Imaginary Stranger-Danger

Initially, Syawn was a common thief, a disposable, biodegradable bully boy, a one-use character with single purpose: to be Mysst’s first kill.

But he grew on my mind, blossomed literally overnight, and informed me that I was to write his story — not to worry, he’d let me keep the little girl as a side-plot.

I had to re-write the entire scene, of course, for besides mistakenly killing him off,  I’d gotten him entirely wrong — the only thing I’d written true was the glitter of his bright green eyes; merry and dangerous and much too intelligent for anybody’s good.

Not too merry lookin’ here, mind.

Not much of a character was here yet, for all he’d seized me — there were surely a thousand such eyes in that primordial character soup, but t’was Sy who saw the opening, Sy who lunged for it.

I had to pull him out of a sea of potential, all the time discovering the wrong traits or dashing off down the wrong character rabbit-holes. Sy, patient man, was always there to let me know, mid key-stroke in some chapter that, no, he didn’t have a Scottish accent.

What? Was he sure? I love Scottish accents.

He was sure.

Well dang.

I still didn’t know everything, but that was ok; it’s never as much fun when you see it all from the get-go. My friend and I have written headlong into surprises so often, it’s become a saying of ours: “The author is always the last to know.”

Our processes have been littered with, for example, “How come I never heard about your being half-elemental?”, or in Sy’s case, “You never mentioned you spent your fourteenth year pillaging on the high seas, why am I only hearing about this now?”

Let your people boast (or whisper, or moan over a full pint) to you about their backstories. As authors, we’re not allowed to spring such surprises on our readers like that; nay, we must plant these things throughout the chapters, to avoid breaking that precious suspension of disbelief. As characters, however, they have no rule against coming at their authors out of the blue, and personally, I think it’s fun to roll with the punches.

Of course, Sy waited to reveal his utter lack of empathy until I was too deeply entrenched in his tale to get out alive. Must be a Thief Lord thing.

Be careful talking to imaginary strangers; you never know what you’re going to get press-ganged into writing.

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7 comments

  1. Didn’t your mother ever tell you not to talk to fictional thugs, Tirzah? Three words: She was right.

    It is a delight, though, discovering just how much (and just how little) you know about your characters. They make you proud, scandalize you, and above all else, surprise!

    P.S. to Sy — Sorry about your face. Bigger/softer comes more easily to my hand than smaller/more refined, so my visual expressions may tend over-wide. Nothing personal, you understand.

    1. *Hangs head* She didn’t tell me what to do when they jumped me in a dark alley! D:

      And it really is, isn’t it? I love it when Sy will pop off telling some manner of tale, and I’m like *eyes wide* Truly? You *did* that? O.O

      “Ah, Danielle,” Sy says. “I’m sorry about *your* face.” He laughs. “Nothing personal, you understand.”
      Big punk.

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