Tag Archives: characters

Authorcide

Just a tidbit for today. I think my characters are trying to kill me.

Last night, no less than five character and plot points resolved themselves in my head. While I was driving.

My fellow authors might know the “grab your notebook” impulse that took hold of me, but I was good! No writing while driving. I kept my hands on the wheel. On a good day, my brain has a hard time holding onto three ideas for more than a few minutes. I reduced the thoughts to their essentials and repeated them to myself.

When I reached my destination, the first thing I did was open my notebook and pen. By that time I only remembered four of the points.

In the wee hours of this morning I woke to a tornado warning. In the distance, I could faintly hear the sirens. I dragged my quilt into the closet and sat with my dog. Asher, my gray cat, was cool and calm, so I wasn’t greatly concerned.

And there, in the closet, in the middle of a tornado warning with wind and rain driving against the house, I remembered the fifth point.

Maybe I am too blasé about tornadoes. I left my refuge and got my notebook.


Khazâd Part I: Aulë

And now I will begin to explain my take on J. R. R. Tolkien’s Dwarves, or the Khazâd, as they call themselves. It has taken me this long to gather my thoughts, dig up my evidence and organize my reasoning. I assume that most of my readers are familiar with Middle Earth and its inhabitants. If you have any questions, feel free to ask me in the comments section, or check out the Tolkien Gateway and its handy search engine.

I begin with what is, for the Dwarves, the beginning.

As far as I know, the Dwarves are the only race of Arda to be created by a single Ainu. The others arose from the Music of the Ainur, or from the corrupting influence of Melkor on existing races.  There are other races closely associated with specific Ainu (like the Ents and Yavanna, or the Eagles and Manwë),  but only the Dwarves were the work of a single mind. Therefore understanding them must begin with understanding something of their maker, Aulë the Smith.

In the Valaquenta Silmarillion, Aulë is said to be the third-mightiest of the Lords of the Valar, and the most similar in talents to the Enemy of the Valar, Melkor.  He is shown to be a smith and the shaper of the “substances of which Arda is made.”

He is … a master of all crafts, and he delights in works of skill, however small, as much as in the mighty building of old. His are the gems that lie deep in the Earth and the gold that is fair in the hand, no less than the walls of the mountains and the basins of the sea. … Melkor was jealous of him, for Aulë was most like himself in thought and powers; and there was long strife between them, in which Melkor ever marred or undid the works of Aulë, and Aulë grew weary in repairing the tumults and disorders of Melkor. Both, also, desired to make things of their own that should be new and unthought of by others, and delighted in the praise of their skill. But Aulë remained faithful to Eru and submitted all that he did to his will; and he did not envy the works of others, but sought and gave counsel. Whereas Melkor spent his spirit in envy and hate, until at last he could make nothing save in mockery of the thought of others, and all their works he destroyed if he could.” Valaquenta, Silmarillion

And there you have it. Aulë contained the fire and will to create and this made him great, but also led him into trouble. From what Tolkien writes, the desire to create is both wonderful and perilous. Many of his most destructive characters are either akin to Aulë  or else were his disciples. Fëanor, so talented and so catastrophic, and even Sauron, himself, learned craft from the Smith. It would be easy to assume that Tolkien considered craftsmanship a road to evil. He certainly represents the dangers of creativity in materialism and delusions of godhood. A closer look, though, reveals a very different message. Tolkien’s take seems to be that the paramount wonder and power of creation is balanced by great risk.

But for all the dangers of this creative drive, Aulë is represented as a good being. He is patient (save in one instance that I will discuss shortly), even-tempered, generous, strong, hard-working and artistic. Of the Lords of the Valar, he and Oromë are my favorites, but the Smith wins by a nose. I guess I identify with smiths. No surprise there.

