Which character is harder to write?

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 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Estara
    Sep 13, 2010 @ 06:36:38

    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).

    Reply

  2. Genna Warner
    Sep 13, 2010 @ 12:09:35

    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.

    Reply

  3. w-b
    Sep 14, 2010 @ 01:00:50

    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:)

    Reply

  4. Tanja
    Sep 14, 2010 @ 15:12:43

    Agree with Genna Warner’s comment. :)

    Reply

  5. Emily
    Sep 16, 2010 @ 00:10:47

    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…).

    Reply

  6. hjbau
    Sep 20, 2010 @ 19:40:23

    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.

    Reply

  7. craig
    Oct 27, 2010 @ 02:27:55

    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.

    Reply

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