Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is the Character your readers ask you to write for or are waiting for to get their own story.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have readers become really fond of several of my supporting characters over the years beginning with Wreck of the Nebula Dream, my first published scifi romance in 2012. Almost immediately I started getting questions about what happened next for Twilka, a spoiled rich girl, and Khevan, the D’nvannae Brother she fell in love with. (He serves an alien goddess and can be an assassin or a bodyguard at Her whim.)
The thing for me is that I very much only write what the Muse is in the mood for, or feels strongly about. So even for a much beloved supporting character, I have to wait until the right story occurs to me or strikes my fancy. It was especially hard for Twilka and Kevan because there were a lot of moving parts to the D’nvannae Brotherhood but eventually I decided to come at it from the angle of what would someone like Twilka do after surviving the worst interstellar disaster in centuries? For a reference point I asked myself what did people do after surviving the Titanic’s sinking? Researching that was fun (I’m a huge Titanic buff) and gave me the ideas I needed to spin the story, Star Survivors. I also found a way to meaningfully incorporate Nick and Mara from the first novel as supporting cast here.
Shall we say the goddess didn’t give up easily when it came to Khevan’s service in her order? I pulled out another character who I actually have a novel in mind for, the Renegade, a Brother who did manage to escape the Red Lady’s grasp, and made him a supporting member of this book’s cast. He fascinates me and I’ve had bits and pieces of his story on scraps of paper for a long time but it needs more thought before I can write it. So I was happy to have a good reason to bring him into ‘reality’ in this novel, using the backstory I already know about him.
Another supporting character readers loved was Johnny in Mission to Mahjundar. He was loyal, brave, smart, strong and clearly deserved his own book in which to shine. Eventually I got a terrific plot idea about a Special Forces hostage rescue mission gone wrong and sent Johnny off in Hostage to the Stars to find his own love interest and future direction.
Mitch, a Special Forces sergeant and the hero’s best friend in Escape From Zulaire is another supporting character rather similar to Johnny. Readers love him. I love him. I even have a plot in mind developed for him but…the creative spark or fire that makes me have to write the book just hasn’t happened yet. I’m confident this will occur at some point because he’s too good a character not to write for, off key singing and all.
Readers often ask for the story of Captain Fleming in the Star Cruise series of books but I’m not ready to tackle that one yet. It’s on my mind and elements are there but the whole thing hasn’t jelled yet and I can’t write the book he plainly deserves until the Muse is fully engaged and ready.
I have a somewhat different set up in my Badari Warriors series about genetically engineered soldiers of the far future. I knew going in that I’d be writing many books and that each succeeding novel would feature a different member of the pack. What happened there was I wrote about Aydarr the Alpha and Mateer the first enforcer and then Jadrian, a senior soldier, popped into my head one morning with a full-fledged story and I had to write it. When a book shows up in your mind complete and ready to roll, you should never look that gift horse in the mouth – you should write! Which I did. But that meant I’d kind of short circuited Timtur the healer and his turn to shine. By the time of the events in Jadrian he was already mated and settled down. Fortunately I did figure out a way later to go back and write Timtur’s story and then a second novella about him and Megan, his human mate.
Currently I get requests for Sandara, the human chef, who is actually the heroine of the book I just started writing yesterday, along with Ivokk the enforcer from the South Seas pack. Sandara didn’t get treated too well in Jadrian’s book so I’m having fun figuring out her back story even before the aliens kidnapped her along with the rest of her colony, and brught her to the planet where the Badari were imprisoned. I've got what seems to me to be a logical way for her to move on from the events in Jadrian and for her and Ivokk to come together. In the midst of adventures of course!
There’s a lot of world building in my Sectors galactic civilization universe and that’s been so helpful to me so many times in spring boarding from a story into another novel. It’s all kind of organic as you can probably tell – I don’t outline and I don’t think a book through before I start writing it. I’ll know the beginning, the end, a few key scenes in between, the hero and the heroine and then I WRITE. The rest comes to me as I’m in the flow, sitting here pounding on my keyboard, and plot twists and turns can surprise even me at times.
Readers also want to know the story for Jamokan, Alpha of a Badari pack with alien canine predator DNA infused into the humanoid structure. I have thoughts about this one, but so far the plot elements would probably only be novella-length so we’ll see. I’m not opposed to writing novellas if that’s the proper length the story calls for but I like to give a character a novel for his or her first appearance as leading protagonist if I can, then maybe a novella later to share more adventures.
A character I love and who readers seem to enjoy is Yonn, the Alpha-born in Generation 11. The current generation of fully mature Badari heroes led by Aydarr is #8 so you can see my challenge – with generations 9 and 10 between him and the men and women headlining the series, Yonn’s not old enough to have one of my typical books written about him! He may be mature for his age and possess a high level of dominance and power already but um…a little on the boyish side still. I’m thinking for him I might write a standalone novel, after the series ends (which won’t be for a long time, plenty of stories left to tell), set it in the future ten years or so and delve into Yonn’s further adventures. I think it could be fun and perhaps kick off another, related series.
So we’ll see!