier gay. The change gave the overall group of protagonists a much more unique set of perspectives, allowing them to see things from more angles. It didn’t change the story, but it drastically altered the character interactions, especially in conversations between Commander and Michael, since they usually end up arguing about Rainier going on potentially dangerous missions.
Another character I once fought with is the lead character of Tesseract, Kahlan Rhhl. For the longest time, I couldn’t make the story work. I had the setting, I had the mirrors that take people from one place to the next, but I didn’t know what to do with her. I had a basis for her personality, attitude, and more than a little of her appearance. My problem wasn’t Kahlan directly, my problem was that I didn’t know what to do with her.
The solution didn’t present itself until I saw a friend of mine had changed her hair color. This friend had already inspired the character of Alindra Vordrinn, but I had yet to include Alindra. When I saw my friend with a different hair color, a phrase popped into my head: “prismatic hair.” I tried not to base a second character off this friend, but I realized that I couldn’t fight it for very long, probably about thirty seconds.
Once that thirty seconds was up, I realized I could use the new character, Autumn, as a friend of Kahlan and I could slot Alindra in as the villain. From that, I remembered the friends who provided the inspiration usually ran around with another friend, making them a trio, not a duo. In about two minutes, Tesseract went from being unpopulated and something I couldn’t write, and became vast, populous, and taking a clearer shape.
I think the lesson I took from both of these troubling characters is to find a new, distinct way for them to interact. Rainier isn’t defined by his abilities or his sexuality, it simply gives him greater depth. Kahlan is defined by her interactions with her friends, since the interactions of her, Autumn, and Daria are the core foundation of the interactions in Tesseract.