Even as I continue to write more of this asinine shit in this journal, I am often asked by others who have received samples of my storytelling how I go about creating characters. When I wrote the first of these articles, I did not really have much of a clear idea in my mind concerning where I wanted to go or what I wanted to achieve. I still do not, but I figure that if I give it another try, I might share something worth telling the readers out there.
One of my favourite questions to ask myself when I am designing a new character for a scene or story point is remarkably simple. What do I hope to accomplish with this character? In the case of a character like Kronisk, the answer is multi-faceted, with both simple facets and complex ones. In a world that largely focuses on the interactions between a pair of Mages who are staring legal adulthood in the face, the Kronisk character is there to establish that they are part of a wider world where rules have to be strictly devised and enforced in order to make certain that the society they live in can cope with them, and vice versa. When a character like Frár Orcshield is created, it is to answer the question of how the armies with which a Dwarvish King defends himself and his lands are organised.
Writing a character that happens to be a child is one of the most challenging undertakings a writer can put themselves through. And the rules for writing such characters are largely the same. By including this character in the story, and putting them through events in the story, one has to have a clear idea of what one wants to communicate to an audience.
There are about half a dozen characters developed in my canon that can be seen as children in present story arcs that they are part of. All of them are bears, too. These characters are the result of development between myself and others that have participated in the process of developing my story world, and reflect a lot about myself as well as bits from others I have discussed the canon with.
When writing child characters, one also has to give some thought to who their immediate family, especially their parents, happen to be. Both Rubio and Ariel, the two eldest cubs who currently have profiles in my canon, have one parent who is deceased. Rubio’s father died of heart problems in the months before his birth, a fact that motivates Rubio to make use of the latent powers he displays in his childhood to become a healer. He is so driven to learn the secrets of healing that by the time he is old enough to attend schooling, he is already attracting the attention of both Kronisk and Sarin Bloodmirth (the latter being the most powerful healer of any kind in the known world). Ariel, for her part, is without a mother because her mother died in the process of giving birth to her, a fact that disturbs Ariel a great deal and motivates her to go into the field of obstetrics as a career. The way she sees it, if no other Ursine mother has to die in order to give birth, that is a good thing.
Key to developing these two characters is developing how they relate to their living parents. Inwe, the mother of Rubio, is employed as a housekeeper and maid by Kronisk. The main reason for this is because, as a police force to spirit-wielders, Kronisk needs to keep a healer as powerful as Rubio already is within reach so as to ensure his powers develop well, and along the right path. Inwe, in turn, knows Ariel’s father through a single parents’ group in the Ursine village, and thus these four spend a fair amount of time together.
Another challenge to writing a character that happens to be a child is giving the reader a window into what they will be like when they are adults. As mentioned, Rubio is driven to become a healer so powerful that, much like Sarin, he can bring people back from the dead in the right circumstances. This means that challenges have to be set, and means to overcome them that are consistent with the character have to be found.
The other four children in this canon are all related in a manner of speaking to Kronisk. Through means that require explanation in several scenes, Kronisk “creates” two sons that, although Ursine in nature, share numerous genetic characteristics with him and his secondary at the time, Minílwen. And these two sons eventually have children of their own with two sows from the Ursine village.
The eldest of the children, Frost, is also the most like Kronisk. At an extremely early age, he begins to develop his language and creative skills to such an extent that much of the lessons he would normally be taught in early schooling are completely unnecessary. Writing fiction, or writing down the histories of things he sees in his own words, are Frost’s main interest. Frost will write about anything, and in a manner akin to that of people at least ten years his senior. The challenge with writing scenes with Frost, therefore, is mapping out where he will be when he is fully grown, and how he is going to get there.
Next down in terms of age is Frost’s elder cousin, Rose. Rose is the easiest of the four children to write. Rose’s main drive in the life of the stories is to make music. Having learned to play the piano at one year of age, and after commencing violin lessons at the age of two, Rose is obviously destined to impress the world with displays of her musical skills. Indeed, such displays will at times directly affect the Ursine village’s relations with the rest of the Allied Realms. The biggest challenge she faces in her life so far is understanding the great and strange music that circulates in the world. Seeing why her father’s father will stop at nothing to eliminate certain elements from the world they share will present may challenges to her both as a person and as a musician.