I also identify with being patient in some regards and impatient in others. Of Aulë’s impatience, the Quenta Silmarillion, chapter 2, has this to say:

…so greatly did Aulë desire the coming of the Children, to have learners to whom he could teach his lore and his crafts, that he was unwilling to await the fulfillment of the designs of Ilúvatar. And Aulë made the Dwarves even as they still are…

Aulë, however, had his limits. He could make only puppets, for he was unable to give his creations souls of their own. Ilúvatar, Aulë’s creator, confronts him with this, and asks if Aulë wishes to be lord over things that do not have the power of movement or speech unless his thoughts are on them. Aulë replies:

“I did not desire such lordship. I desired things other than I am, to love and to teach them, so that they too might perceive the beauty of Eä, which thou hast caused to be. For it seemed to me that there is great room in Arda for many things that might rejoice in it, yet it is for the most part empty, still, and dumb. And in my impatience I have fallen into folly. Yet the making of things is in my heart from my own making by thee; and the child of little understanding that makes a play of the deeds of his father may do so without thought of mockery, but because he is the son of his father. But what shall I do now, so that thou be not angry with me for ever? As a child to his father, I offer to thee these things, the work of the hands which thou hast made. Do with them what thou wilt. But should I not rather destroy the work of my presumption?” Quenta Silmarillion, chapter 2

I find that a compelling speech. My desire to create things, not in mockery but in celebration of what is, puts me in keen sympathy with Aulë.  Recognizing that his actions were selfish, Aulë moves to destroy his creations, but Ilúvatar has already given them souls and they shrink from Aulë in fear. Ilúvatar tells Aulë that he will adopt the Dwarves, but he makes this caveat: “when the time comes I will awaken them, and they shall be to thee as children; and often strife shall arise between thine and mine, the children of my adoption and the children of my choice.” Quenta Silmarillion, chapter 2

This quote dissatisfies me. It is as if Ilúvatar has no warmth of love for the Dwarves and takes them on reluctantly. It is something I would like to ask Tolkien about. Is it a shade of his own heart, reluctant to love the Dwarves? Or did he intend it to be part of the Elven slant of the Silmarillion? But knowing a little of Tolkien’s background and faith, there is another possibility. Perhaps he intended the quote to echo another adoption: that of the gentiles in the Bible.

Being a gentile, this may explain some of my sympathy with the Dwarves. Ilúvatar is the father of the souls of the Dwarves, and in giving them souls adopts them as his children. It is interesting, to me, that Tolkien drew some of his ideas of the Dwarven culture (and their language) from Jewish cultures. For, to me, they seem like the Gentiles of Middle-earth. This possibility raises a myriad of questions, none of which I would dare to answer, but I find it intriguing.

To sum up: Aulë created the Dwarves from stone and he intended them to share his creative spirit with its inherent wonders and dangers, to endure and resist the destruction and corruption of Melkor and to love and enjoy the world.  Ilúvatar adopted Aulë’s creations and gave them souls, making them independent of their original maker, free agents in the world. Ilúvatar put them to sleep until the other Children should wake, and perhaps from the inherent difference between communal creations and singular creations, Ilúvatar said that there would be strife between the Dwarves and the other races.  That is the background of the Dwarves.

Next, I will explore the environment that shaped them after their waking.

For the rest of the series, look here:
Of the Free Peoples of Arda
Contrariwise
Khazâd Part II: The Deep Places of the World
Khazâd Part III: Creation
Khazâd Part IV: The Road Goes On


Progress?

Mere Inkling has an entertaining post on The Fantasy Novelist’s Exam and the heroic and tragic death of Boromir son of Denethor son of Ecthelion from Lord of the Rings.

More than likely, no one will be interested in this, but I am and therefore I shall post it. Also, my promised posts on Dwarves are not ready yet, so this will have to do.

I took the exam twice. Once for the first “high fantasy” story I ever started (at the age of 12 and still ongoing for my own enjoyment) and my current work in progress which, if I can finish, I will try to publish some day. The first set of answers are in red, and the second in blue. There are places where I can tell I have progressed. Overall, though, I do not see a huge difference in the answers.

I can tell a difference between the stories.  I’ve learned lessons about plot, clichés, characterization and prose. I find it interesting, and a little discouraging, that I have not changed much in essentials, though.

I guess there is no merit in change for change’s sake, and as I am not dissatisfied with my answers, I will try not to worry about it.

