Which character is harder to write?

Posted in Elantra, Essalieyan, writing.

Aaron asked
If 39k words is all it takes to reveal Kaylin’s history, then perhaps you’ve been a bit lenient with Jewel, eh?

Well…it’s Kaylin’s first case, and because of the word­count, it doesn’t go into as much detail about the rest of her life as maybe it should; also, I thought it would end in a different place, because I’d hoped to be able to do her first case with the Hawks and the argu­ment over the ques­tion of her survival in the same story. This didn’t happen, because it would prob­ably have doubled the length.

Which is the more diffi­cult char­acter for you to write (at the moment and all things consid­ered), Kaylin or Jewel?

The answer to this one depends on the time of day, and in partic­ular on which project is currently causing me to pull all my hair out.

Kaylin is diffi­cult in part because the entire novel (almost any CAST novel) is from her view­point. Any infor­ma­tion that reaches the reader is infor­ma­tion she has to person­ally come across in one way or another. It can’t be unnat­ural; it can’t be infor­ma­tion she wouldn’t other­wise see – she has to be involved directly. This compli­cates the way the stories unfold or are presented.

I’m trying the “more” command in Word­Press to make the posts on the front page a bit shorter; please tell me if this is not helpful, or if it’s annoying.

With Jewel, this restric­tion isn’t there; she’s not the only view­point. Even when the action revolves around her, scenes in which she’s pivotal will be seen from other view­points. This gives me the freedom and flex­i­bility to high­light things that Jewel wouldn’t or doesn’t notice, espe­cially about herself. It also gives me the freedom, when she’s off-stage, to write about things that are rele­vant to the plot, and Jewel herself, that she doesn’t know. The reader will. Knowing some­thing a char­acter doesn’t gives a different perspec­tive to the shape of the unfolding story, and it allows things to proceed in a much more real­istic or natural way, because no char­acter is forced to be in every scene of import.

This would, oddly enough, make Kaylin the harder of the two to write.

But — and you knew this was coming, right? — Jewel is diffi­cult because she’s in a posi­tion of power, if not outright authority. She’s come from a similar back­ground to Kaylin’s, but she’s on the path to ruling one of the most powerful governing Houses in the Empire. The people she meets are people she has to impress enough that she has their support and their trust, and there­fore the cost for self-indul­gence is much higher – where in this case, self-indul­gence can be the simple act of speaking her mind or letting her temper get the better of her. Because of where she is, there are things I have to know about the Empire before I start a scene in which a signif­i­cant power is intro­duced. I have to know what that indi­vidual wants from Jewel, and what she wants in return; I have to know, when they threaten her – if they do – what forces they have behind them to back that threat up. Jewel is harder because her open view of the world is more complex; it’s wider and it spans more of society than Kaylin’s.

There are simi­lar­i­ties between the two char­ac­ters, but there are funda­mental differ­ences and forma­tive influ­ences as well. The most signif­i­cant, to me:

Jewel had to lead. Even in the forma­tion of the den in her early years, she was the leader, and she was informed by the respon­si­bility – and the guilt – of that posi­tion. It defines her.

Kaylin has never had to lead. She had to learn how to do her job. She has to learn how to control the power she does have. She decides what she does with her time outside of work (volun­teering at the Foundling Halls and the Midwives’ guild). But those deci­sions don’t imme­di­ately impact on the lives of the people she cares about, or the people who care about her; they won’t die because she’s given them a bad order.

7 Responses to Which character is harder to write?

  1. Estara says:

    I never realised any diffi­cul­ties with how Kaylin got her info, and espe­cially in the last book there was so much happening, so I’d say you worked that out just right ^^.

    I come to these pages via the feed off GoodReads​.com, so I don’t ever see the short version (but it’s been imple­mented in Word­Press for ages so it should work).

  2. Genna Warner says:

    Just a note on the more button, it is annoying and it’s not all at the same time. I like seeing the shorter post when I come to the website, but at the same time it is another click to be able to read the full post. I think the more button is useful when a post is rather long because it allows the visitor of the website to see more post­ings on the home page without scrolling so if you decide to post multiple times since the visitor last visited, the visitor knows. I think in this post, the more button works well.

  3. w-b says:

    I am seeing more and more first person perspec­tives out there that are hot in the stores. It used to be that first person didn’t sell well at all I am glad that is changing though I prefer 3rd person cause it is so much easier to write:)

  4. Emily says:

    I don’t partic­u­larly have a pref­er­ence when it comes to the “more” button. But it’s a good point when it comes to clutter on the main page, so it may be a good idea aesthet­i­cally.

    And I always love insight into your char­ac­ters. My biggest complaint with your work is always that I finish a book LONG before the next one comes out. It amuses my boyfriend to no end to see the look of utter despair when I finish a book (Cast in Chaos was partic­u­larly bad — I don’t know how I’m going to wait for the next one, except by distracting myself with the next House Wars book, perhaps…).

  5. hjbau says:

    This was great to hear your insight into the char­ac­ters. I defi­nitely see what you mean. I see a much bigger differ­ence between the two char­ac­ters then simi­lar­i­ties. The simi­lar­i­ties might be only that they want to protect the people they care about, but they go about doing that in very different ways.

  6. craig says:

    I have to admit that I found the Kaylin ‘point of view’ story telling annoying at first. However, I’m in the middle of the 4th book now and I can’t envi­sion it being told any other way.

    Creating a world like this from scratch is some­thing beyond me but to bring it to life and tell a compelling story using only one char­ac­ter’s prospec­tive is amazing.

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