When I create a character for use in my own work, merely starting the process begins a lot of asking of questions. Probably the first and foremost question when writing any story is “how important is this character going to be to the story?”. In the cases of characters like Linula and Ruby Amelda, the answer is exceedingly obvious. They are the entire basis for the story, and in one case, the story is going to be seen almost entirely through her eyes. The first of the stories in which Linula and Ruby appear is in part a meditation on the fact that the things that make us different (one is from an abusive, self-righteous asshole family, the other a loving successful commercialist family) are just as important, if not more so, than the things that make us the same. So constructing these two characters is a painstaking process in which many questions have to be asked and answered.
The first question that was pretty much answered from the get-go is “who are these people based upon?”. Ruby Amelda is based on a real woman I met when I was still kidding myself that I might be able to accomplish something I see others of similar intellectual mean take for granted. I will not comment any further on who Ruby Amelda is based upon or how unless the person in question wants to either comment here about it or tell me by some other means that she is okay with it. Suffice to say that all of Ruby’s physical attributes (red hair, relatively tiny but difficult to mistake for a child) are copied over more or less exactly from her real-life counterpart. There are some differences, of course, but when a character is based upon a person you are not extremely familiar with, that is to be expected.
Linula, on the other hand, is almost entirely based upon the asshole I see whenever I look into a mirror. Oh, do not get me wrong, there are big, big differences. For one thing, I do not have a feminine bone in my body. In fact, if you were to look at me, the idea that I write novels in which one of the characters who is a proxy for me is a 17 to 20 year old Halfling woman would come as a surprise of extreme proportions. But there are also subtle (or not so subtle) hints.
For one thing, anyone who really knows me in person knows that Linula’s rage and ease in throwing a punch or a bolt of ice comes from a deep, dark place within her psyche. One that she has had since she was a child in spite of the fact that no child should ever have to have it. For another, Linula is, shall we say, rather heavy (at least proportionally-speaking) in certain areas of her form. Although my male parent and I have stopped talking, one thing I will give the bastard credit for is that I come from a line of men who are heavily built, and do not simply disappear when we turn sideways to a viewer. This is reflected in Linula’s physical characteristics. Linula is said to weigh as much as seventy pounds, and at least ten of them are in her hips and breasts. With bright blue eyes and hair that is so black that light seems to disappear into it, it is easy to guess who the raven referred to in the first novel’s title is.
So once you have the question of which person the character represents answered, the next and possibly more important question you must ask yourself is what purpose the character serves in the story. Let us take a look at my most direct proxy in the story, the character I call Kronisk. Kronisk is literally a “hand of god” character. In fact, I may well have him refer to himself at one point as the hand of Odin. He has one boss to whom he reports directly (a woman called Saurrodien), but aside from that, he answers to nobody other than consensus vote from the council of spirit-wielders. He has it within his power to temporarily take away a Mage’s power, and to make those who would threaten him either stand motionless or run about like a drunken rabbit with fear. Among other things, of course. One of Kronisk’s tasks early on in the story is to prevent an explosive conflict between Ruby and Linula from hurting anyone else who has no connection to it.
At the beginning of the first novel that they appear in, both Ruby and Linula are starting on a journey. That is the purpose that they serve in the story. Which, in storytelling terms, means that the person telling the story has to have some idea of where one expects them to end up at the end.
Because of a conversation I had with someone on their journal, one which I did not phrase my end of too well, I am going to divulge one of the secrets of storytelling that is taught in basic filmmaking and writing courses. In any one story, there are three basic stages. In the first, you introduce the protagonist or protagonists. You explain to the audience who they are and why the audience should give a shit about them. And the latter half of that statement entails explaining what their goal over the period depicted in the story happens to be. Let us use the film (or novel) The Godfather as an example. In this first phase, we are introduced to the entirety of the Corleone family, but especially patriarch Vito and his three sons, Sonny, Fredo, and Michael. Vito knows his life is coming to an end, and thus he must choose a successor. Sonny is the one most indoctrinated in the mafia lifestyle, but his sense of subtlety is on par with a brick shot out of a cannon. Fredo is simply too weak, at least in psychological terms. The one son that Vito has who is ideal to replace him as the Don, Michael, is the one he does not want to replace him in the role. So… In the second phase, you introduce a conflict, a barrier to the character or characters getting to their goal. In The Godfather, the Barzini family, through a proxy, attempts to get the Corleones to lend the protection of their friends in politics to a drug distribution racket. This, among other things, results in an assassination attempt upon Vito. Which, partly because he is a very old man now and thus is quite vulnerable, results in one of his sons stepping up to protect him from further attempts. And in the final phase, the son who is finally chosen to succeed him is concerned with the eradication of those who threatened his father, his family, and thus him.