  1. Does nothing happen in the first fifty pages?
    no.  no.
  2. Is your main character a young farmhand with mysterious parentage?
    Mysterious parentage, yes, farmhand? NoNope.
  3. Is your main character the heir to the throne but doesn’t know it?
    Not a throne, but a strategic military position.  Nope.
  4. Is your story about a young character who comes of age, gains great power, and defeats the supreme badguy?
    He’s not that supreme, really…    hmm… tricky question. Loosely?
  5. Is your story about a quest for a magical artifact that will save the world?
    13 artifacts, actually. What can I say, I have attention-deficit issues.  Nope.
  6. How about one that will destroy it?
    Nope.  Nope.
  7. Does your story revolve around an ancient prophecy about “The One” who will save the world and everybody and all the forces of good?
    No prophecies here.  There’s a prophecy tangled up in all of it, but not one of that kind. 
  8. Does your novel contain a character whose sole purpose is to show up at random plot points and dispense information?
    Not sole purpose, but… yeah.  Not that I know of. I need to watch out for that, though.
  9. Does your novel contain a character that is really a god in disguise?
    Not a god, but a dragon. Er… dragons.  Nope.
  10. Is the evil supreme badguy secretly the father of your main character?
    Ugh… No, No and NO!  It would be a little weird for a female to be someone’s father… And no, she’s not her mother, either.
  11. Is the king of your world a kindly king duped by an evil magician?
    There is no “king of the world” but the Hastaren Emperor is a puppet…  Nope.
  12. Does “a forgetful wizard” describe any of the characters in your novel?
    No, indeed. My wizard is quite present, thank you. Nope.
  13. How about “a powerful but slow and kind-hearted warrior”?
    Securen insists that he is not slow. I have to agree, though Millace is giving us a wry look. Nope.
  14. How about “a wise, mystical sage who refuses to give away plot details for his own personal, mysterious reasons”?
    Erhm… yes.  Nope.
  15. Do the female characters in your novel spend a lot of time worrying about how they look, especially when the male main character is around?
    Nope. Nope.
  16. Do any of your female characters exist solely to be captured and rescued?
    No! Grr.  Possibly one, but I am working on her.
  17. Do any of your female characters exist solely to embody feminist ideals?
    No.  No. That would be self-defeating.
  18. Would “a clumsy cooking wench more comfortable with a frying pan than a sword” aptly describe any of your female characters?
    No. Nope.
  19. Would “a fearless warrioress more comfortable with a sword than a frying pan” aptly describe any of your female characters?
    Does a distant tertiary character count? If so, then yes. World domination for the win!  One that comes to mind. Both her and the character mentioned above are of the same people-group.  None of their people are very into frying pans. Hmm…
  20. Is any character in your novel best described as “a dour dwarf”?
    Nope.  No.
  21. How about “a half-elf torn between his human and elven heritage”?
    No. No.
  22. Did you make the elves and the dwarves great friends, just to be different?
    No. No.
  23. Does everybody under four feet tall exist solely for comic relief?
    NO! NO!
  24. Do you think that the only two uses for ships are fishing and piracy?
    What are ships?  Oh, I wish!
  25. Do you not know when the hay baler was invented?
    I do not, but it’s moot.
  26. Did you draw a map for your novel which includes places named things like “The Blasted Lands” or “The Forest of Fear” or “The Desert of Desolation” or absolutely anything “of Doom”?
    What are place-names? How about Fort Landham or Blackhorse Cove? I’d love to use “Shake-rag Hollow,” but as it’s a real place, I resist.  
  27. Does your novel contain a prologue that is impossible to understand until you’ve read the entire book, if even then?
    I wrote one, but I don’t consider it part of the book.  Not a prologue, exactly, but a beginning chapter that is a little disconnected from the next couple. About three short chapters in the pieces make sense. Hopefully.
  28. Is this the first book in a planned trilogy?
    I have no idea. Do you? I hope not.
  29. How about a quintet or a decalogue?
    Meh? I dunno… ask me later.