Frost has a younger sister who goes by the name of Summer. Summer, like her uncle Gilmick, is thinly implied by the stories to be autistic. So with a brother like Frost, and having such an intellectually stimulating environment to grow up in in the first place, Summer determines that when she is older, she wants to be an engineer. As she grows, she builds numerous mechanical devices, starting slowly with things like cranes, catapults, or compressors. And as she is beginning preschool or similar levels in the education system of the Allied Realms, she begins to design things like cars, jet engines, or prototypical flying machines. A major storytelling challenge as one follows her from infancy to adulthood will be determining what she will end up using these skills for and why. The Dwarrow love to build weapons that can kill pretty much anything one puts in front of them, but Summer would absolutely detest the idea of building such things.
Which brings us to Rose’s younger brother, Erik. Erik is the youngest of the four cubs. Being that his father, Gilmick, is a hybrid of Polar and Kodiak, he is also destined to be the largest of the four cubs when they are fully grown. Erik’s main interest in life, other than trying not to fall and injure himself a lot of the time, is chemistry. Like Summer, he will be able to do things that the adults in his world will think impossible for someone of comparable age. The ability to create water out of thin air, for example. As there are a handful of chemical elements in his world that are presently unknown in ours, he also gets a lot of chances to create fuels or potions that engineers or medics on Terra would kill for. Obviously, he will do a lot of work with his cousin Summer, helping her develop engines that can use the fuel sources he refines. The challenge for him lies in what happens when he discovers a potential fuel source that has destructive side effects. The discovery of Uranium on Kali-Yuga, for example, will pose quite a challenge to Erik on a moral level.
Writing about children also poses a challenge in terms of how they relate to the adults around them. Rubio and Ariel, for example, have already had one of their parents taken from them by fate. The remaining parents, they maintain a very close relationship with. Frost, Rose, Summer, and Erik still have two very healthy parents per family, making for a total of four. In every field that they are interested in, whether it be medicine, writing, music, engineering, or chemistry, adults from each field watch their progress with considerable interest.
And when a child character is growing up in a world where teachers are carefully trained to meet their needs (as opposed to Terra’s one size fits all classrooms), that tends to have impacts that need to be taken into account in storytelling, too. Erik, for example, has had accidental chemical explosions that have literally turned him every different colour before his fifth birthday. As his teacher has taught him to carefully note down every ingredient in the formulae he puts together, he has even managed to suss out ways in which to make exploding dye packs. To call this a contrast to the education systems we know and love here is an understatement.
So where does that leave us in terms of the kinds of stories that I write with children in them? Well, as it happens, I have a story I am working on now in which Baladu and Gilmick are small children. Ruby is, at the request of Kronisk, studying the two cubs in order to research them in psychological terms. Whilst Ruby is supervised and backed up by a lot of expertise in the field, she is also learning some essential things about child psychology. I am not entirely sure of where Ruby will be going as a result of the events in this story, but I have sort of decided that I want her to be a child psychologist or even psychiatrist, so that I can use her point of view to write things about what I consider to be the right thing to do in a given situation.
Another important point to consider when writing characters that happen to be children is how they relate to one another. To some degree or another, Baladu is a little afraid of Gilmick during the early stages of the life they live together. As adults, Gilmick is 33% taller and Odin only knows how much heavier than Baladu. But as Kronisk explains to them both many times, Gilmick needs Baladu just as much as Baladu needs Gilmick. Both are capable of doing things with ease that are a struggle or even outright impossible to the other. Their children learn the same things about one another. But one thing that has always irritated me about stories in which children are featured is how one child is said to “hate” another without much exploration or explanation of the reasons being given. In writing, it only takes a few sentences to explain what a person does, or a superficial reason why. Taking the time to explore the events leading up to a decision and why they have taken place or what the people are thinking when they take place is a great way to expend a few hundred or even a few thousand words.
Hopefully, this piece has enlightened you a little about the fine and sadly declining art of creating a character. If you have read this far, thank you for taking the time.
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