Reflection on Characters
Last week, I was pleased to be able to guest post on two blogs. I participated in the latest SF Signal Mind Meld, “Holding Out for a Hero”—on heroes in SFF—which comprised a diverse range of views, all well worth a read, here.
Preparing both posts got me thinking about how ideas, whether around heroism and villainy, or the use or abuse of power, get to “work their way out” through a story.
In The Wall of Night quartet (with Book One, The Heir of Night and Book Two, The Gathering of the Lost currently published) the story is definitely all about the characters: who they are, what code of values they subscribe to—and how they behave in relation to those values when the chips are down. (You may be starting to see the link to my contribution to the Heroes Mind Meld now.:) )
In part, that may be why both The Heir of Night (Heir) and The Gathering of the Lost (Gathering) are adventurous stories as well as being character driven: because it’s only when the going gets tough that the person you believe you are gets tested. (Although, it’s also because I like treks into dangerous territory, sword fights, hunts and battles with demons in my storytelling, to be strictly honest!)
In Heir (the first book in the series), the two central characters of Malian, the Heir of Night herself, and Kalan, are both young (not unlike the five Stark children in George RR Martin’s A Game of Thrones), but dark events are thrust upon them. How they deal with that is very much part of the story, so that Malian at the beginning of Part 2 of the story, despite her youth, already has a harder edge than the girl in the opening scenes of the book. By the end of Heir, she is presented with a request—and how she responds, based on the values she adheres to—or doesn’t— will cast its shadow over the play of events in Books 2 to 4 of the quartet.
But perhaps one of the more complex characters in Heir, particularly in terms of values and being tested, is Malian’s father, the Earl of Night. As one reader said to me: “Oh you can just feel the weight resting on him.” I have to say, this pleased me, because it is very much how I hoped that the Earl would come across: not as a straightforward personality, but as a man caught between opposing forces and conflicting values—between his personal inclination and difficult circumstances. The responsibility of leading not just his own house of Night, but the Derai Alliance itself, through those circumstances does rest very much on him as the story opens—which means that his personal inclinations are tested, sometimes even severely tested. Needless to say, he is not necessarily an easily likeable man—but I hope that readers will find him an interesting one!
An epic story, testing times, and characters under pressure—or a tale of adventure, battles and hunts? I love stories that weave the two elements together, so it’s probably not surprising that The Wall of Night series works at both levels.