  30. Is your novel thicker than a New York City phone book?
    It will be. Oh, it will be.  It might be…
  31. Did absolutely nothing happen in the previous book you wrote, yet you figure you’re still many sequels away from finishing your “story”?
    That would require knowing where the breaks in the story should be, but probably. Let’s just say “I hope not.”
  32. Are you writing prequels to your as-yet-unfinished series of books?
    No. I’m simultaneously writing two books that are about some of the same characters only with a 10-year time difference. If that counts as writing a prequel, then yes.
  33. Is your name Robert Jordan and you lied like a dog to get this far?
    Who is Robert Jordan? (oh, those were the blissful years!) HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA no.
  34. Is your novel based on the adventures of your role-playing group?
    My brother still won’t let me play. Nope.
  35. Does your novel contain characters transported from the real world to a fantasy realm?
    Not exactly.  Nope.
  36. Do any of your main characters have apostrophes or dashes in their names?
    No. No.
  37. Do any of your main characters have names longer than three syllables?
    Dandelion.  If you count “Necromancer,” then yes, but he prefers “Master.” I swear it’s not my fault; he refuses to tell me his name…
  38. Do you see nothing wrong with having two characters from the same small isolated village being named “Tim Umber” and “Belthusalanthalus al’Grinsok”?
    Someone needs a lesson in linguistics.  Hehehehehe! Ahem… extenuating circumstances aside, it looks pretty weird to me.
  39. Does your novel contain orcs, elves, dwarves, or halflings?
    Yes, yes, yes and no.  Do dead ones count?  If so then possibly, yes, yes and no.
  40. How about “orken” or “dwerrows”?
    Uhhhh , what?   I love the word “dwerrows.” Just sayin.
  41. Do you have a race prefixed by “half-“?
    No. Nope.
  42. At any point in your novel, do the main characters take a shortcut through ancient dwarven mines?
    Oh, I hope so, but not yet.  No shortcuts. Some of them practically live there. So I am Moria-obsessed. Sue me. ;)
  43. Do you write your battle scenes by playing them out in your favorite RPG?
    Battle-scenes are haaaaaard! And my brother still won’t let me join his RPG. No, I whimper to my friend to tell me what I am doing wrong. Unfortunately Grad-school has her in its grips, so I am all alooooooone!
  44. Have you done up game statistics for all of your main characters in your favorite RPG?
    I’ve tried to steal my brother’s manuals. So far, I’ve only nabbed the monster compendium. Ooo! Displacer beasts! Um, no, but that’s an interesting thought. Where’s my GURPS manual…
  45. Are you writing a work-for-hire for Wizards of the Coast?
    What is that?  Heh, no.
  46. Do inns in your book exist solely so your main characters can have brawls?
    Um… yes.  Sadly, no.
  47. Do you think you know how feudalism worked but really don’t?
    Probably…  Who does know? Honestly? I’m not sure the feudal societies knew.  The society in my writing at present isn’t feudal. Problem solved? Yes. More problems created? Oh my heavens, you have no idea!
  48. Do your characters spend an inordinate amount of time journeying from place to place?
    How about all the time? Literally. What else is there?  I’m trying to avoid that.
  49. Could one of your main characters tell the other characters something that would really help them in their quest but refuses to do so just so it won’t break the plot?
    Erm. Yes. One of them could tell the others oodles of stuff, but they are on opposing sides, so… I guess “just so it won’t break the plot” doesn’t apply.
  50. Do any of the magic users in your novel cast spells easily identifiable as “fireball” or “lightning bolt”?
    Does it count if a dragon does it? If “dire necromantic spells” fit into this category, then yes. Otherwise, probably not.
  51. Do you ever use the term “mana” in your novel?
    Yes. Nope.
  52. Do you ever use the term “plate mail” in your novel?
    No. Why?  Uh, no. Plate armor isn’t a factor, though. It’s not very practical in subtropical rainforests or damp caverns… or foothills, mountains, forests… need I go on?
  53. Heaven help you, do you ever use the term “hit points” in your novel?
    Uh, no.  Hahahahaahahahahahahaahahaahahahahahahahahahah *dies*
