Saturday, October 25, 2008

Where I'm at, part one

Kett's character.

(Okay, but first I'm going to have to tell the joke about the country boy who gets a Harvard scholarship. On his first day, he genially greets a group of well-dressed students: "Hi, y'all. Can you tell me where the library's at?" The snooty students regard him down their noses, and one of them replies, "At Harvard, one does not dress as if one is working on a farm, and neither does one end a sentence with a preposition." The country boy just smiles and says, "I do apologise. Can you tell me where the library's at, assholes?")

Where I am at, apart from procrastinating with bad jokes, is trying to find a way to make Kett's book...well, better. The main problems my editor pointed out are that neither Kett nor Bael are quite likeable enough, and that there appear to be two plots that have nothing to do with each other.

Firstly, Kett's character. Now, I first wrote Kett about five or six years ago, when I first invented this world--

(actually, interesting historical sidebar: way back in the mists of my writing career when I was probably only eighteen or nineteen, I invented an author character who wrote about a world where her main characters were a man with a magical sword, a girl who could sing any note, and a guy who turned into a wolf when it got dark. I got so interested in her characters that I started writing about them instead of her, and dreamt up an adventure where they visited this new world, accompanied by a ditsy girl and a man who'd gone mad. They became Chalia and Striker, and this time I switched to writing about them [do you see my lack of attention span here?]. I wrote about six or seven hundred thousand words about them, including Chalia's doomed affair with Captain Tanner; Chalia becoming Princess Nuala's bodyguard for a short while; Tyrnan being best friend's with Nuala's regal brother, and eventually marrying Nuala; and eventually Chalia and Tyrnan discovering they're actually brother and sister. Later, I thought about what would happen if Striker, the most evil and powerful man in the world, had a daughter. She became Chance, heroine of Almost Human).

--so she's been in my head a long time. In one of those rather terrible early books, Striker finds out that Tyrnan had a teenaged affair that resulted in a daughter who was half shapeshifter. I called her Kett Almet. She was mad in both senses of the word: angry and unhinged. She was a teenage delinquent. She seethed with resentment that she'd a) been turned to stone as a baby and only released as an eight year old; b) her mother had never claimed her so she'd been raised in the Koskwim training house for young mercenaries, leading to c) the other kids making ruthless fun of her for never having learned things that normal eight year olds can do, like walk and talk and eat food; and finally d) her father never having even heard of her existence (although he protested, quite truthfully, that Kett's mother had never tried to contact him, Kett replied equally truthfully that he'd left her absolutely no way of doing so).

Anyway. Bit by bit Kett evolved into a young woman who was frighteningly fearless. She could change her shape into any animal of similar mass, and preferred large predators such as tigers and gryphons. She swore the page blue and never apologised for anything. Frequently changing her shape in public, she quite often forgot clothes and enjoyed other people's embarrassment over this. As she got a bit older and discovered the opposite sex, she developed a voracious sexual appetite, but never had much in the way of interpersonal skills.

In short, when she appeared as Chance's cousin in Almost Human, she was like a wild animal who could turn herself human-shaped. She walked and talked like a human being, albeit a human being who possessed animal grace and swapped punctuation for swearing, but she behaved like a tiger in a zoo who's been zapped one too many times with the cattle prod.

And yet...I decided to make her the heroine of my next book. As Joey Tribbiani put it, "Well, that was a nice move, dumbass."

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