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Behind the words: Developing the characters of the Tale of the Lifesong

09 Mar

After reading and reviewing both books in my epic fantasy series, David Wagner threw some interesting challenges my way. Continue the mini-series as we delve into the world behind the words (the previous post was on themes). Required reading for this assignment: The Riddler’s Gift and Second Sight. Deeper into the Tale of the Lifesong we go!

DW:  Ametheus is a terrific character, and it is probably impossible to recall exactly how he evolved in your mind, while you were developing him, but I’d love to know how you came up with the three facets, and assigning one to focus on the past, one the present and the third on the future. I’d love to know if you felt that type of dichotomy (trichotomy?) was merely a byproduct of pure chaos, or at its heart.

This trichotomy is at the heart of existence. We were, we are, we will be. It’s easy to understand Ametheus because we have may have some similar qualities ourselves: the part that lives in the past, holds grudges and is easy to anger, the part that lives in the future and maybe overestimates the amazing talents we have yet to reveal, and the humble part that lives in the Now and is maybe not quite what we want to be.

I really don’t develop these characters in the sense you are thinking of. I sink deeper into them. I try to understand who they are, and reveal it, rather than saying to myself ‘here’s Mr X, he’s going to be a placeholder representing un-love, despair and wrath’. I get flashes of inspiration, then work to understand the gift of vision I have been given.

The Shadowcaster, Kirjath ArkellDW:  Why did you decide to bring back Kirjath for Second Sight? He was such a terrific villain in the first volume, was it just hard to let him go? Ametheus doesn’t really factor in until they leave Oldenworld — did you feel the beginning of the book lacked enough tension without a true villain?

No, I closed my eyes, and there I was, floating above the grave thinking ‘how dare they bury me?’ And so I ventured forth, and tried to survive, with my failing essence, and my bitter need. You cannot kill me, you cretins.

DW:  Would King Mellar have gone mad anyway if Kirjath’s spirit had not ‘possessed’ him?

Yes, it comes from taking away the crutch he has used all his adult life. If you become familiar with projecting stability and order through such a powerful talisman, when it is removed from you the contrast would surely induce paranoia and madness. It is the fatal flaw of relying on Order (or becoming too powerful or famous — you never want to give it up). But without Kirjath, Mellar’s madness would not be so very dangerous. We’ll see how that plays out in a new tale of the Lifesong, perhaps?

DW:  Ashley’s “power” seems to be presented in a much more subtle way than Tabitha’s, yet it seemed (to me, anyway) to be every bit as unique/powerful. Did you plan on making Ashley a new Wizard from the outset, or was that a happy development along the way?

You might remember a slip of the tongue by the Riddler very early on that might begin the change in Eyri. The Darkmaster, Ashley, and Tabitha are touched by the flux. Take it from there… I didn’t intend for them to become wizards, but someone else did.

DW: Loved what you did with Ashley and Sassraline. It was fascinating to watch you deal with the issues of lying in order to save one’s skin, using flattery as a tool of manipulation, and also the nature of worship to begin with.

Flattering dragons is what you’re supposed to do, according to legend. The spin here is that he really has to make it believable, because he’s communicating with thoughts not words, so he can’t really lie, he has to find a truth that creates the desired effect.

DW: Ashley’s ability to project ideas/illusions into the minds of others, did you know he’d be able to do that from the outset (and saved that for the right time) or did that present itself as you wrote the scene of Sassraline’s humbling?

Sit in a cave with a hungry dragon long enough and you’ll come up with a solution. Or get eaten. You have to realize I’m sitting there with him, for days, and the only way I can escape from that scene is to escape from that scene. That’s where I find the genuine plot, the path with heart. I know he’s in the cave (because I’ve seen it); I don’t know how he escapes (because I’m blinded to this part of the story) – so I have to work it out. I usually get flashes of vision, not understanding or plot or motivations. I’m constantly trying to work out ‘how do I get there, from here’?

 
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  1. sheila

    March 25, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    I am really enjoying Riddler’s gift, it is very interesting and well written! I bought Second Sight, too, and I wish there were more in this series!