  54. Do you not realize how much gold actually weighs?
    It’s heavy, right? Oh yes.
  55. Do you think horses can gallop all day long without rest?
    Nope. Nope. The problem is calculating their endurance over rough terrain… help? Please?
  56. Does anybody in your novel fight for two hours straight in full plate armor, then ride a horse for four hours, then delicately make love to a willing barmaid all in the same day?
    *Rolls eyes* no. Ah… no, nope, no and no.
  57. Does your main character have a magic axe, hammer, spear, or other weapon that returns to him when he throws it?
    Nope. One has a halberd that stands on its own. Does that count?
  58. Does anybody in your novel ever stab anybody with a scimitar?
    Scimitar! I have a scimitar! Well, it’s just a cheap imitation, but still! I haven’t seen any scimitars in-story so far. Is stabbing people with scimitars a stock-fantasy thing? Aren’t they more for slashing, anyway? And yes, I still have that cheap-imitation scimitar. It hangs above the headboard of my bed.
  59. Does anybody in your novel stab anybody straight through plate armor?
    No, that’s ridiculous. Wow. Um, no, but I can think of two characters who probably could.
  60. Do you think swords weigh ten pounds or more? [info]
    Some do, some don’t. Depends on the kind of sword, no? There aren’t many swords in this story anyway. Let’s talk crossbows.
  61. Does your hero fall in love with an unattainable woman, whom he later attains?
    My “hero” is a heroine, and no. Well, of the triumvirate, the main one is a heterosexual female, so “no,” for her. For the other two, it depends on your definition of “unattainable,” but I am going to venture “no.”   
  62. Does a large portion of the humor in your novel consist of puns?
    Ugh, no.  Still no!  
  63. Is your hero able to withstand multiple blows from the fantasy equivalent of a ten pound sledge but is still threatened by a small woman with a dagger?
    She is the small woman with a dagger, and she wouldn’t withstand a sledgehammer or a stabbing.  Sledgehammer would definitely do her in, but a small woman with a dagger could, as well. Still, I wouldn’t want to try her in a fight.
  64. Do you really think it frequently takes more than one arrow in the chest to kill a man?
    No. Nope.
  65. Do you not realize it takes hours to make a good stew, making it a poor choice for an “on the road” meal?
    No… excuse me, I need to do some editing. I cook now, so yep.
  66. Do you have nomadic barbarians living on the tundra and consuming barrels and barrels of mead?
    Nope.  Sadly, no.
  67. Do you think that “mead” is just a fancy name for “beer”?
    It’s made from honey, right? Beer is not. No! The horror!
  68. Does your story involve a number of different races, each of which has exactly one country, one ruler, and one religion?
    No, save in one instance. No, save for that one instance. It is still around, but there’s a good reason for it.
  69. Is the best organized and most numerous group of people in your world the thieves’ guild?
    Not so organized, really. *shifty look* what thieves’ guild?
  70. Does your main villain punish insignificant mistakes with death?
    I haven’t seen him do it, but I wouldn’t put it past him. There are two. Of one, I would say: not when he’s lucid…  of the other, no.
  71. Is your story about a crack team of warriors that take along a bard who is useless in a fight, though he plays a mean lute?
    A bard? What? OOTS! Um, I mean, “nope.”
  72. Is “common” the official language of your world?
    Nope, I have invented an inanimate version of a babelfish! Hahahahah! Wouldn’t that be convenient?
  73. Is the countryside in your novel littered with tombs and gravesites filled with ancient magical loot that nobody thought to steal centuries before?
    That depends on which countryside. That no one thought to loot? No. That no one dared to loot? Let’s just say that only one person, in the course of the story, will even try.
  74. Is your book basically a rip-off of The Lord of the Rings?
    Um… little bits, but overall no. Nope. I love Tolkien too much for that.  
  75. Read that question again and answer truthfully.
    No dark overlord, no band of stalwart companions on a mission to save the world, no war for all the free-peoples of Arda. I think we’re safe.   It’s good not to be hasty. *re-checks the calculations* Nope, still not Faux Tolkien.

