Tuesday, January 12, 2016

My Favorite Characters

I love a good character. Actually, I love writing a good character as much as reading about one. Now, what makes a character "good" is highly subjective, and in particular what I enjoy about writing a certain character may not translate into what readers enjoy, or don't enjoy, about the same. In general, what makes me enjoy writing a particular character usually has to do with a combination of a quirky personality and clear (to me, the author) motives. To that end, here are some of the characters that I've most enjoyed writing over the years.

Cakey the Clown (aka Gavril Tugurlan) 

This will come as no surprise to those who have read the novel, I suppose. In the end, Cakey stands out quite a bit for his weird antics and strange behavior. The particular iteration of Cakey that appears in my novel Shadows of Tockland is a genuine weirdo, driven by a mysterious childhood, some Roma prophecies with apocalyptic leanings, and a significant amount of psychological trauma and guilt. All of this combines to create a character who is fearless, overly confident, occasionally threatening and dangerous, hard for other characters to like, but also quite talented (at juggling knives and other useful things).

Kristen Grossman 

Now, here's a character that some readers just do not like at all, but she is one my favorites. In the Mary of the Aether series, Kristen is the protagonist's "best" friend, and by "best" I mean "sort of a nuisance and sometimes a bully and too often present." She is sarcastic, and sometimes it is not clear if the sarcasm comes from genuine meanness and hostility or if she's trying, in a lame way, to be funny. Readers that see her as just a bully who is constantly insulting everyone tend not to like her. As the author, of course, I understand that a lot of this comes from fear and pain, and by the second novel, Mary of Shadows, it should become clear to readers that she has a profound sense of abandonment tied to her father. Though that doesn't excuse her behavior, as the author, I always knew that there was, under the crust of sarcasm and annoyance, a tender-hearted soul who yearned to do something awesome in life. At the same time, the sarcasm was fun to write, I must admit.


If you've read Children of the Mechanism, you know that it is a dark and relentlessly bleak novel about child slaves living and working in a vast factory, lorded over my cruel robots called Watchers. Because of their strange childhoods, all of the characters exhibit unhealthy emotional development, reacting to things in unnatural ways, but none of the major characters is stranger than the one called Kuo. Now, as an author, I am fully aware that Kuo is most likely suffering from some kind of genuine mental illness, probably schizophrenia, among other things. However, along the way he has some major revelations about his world that set in motion all of the events driving the plot. His compulsion, his shifting view of the character called "Rel" (part-real and part-hallucination), and ultimately his drive to fulfill his purpose make him, for me, a compelling character.


I can't say too much about this character because he is the antagonist in an unfinished fantasy series of mine called The Archaust Saga. The first volume, The Vale of Ghosts, is available, but I've done little to promote it. Mostly, I am waiting until the second volume is closer to completion. I'm about two thirds of the way through that one. Anyway, let me be frank, Vyshe is a despicable creature who does terrible things. I don't like him as a person, but his motives are weird, and his skill-set is unusual, and his personality makes him a real oddball. He is up to all sorts of shenanigans in the second volume. He creeps me out, and he is gross and vile, but as a villain, I am truly enjoying writing about him. Not to say I won't be relieved if and when he gets defeated. But I won't say much more about him at this time.

Anyway, I've enjoyed far more of my characters than this, but these few are among my favorites. Getting into the headspace of a character as you write about him or her is part of the fun of creating novels, but the author's experience of a character is often quite different from a reader's experience of the same. For my readers out there, which of my characters, if any, have you enjoyed? Are your feelings about the ones in this list different than mine? Let me know.

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