Saturday, December 31, 2011

When Semes Collide -- What Happens When Characters Don't Get Along

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To write a character well, I believe the writer must be empathetic to him or her. That applies to the unsympathetic characters as well. I never think of any character as evil. They each have reasons that are internally valid for their actions. It's just that their goals are diametrically opposed to the protagonists. That said, in my writing, protagonists are good guys and the antagonists are bad guys and never the twains shall meet. I have never had an occasion to turn a protagonist into an antagonist until now.

In A Soldiers Destiny, my enigmatic vampire, Simon Molinar from Demon Under Glass, is a less than sympathetic character. He is not quite an antagonist, but he is highly problematic for Rik and Vincent. Simon remains one of the most complicated characters I have ever written. I never write him from his point of view, so those who interact with him – mostly Joe McKay – have to sift through the words and motives and hope they can figure out the truth. Simon has centuries of experience in manipulating humans. Thus, aside from being innately funny and charming, He knows how to read people quickly and completely from his experience. He can be all things to all people. This works in the Demon Under Glass books, because Simon's goals are the same as Joe's for the most part. And those goals keep Joe by his side without any manipulating. Their pursuers' motivations and goals are horrific, thus it is easy to portray Simon as a protagonist.

The Foundation for Alterds is not like the Delphi Project. They have no sinister ulterior motives. The organization exists to better the lives of those with the genetic mutation whether they become soldiers or not. There are gaps in their knowledge about Delphi that Simon can fill. Also, he knows a great deal about where Delphi technology traveled beyond US borders and what has been and is being done with it. For that more than anything else, the Foundation is willing to extend him their considerable resources and protect him in great comfort indefinitely. Simon's situation is dire because the word has become much smaller than it is now. It is virtually impossible for anyone to exist without detection of a government. And there are organizations as powerful as some governments who know what Simon is.

The match appears to be perfect. But it is very difficult for a being as ancient as Simon to turn off his instincts or curb his desires. They have ruled his life for longer than anyone can imagine. Times have changed for Simon in many ways. He does not understand how the political climate affects his position. He believes that what he has is valuable enough to give him leeway in his life at the Foundation. Simon cannot help manipulating his surroundings to his advantage in order to feel as safe as possible. Rik and the rest of the staff expect that and are prepared to counter that tendency and make him feel safe. The bigger issue for Rik and Vincent is Simon's tendency to misbehave and believe that there will be little in the way of consequences because of the vital nature of the information he holds. There Simon is potentially gravely mistaken. The military brass is not happy that Simon actually exists and they are very afraid that the real origins of the Altered program will become public. Their stance is to destroy him immediately – no matter what he may know. Most of the Foundation's Benefactors are uneasy about his presence in the facility. Vincent gleefully informs Simon that an Altered soldier can be destroyed on the whim of the military despite the millions spent in creating them, so what chance does he think he has if he crosses the line? Simon is in an unprecedented situation. Though mortal, Rik and Vincent are stronger and faster than he his. They can also be as remorseless killers as he is despite their warm and fuzzy reputation in the media.

Rik and Vincent's motivation is simple. They want to find ways to protect mutants like them from exploitation and death. They also are very protective of the family they have cobbled together at the Foundation. They have found a happiness and contentment with this odd collection of people that neither had known since entering the Altered Program. For Rik, it's the only family he has ever known. They view anything that might threaten their goals or their family with great suspicion and, in Vincent's case, hostility. Readers who have taken the journey with them through the previous books understand how hard they fought for the lives they lead. They understand the kind of friendship and support Simon could have if he can resist his impulses. So, I suggest to the Demon Under Glass fans who have not read the Soldier's books to go through and read the excerpts from both books at or by the books at Smashwords (scroll down to the middle of the page). The ebooks are really cheap and you can read 20 percent of the book free on that site.

Simon is in a position with these men that he has never known. Charm will not work on them. They are soldiers. Actions are what impresses them. Simon is thus faced with the notion of going through both basic and advanced military training with these men before he can hope to cut any ice with them. That gives me an opportunity for a lot of humor. Which is a relief, because I find writing these scenes very awkward. It's like having an intimate dinner party with groups of friends who don't like each other and who each wonders why I bother with the other. Since I enjoy writing all of them – or I wouldn't write them – it's been a conundrum. Still, I think the story is coming together well and will be something both factions of my readers will enjoy.


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