So, sitting down to write, I have my characters and their affiliations ready to go.
And then, I have to sit there and examine the interactions. In particular, I have to look at how the different nations interact with each other and, just as importantly, why they interact the way they do. Because, in all reality, these things matter.
It’s an interesting note that I keep seeing in different writing books – if you are going to have a separation, there needs to be a reason for it. Some separations are expected by an audience – males from females, children from adults, etc – but other separations need to be explained.
For instance, we have nations. A fairly significant conflict at the end of the story deals with the conflict over territory between the vying factions. All of this ends up being fairly significant in the set up for the second book (I mentioned this was a series somewhere, right?) and what occurs to the nations following the resolution of the events.
But, how do those countries interact? And, furthermore, how do those interactions impact how the characters interact in different situations. This is a truth of life – we treat each other differently depending on where we are from; no matter how ‘evolved’ we are supposed to be, this is still the case.
The reason I bring this up is because last night I was watching DS9 with my wife and we happened to be on the episode “The House of Quark” where Quark, a Ferengi (a highly materialistic culture) manages to end up as the head of a Klingon House (a very honorific culture). In the episode we see the contrasts of the two cultures playing out both for laughs and for some actual introspection on the part of the characters. The traits of their respective nations play a significant role in how they are expected to act and how people are expected to react to them.
This is important to keep in mind in writing fiction – if you are going to have a number of societies, there should be a point to it. So, I have to think about the reasons behind the societal differences.
Given that my story is based off of a friend’s campaign, that means a lot of chatting with him, but I have relative free reign when it comes to where I am going and in building to establish. The original story was set in a Pathfinder-system based world – but even in that there are differences in the original document.
So, why is it that Alista is ashamed of her role in working for her Goddess? According to all of the text and support, she has nothing to be ashamed of. When I originally created her, I had modeled her after a Companion in Firefly – the idea that she uses her look and charm to get away with things when things get tough. I tacked on the ‘Magus’ class because it was cool and gave her a way to fight – something I felt essential. None of this should lead to her feeling ashamed at what she has done. In point of fact, her role as a servant of her Goddess is central to her character and development.
It isn’t until she meets the other characters – particularly Deacon and Marigold – that she starts to feel odd about her role as a servant of her Goddess. Around Deacon she feels, somehow, unworthy of his attention. But why is this? What is it that causes that feeling? No where before had I considered why she would feel guilty or wrong in her actions – in point of fact she was proud of her abilities. But why, now, does she feel odd.
I’ve been thinking about it, and it comes down to territory. This is human territory, and humans view her role differently. For the elves, her role was much more like a companion from Firefly, but to the humans, it is much more sexually oriented. Her duties had always included that aspect of the training, but, in elves at least, it was not a significant part. They could stand to wait until an appropriate time. Humans, with their shorter life spans, are much more open to spreading their legs during the service required. It’s a difference, culturally, of the humans as a result of their shorter lifespan. It doesn’t make it wrong – Alista can acknowledge that on an academic level – but, to her, it makes her uncomfortable. She knows that Deacon, somewhere, has this impression of her role as a servant of her goddess and that expectation and image are a part of how he sees her. This is part of what makes her feel guilty and odd around the man. Deacon, for all of his politeness, does not make his feelings or thoughts clear to her early on in the story either furthering the confusion.
Marigold, on the other hand, is a different character all together. Their interactions are more like soda and vinegar – Marigold has a determination of what it means to serve a Goddess and where her own Goddess stands in relation to Alista’s. That territory is a defined barrier that is made clear quite early on. It makes their interactions an initially tense time – a very “you have your place and I have mine” kind of situation. However, as time passes, there is some exploration of that barrier. I will admit, I wanted Alista to push the barrier on several occasions just to get a reaction out of the player – but It was always handled in a consistent way and, in that, Alista began to understand more and more about the companions. That understanding, in turn, leads her to more understanding about herself and the role of the elves in the world. When the end of the story comes, then, she has an idea of what to do with those roles and with those territories.
Which brings the whole thing back around to my initial topic of territories. Where we are from has a dramatic impact on our perception of the world – something we need to keep in mind as we write. Just as the territory we occupy as a writer has shaped us, so too must we recall that the territory of our character has shaped them. To ignore that fact is to ignore a part of ourselves; a great disservice to our people and our place.
What do you think?