Thursday, August 9, 2018

My Favorite Character To Write

So, someone asked me recently: "Who was your favorite character to write?" That sort of threw me for a loop for a second, because I had never really sat down and thought about it. Here's the thing: both The Prisoner and The Assassin and The Arrows of Defiance (coming to Draft2Digital soon, I swear) represent one end of the story of these characters. For some reason, everything sort of started in the middle of their overall story. I have the entire story of all of these characters in my head somewhere- so when I sat down to think about the answer to that question, it was with the full arc of these characters in mind. So keep in mind, my answer is probably somewhat colored by events in my head that are going to be in the two books I'm going to have to sit down and write at some point to complete the story of all these people I've come to know so well.

But all that being said: Who was my favorite character to write?

Melinda.

Here's the origin story: Melinda is just starting college when everything goes to hell. Washington D.C. is nuked by forces unknown. The West Coast is devastated by a series of electro-magnetic pulses that send it all crashing back to the Stone Age.* She's in Minnesota, her family is in California and the fate of her family is what largely hangs over her head at first. It's in the depths of this darkness that she meets Chelsea and the two develop an 'odd couple' type of a friendship. Melinda is everything that Chelsea is not. She wears leather jackets and old vintage t-shirts from bands that no one has ever heard of. She changes her hair color a lot. She has tattoos and piercings and big, heavy, black army boots that she wears. She doesn't like going out. She doesn't like doing what everyone else does. She's very aware of the political situation deteriorating around her and is worried that the promises the Federal Council makes to the country about a four year interim period to reconstruct the government will be broken.

And there's the other contrast between her and Chelsea: Melinda knows what's going on, but is too cynical and jaded to believe that she can do anything about it. (Chelsea, at this point, has absolutely no interest in politics- and it's not until the politics of the day shatter the carefully perfect life that she's built for herself that her character arc truly begins.)

I think that's the core of what makes Melinda so interesting to write. She finds a cause to believe in and then has to sort of evolve to become a person that joins a cause** and fights for it. She does, eventually (obviously) and that sort of changes her further. Once she's in, she's all in and she's fight for what she believes in with a stubborn tenacity that makes her an increasingly important player in The Great Revolt the states launch against the Federal Council.

The failure of the Revolt haunts her. I think it probably haunts a lot of people who have lived through- Steven and Kevin have their ghosts to wrestle with as well. I think it's not losing the fight that bothers her the most- I think it's the failure to convince the country at large of the rightness of their cause that bothers her the most. Who would stand purely on principal in today's America when the status quo benefits the people in power in large ways and small? (This is the genius of the soft authoritarianism of the Federal Council, at least in my head. Keep the states happy and a veneer of normality/democracy, would people care?)

Her dogged belief in fighting for what she wants serves her well once Steven is captured, ten years prior to the start of Prisoner. At this point in her character development, it makes sense to me that she'd put herself in a position to train, watch and wait for an opportunity to get him back. She's found a partner, love, best friend and when he's taken from her, she's going to go and get him back. (The whole subplot of Native American guerillas/nomadic traders I think I did okay with... I tried to make sure it didn't tip over into a bundle of problematic cliches and I think I managed it. Plus the overall concept made sense in my head: if communications are compromised and you can't trust the government not to read your mail or open your packages, who can you trust? Native Americans would have no reason to trust or love the government, so it made sense to me they could become like an informal trading/postal service all over the Mountain West.)

Steven and Melinda as a couple sort of clicked to me. I know some people will think that's ridiculously heteronormative and slightly cliched, but they worked. They're more of a real relationship and have more foundation under them that Kevin and Chelsea did. For Kevin, Chelsea was the unattainable woman he spends a lot of time chasing until she lets him catch her. But Chelsea is always going to have a single minded dedication to her obsession with winning back the country and that gets in the way of their relationship and is a large reason why those two fall apart (yet they can't quit each other, as the both Prisoner and Arrows show.) Steven and Melinda understand each other, support each other, respect each other. They both deeply feel their obligation to causes larger than themselves and support each other to achieve it.

So yeah. My favorite character to write? So far, it's been Melinda.

*The attacks that set up the events for both of my books are curiously irrelevant to my overall story, which sort of makes me wonder now and again but at the same time, it feels real in a way as well. The Iraq War sort of proves my point. It was the first war in our history where, unless you knew someone over there fighting, it was curiously abstract and impersonal in many ways. It was an image on a television screen. Afghanistan is much the same way. Which also goes to my point about the growing distance between those who serve and those that don't- it's sort of creating a separation between the military and civilian 'cultures' of the country. 

**This aspect of Melinda is something that I think bleeds over from my personality. I'm not a 'joiner' either.

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