This is a bit of an extreme example, because woven in with this simple plot thread are several other threads of three-stage conflict. For instance, the youngest of the three sons has a conflict between his desire to be something other than a mafia Don, what he must do to protect his father, and the fact that he is the best-suited to replace that father at the head of the family. The adopted son who is “temporarily” acting as Vito’s chief advisor struggles with the fact that he is not considered a serious contender for the position because he is not Sicilian. And on and on it goes.
In every stage of writing The Godfather, Mario Puzo had a plan concerning where he wanted every major character to be at the beginning, middle, and end of the story. This is especially important when your cast of major characters consists of at least eight people (Vito, his sons, his consigliere, his youngest son’s girlfriend, his daughter, and the face of the people his main conflict is with). When you only have one or two main characters like I normally do in my stories, a little corner-cutting can be done with less important characters.
Ruby and Linula are like every other sixteen year old woman living in the Elvish city of Nagëlheim. They want to get through their last year of secondary schooling as quickly as they can, sort out where they will be going for tertiary schooling, and figure out what they want to do with the rest of their lives. At the beginning of the story, Linula’s frustrations at her attraction to Ruby and the results of having been violated in a sexual manner as a child explode into a fight between the two that results in a serious injury to one Elf soldier who ends up walking through the area at just the right/wrong time.
When Ruby goes to the hospital in order to see the Elf soldier who was injured by a stray frostbolt that she threw, the Elf forgives her the injury on the proviso that she at least agree to date him for a little while. She agrees, and everything goes wonderfully until the community service she and Linula are doing results in Ruby “overhearing” Linula’s memories of having been molested as a little girl. After the perpetrators in this instance are tried, Linula makes an attempt on her own life. Whilst Linula is being tended to by the healers, Ruby proposes to her new boyfriend that they set Linula up with one of the squadmates the boyfriend has that can be trusted to not get too close too soon. A sort of yes, we know you have been violated in the worst possible ways, but you learn to live with it and live the things that they tried to take away from you gesture, if you get my meaning.
*hours later* Sorry, I had to leave the keyboard and have a cry to myself after writing that. So the two women, Ruby and Linula, paired with love interests, go and learn about life, love, sex, and what it means to be a Mage. The final act of the story is abrupt, taking up only the past thirty or so pages of story, but it is designed to demonstrate the reality of the world around Ruby and Linula. Essentially, a battalion or division of normies (I call them Overlanders in the story) appear by arcane means within Nagëlheim and begin attacking the populace. The Overlanders in question, although only following orders, have orders that would make any soldier look long and hard at their commanding officer. Essentially, they have been told to kill Mages, young and old. So when Ruby and Linula find themselves mixed up in this situation, that forms the close of a three-stage act for both of them. Ruby learns a bit about what it means to have a healer’s compassion. Linula learns, in a rather painful fashion (involving the loss of much of her conscious memory) to live with and deal with her aversions and fears.
So let us sum up what I have put forth on this occasion. Essentially, every story (with some exceptions that I will get into at another time) deals with a conflict. What that conflict is depends on the level one looks at the story. For instance, in A Nightmare On Elm Street Part 2, one can see that the protagonist is fighting against the antagonist for control of his own soul. But if one looks at the story with an adult perspective, one can also infer that the protagonist is struggling with his own as-yet unacknowledged homosexuality. These days, the “creative” (I use that word loosely) team behind that film claim it was all unintentional.
I make no such claims. I am not a subtle person (I am, after all, distantly related to a Dwarvish King who treated being unsubtle as a kind of competition). Linula’s fight with Ruby in the beginning of the novel, although not given a thought beyond starting the plot whilst writing the original novel, is now explained in subsequent writing as sexual attraction to Ruby on Linula’s part. Linula is also described at times as being hypersexual, which is based on self-experienced fact. Make a person feel warped and disgusted with their own sexuality to a strong enough degree, then let them learn that having sex is a wonderful and bonding experience, and just look at how often and far they will go out of their way to experience it. Linula’s behaviour towards the end of the second trimester of the story is representative of this.
I will be brief about Kronisk because he really does not go through much of a character arc during the first story. In fact, his whole purpose is to pad both the story and the two women it is focused on in the right directions at the right times. He is more actively involved in the third story, but that is a topic for another time. Suffice to say for the time being that Kronisk has a lot of story behind him that is begging to be told.
For now, however, I must thank all of you who have read this far and taken in what I have written. If you have learned anything, then good for you.
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