Extra comes to life

Other topics in Rhobin’s round

Rhobin Courtright’s topic for March is:

Secondary characters have many functions in stories. Have you ever had a secondary character surprise you in some way? How? How about in other author’s books that you’ve read? Do you have a favorite secondary character in either your own work or in books you have read?

My favourite secondary character is Moustaf the Areg trader. You haven’t met him? He is one of the major villains in The Stories of the Ehvelen, the historical series that launched me into fiction writing.

For many years, I had a concept. A group of teenage hunter-gatherers is qualifying for adulthood by doing a Hunt. A patrol of warlike nomads surprises them, killing the boys and abducting the girls.

You see, this is the essential difference between two major human cultural types. Although now almost extinct, for much of human prehistory, the dominant culture was sustainable: living in dynamic balance with its environment, being caretakers of nature through revering the Mother. They reached decisions through consensus, were peaceful and cooperative. A person’s identity was as part of a group, and separation was as good as a death sentence. The concept of the ego was incomprehensible to them.

The second type is the cancer that is killing all life on our planet. Ego, me as an isolated, self-sufficient entity, is considered natural, and all-important. Power, status, wealth are the measures of a person’s value. Greed, aggression, control are natural consequences, and nature is looked on as a resource, as separate from people, there to be exploited.

In the March issue of my newsletter, Bobbing Around, you can read my review of Gaiad by William Burcher. I found it excellent, but one of my complaints was prehistoric people thinking in concepts like “galaxy” and “infrastructure.” To show how I dealt with the problem, I sent Will a copy of The Start of Magic, the first volume of the Ehvelen series. Oh, the Ehvelen were the REAL little people, the basis of all the many myths.

I had a problem in this book. There was Heather, the 15 year old Ehvelen girl enslaved by the terrible Doshi, the nomadic, aggressive plains people. I wanted to explain the contrast between the two cultures, just as I’ve done here, but without lecturing. So, I invented a third culture: the Areg, who were traders, middlemen in goods and ideas. The pursuit of wealth and power was elevated to a religion. This pinnacle of civilization was achieved without TV or an advertising industry!

So, Moustaf the Areg trader befriended Heather, because she was the key to a new market, and because he thought she’d make a wonderful gift for his Shah. I could then insert conversations between the two of them, interweaved with exciting action and other plot developments.

However, Moustaf was too sneaky, intelligent and inventive to stay in this minor and temporary role. He grew to be a major person through the entire series, responsible for a great deal of suffering and strife.

I reread The Start of Magic before sending it to Will, making enough changes to consider it a new revision. This got me enthusiastic about the Ehvelen again. If I wasn’t so caught up in the Doom Healer series, I’d be tempted to write the fifth Ehvelen book.

In part, that’s Moustaf’s fault.

Other contributors to Rhobin’s round

Connie Vines
Skye Taylor
Anne Stenhouse
Fiona McGier
Rachael Kosinski
Hollie Glover
Helena Fairfax
Beverley Bateman
Rhobin Courtright
Judith Copek
Victoria Chatham
Marci Baun

About Dr Bob Rich

I am a professional grandfather. My main motivation is to transform society to create a sustainable world in which my grandchildren and their grandchildren in perpetuity can have a life, and a life worth living. This means reversing environmental idiocy that's now threatening us with extinction, and replacing culture of greed and conflict with one of compassion and cooperation.
This entry was posted in Rhobin's round robin. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Extra comes to life

  1. Dr Bob Rich says:

    Thank you, Anne, for visiting on this equinox day (Autumn here in Australia.
    The warrior tribes may still be here, but sadly, the Ehvelen, the little people, are gone.


    • Me late faither, who was from Glesca, would argue that with you. He always told me that I have the ears of the “little people.” And when my kids were born, he said the second one was definitely one of the “wee folk.” When I’d ask him what he meant, he’d smile quizzically, and say, “Ach, lassie, the wee folk…the little people…leprechauns, of course!” His mither was from Northern Ireland, you see. So he knew these kind of things.

      And I really like when a character takes on such realism that you have to write what he/she wants you to, which is rarely what you originally planned. That’s part of the fun of being an author.


      • Dr Bob Rich says:

        Thank you, Fiona.
        I don’t know that I disagree with your father. Reality is created by the observer. In my reality, the Little People in Ireland were about 5 ft tall. During the Viking times, they were in the forefront of fighting against the invaders, being the Mother’s sword against exploitation and cruelty.
        We don’t see them much now, because of habitat destruction. They live(d) in the wild places.


  2. Hi Bob, it’s morning in Edinburgh with sunshine and the promise of a lovely day. I enjoyed your post. I see what you mean. but do feel there are still tribes. they may now mostly be represented by football jerseys, but they are there. It can be difficult to get things finished, can’t it, when so many fresh ideas bubble through? anne stenhouse


  3. okwriter says:

    I always enjoy your thoughts n culture, whatever age or dimension. And I agree with your comments on ego, today.


    • Dr Bob Rich says:

      Thank you! I’ve been working very hard for many years to get rid of ego, but it’s a virus like herpes, not like the flu. Once you have it, that’s it!


  4. Bob, I hope one day to create my own literary cultures–they sound so fascinating! Lots of hard work, but fascinating. Early man is also something that I haven’t read enough about; I’ve taken a few anthropology classes to get my feet wet, but there’s so much we don’t know. I heard something once, that we’ve lost around 90% of our history compared to the 10% we “know” about, artifact/writings-wise. It must be fun to write about!


    • Dr Bob Rich says:

      Actually, Rachael, I find research to be one of the most enjoyable parts of writing. I spent months reading about 700 BCE. And you’re right about the lack of knowledge. That’s why I chose that period, to give me more scope for invention.
      And fun is important. If writing doesn’t stay as fun, why do it?


  5. Rhobin says:

    Your views on life and society are always interesting, Bob. I found it interesting how as you say, “Moustaf was too sneaky, intelligent and inventive to stay in this minor and temporary role.” It’s amazing where some characters take us (as readers and as authors).


    • Dr Bob Rich says:

      Great to have you visit, Rhobin.
      When I wrote that book, I constructed a plot, and did my best to follow it. Only, people like Moustaf got in the way. But then, life is like that, too, isn’t it?


Comments are closed.