Rhobin asked: “How do you develop a character who is different in personality from all the other characters you have developed, or from yourself?”
The simple answer is: I DON’T KNOW.
It’s not as if I were in charge.
Here is a small selection of characters who are different from me, and from all previous characters:
He is a little boy who later in life will marry and father children, then transform into a girl and marry and give birth to children, like all his species (and like barramundi — look that up. Well, as far as I know, barramundi don’t get married, but the sex change is the same.). He feeds off sunshine thanks to a green pigment in his skin, has three arms, three legs and no head. These are some of the aspects that make his species the perfect mammals, much better than us bizarre bipeds.
He is unique among his people, too, because while all the adults are helpless against the horrid two-legged invaders of his planet, he is the hero who frees them all.
He came to me a long time ago. I was dissatisfied with my body, and as an intellectual exercise, designed his as an improvement. The next morning, there he was, walking through the tubetree forest in the pouring rain, the culmination of his plan to steal the space shuttle… but I’d better not give too much away.
She is 15, genius-level at mathematics (which I am not), has brown skin, and is grossly obese. For 10 of those 15 years, she has been the victim of terrible bullying, which has driven her to being suicidal.
My reaction to bullying when I was young was to hit back, harder, but Shelly is an advanced soul who cannot bring herself to hurt even a cockroach.
My current writing project is a short story collection to accompany my From Depression to Contentment: A self-therapy guide, which is very much needed in our crazy world. The working title is Lifting the Gloom: An antidepressant primer of short stories.
I have posted Shelly’s story to my list of free stories, and if you read it, you’ll see why despite all the violence, it IS an antidepressant. She came to me in response to the question, “What tools other than the Buddhist ones should I feature in a new short story?”
Sylvia is an old lady, which I haven’t been for a long time.
She does resemble a number of people of my acquaintance, including aspects of the personalities of my two daughters, and of my wife, but she is unique. Since she moved into my computer, she has been one of my teachers.
She came to me because I needed a witness to a terrible crime. A teenage gang assaulted a blind old man, and I had trouble working with the poor man because I’d joined him in his outrage. You cannot pull someone out of a hole by jumping down into it.
So, I displaced the outrage onto Chuck, who killed 6 little kids and the crossing supervisor. My intention was to write a short story that would end in just punishment for him.
Once Sylvia entered the story, though, she took over, and would have none of that attitude. At the memorial service for the victims, she got up on the stage (a first for her, in all her long life), and said, “Hate begets hate, vengeance only leads to vengeance, violence feeds on itself. Only love can stop the endless cycle. Only love can turn hate into love.”
Did that work? Read the book.
OK, one last example.
Moustaf’s personality is different from mine in almost every way imaginable. He is my second favourite villain, after Will, who was the subject of my post in Rhobin’s Rounds in June.
Last century, my major writing project was the Stories of the Ehvelen. They were, or perhaps still are, the original little people, and the factual kernel behind myths of fairies, elves, trolls, gnomes and the like.
I had the First Story all mapped out, with a detailed plot, but encountered a difficulty. Ehvelen culture was so different from ours that I needed to go into a lot of explanation, but that’s BORING. I needed to devise action and dialogue to plait all that information into.
My little hero, Heather, was a freshly captured slave, suffered terrible injuries from a whipping just for defending herself from an unprovoked attack, and needed to learn the utterly foreign customs and language of her captors, the Doshi.
I went to bed one night with the thought, “Hmm. I need someone Heather can have conversations with: someone who can teach her about the Doshi, and is interested in Ehvelen language and customs.”
What I got was someone who ended up as much more than just a teaching device, but the representative of an entire third culture: the Areg, who worship wealth. Moustaf needs to befriend Heather, and learn all about her people, because he intends to buy or steal her as a present for his Shah, enter the Ehvelen lands as a trader, and induce them to fight a war with the Doshi.
So there you have it. As I said at the start, I’ve been unable to answer Rhobin’s question, but had quite some fun not doing so. I hope you’ve had fun reading my non-answer. Let me know in the Comments slot at the bottom of this page. I will randomly select one commenter on 3rd August, 2020, and that person can choose one of the books that have their covers displayed here.
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