Mystifying

Today, one of the characters from my present work-in-progress picked up a nightstick. It seems he intends to keep it.

How do these things come about?

I am constantly mystified by what comes out in my writing.  Granted, I give my characters free-rein to wander about in my head, but it is what they find there that astounds me. I have to wonder where such thoughts and ideas come from. I cannot trace them.

Perhaps my memory is at fault. Perhaps at some time a nightstick made an impression on my mind (hopefully not literally), but if so, I do not recall it. I must admit, I find this randomness, this subconscious aid, very refreshing. Too often, I have to battle with problems and questions to find the right in-story answers. It is grueling work. Sometimes I divert my mind to give my subconscious, and the characters wandering about in it, time to find the answers.

And then, sometimes a character picks up a nightstick and won’t put it down.

The question was not even on my radar. I had assumed him to be the sort to pick up whatever was handy. Apparently I was mistaken.  I am glad to be mistaken, for this is far better than anything I could have thought up.

I assume that this kind of thing is common among writers. Have any of you experienced this sort of thing?


Villainy most vile

Book Meme 2012

Question 3: Best Villain

Difficult! Difficult! There are many good ones abroad in fiction. To complicate matters, there is the highly subjective nature of “best.”  Only an hour’s consideration, though, supplied my ready answer. Best, for me, does not mean the most interesting, the most terrifying, the most unusual or my favorite. Best means the most effective antagonist, one that lingers in the mind of the characters and the readers, the antagonist that haunts us even after they are gone. Of the many contenders, two stand out to me, and I will allow them to share the throne. If a vicious villain battle ensues, it will choose the victor for me, and be highly entertaining to boot!

Beware of spoilers, for I shall not hold back.

Ladies first:

Rebecca
from Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier

This woman is one of the best villains of all time simply because she is already dead. If you are unfamiliar with the book named for her, then I should clarify that Rebecca is not an Undead. Oh no, she is far too villainous for that! She is, quite simply, Dead.

The protagonist of the tale is pitted, not against the woman herself, but against the memory of her. A master manipulator while she lived, Rebecca’s reputation survives with very few knowing her true character.  Rebecca’s weapons against the protagonist consist of the dead woman’s servants and friends and, most of all, the protagonist’s own imagination. Rebecca is beyond reach of reprisal; she cannot be stopped, she cannot be fought, she simply hovers over her rival in memory and in doing so, nearly destroys her.

How terrifying to fight the perfection of the dead. The protagonist does not even think it is right to fight such a paragon of femininity and refinement. Her imaginings almost destroy her marriage and her life. But is that all? No indeed.

Maxim, the protagonist’s husband and Rebecca’s widower, was always the true target of Rebecca’s wrath, and the protagonist is merely a weapon to be used against him. To the end, Rebecca manipulated affairs so completely that the mechanism of her revenge moves forward like clockwork. That, my ladies and gentlemen, is villainy. To reach from beyond the grave, without even reaching, in order to destroy your enemies and rivals with the workings of their own minds and emotions.

Yikes.

__________________________________________________________________________

Hares Second:

General Woundwort
from Watership Down, by Richard Adams

Yet another bunny. If I fail to finish this post, you can be sure he has torn out my throat for being so impudent as to call him a “bunny.” The death-rabbit from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” is, perhaps, the General’s puny cousin. Beware.

This leporid of doom hails from Watership Down. If he were human, or an ogre, or a dragon, he could hardly be more terrifying. If I saw this hare, I would flee. He is large for his species (if you have ever met a hare, you will know that they are not small to begin with), ruthlessly ferocious, and insane. As his title denotes, though, his insanity is of a very orderly nature, up to military standards.

General Woundwort is driven by fear. Fear makes him very strong. He controls the colony, of which he is the head-hare, with repressive efficiency, supported by a military of his own making. Strength is the primary qualification for leadership and greatness. Power… power to defend and to control is, to the General, the highest virtue.

“Safety” is everything, and freedom is dangerous. No one leaves. No one really lives. But they are “safe.”

When a handful of hares do escape, through the machination of Hazel’s band, the General’s hitherto controlled insanity explodes. Even his devoted followers hesitate at the sight of his manic, obsessive pursuit of his enemies. He is driven as if his world will come crashing down should this small band defy him in peace.

His end is befitting one of the greatest villains of all time. No one sees him die.

He walks from the field of deadly battle, straight into legend, and his name becomes synonymous with fear on the downs.

This is the rabbit of nightmares.

Here are the links to the rest of this series, in order:

1. Motley Crew

2. Cue Music/Shout Out

3. Villainy Most Vile

4. Very Ominous Endings

5. Shapes are Only Dressess… and Dresses are Only Names

6. Chridonalchett

7. Verbage

8. The Scent Test

9. Personal Question

10. Packing Lightly


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