Friday, February 12, 2010

Sir Not Appearing In This Book

As I'm feeling a bit under the weather today, and my brain is slightly fuzzy, I won't try to impart any useful information about being an author or getting published -- you have been warned. Instead, I'm going to ramble about two characters who didn't make it from the webcomic into the novel -- two of my favourite characters, who I was sad not to be able to make room for: Bard the bard, and Alec James of the Physicians' Guild.

When I originally wrote Stuff of Legends as a webcomic, it was an ensemble piece. The early strips are just Jordan and Eliott, but all the characters were there -- Kess, Alec, Bard, even Glister (though not Cyral... more on him later). I found the characters as I discovered how to draw them, feeling out their personalities as I worked out straight or curved lines; how their hair fell; the shape of their noses. By the time I drew the first strip, I already had the lead five planned out and knew how they'd play off each other. By the time Cyranan de Bergerat had added his smug piccolo to the strip, I couldn't imagine working without the harmony of all their voices.

But the novel needed a different balance, and six was more than a crowd.

I knew the story was going to be about Jordan the Red and his relationship with Eliott, so they had to be there. Kess, as Eliott's magical helper (don't get me started on "the Monomyth"), had to be there to set things in motion -- and originally, that was going to be it. Those three voices, in a love-triangle not with each other but with the ideas of stories and adventure. I was deep into the third draft of the outline before I discovered that I needed a fourth voice, a snarky professional to balance the triangle when Jordan the Red stepped away from it. I almost brought Alec James back to fill that role.

Now, Bard the bard, I'd excluded almost as soon as I thought of converting the comic to a prose novel. A character whose gimmick was that he was incomprehensible to everyone around him (including the readers), who was at once feral and street-wise, and who generally lived in his own substitute reality, struck me as too much of a challenge -- and too much of an infringement on a certain bibliophile orangutan. Since then, I have thought of at least two possible ways to deal with his mumbling, and a fairly nebulous idea for a story about his journey back from the Entertainers' Guild to his adoptive yeti parents in the pseudo-Himalayas, but that's getting ahead of myself.

Without Bard, Alec James was only half of an odd couple. He didn't fit in as novel-Eliott's personal physician, and no one else seemed in need of a doctor. What he did have was a dry sense of humour and an attitude towards his job that was six parts grudge to four parts defiance of anyone trying to stop him from doing that job. So, like the good doctor he was, he became a personality donor for the one major character created new for the novel, the freshly-minted bard, Cyral Gideon. Cyral is my Frankenstein's monster of a character, when I look at him closely (or as Alec would suggest, dissect him). His first name, and most of his physical traits come from Cyranan de Bergerat. His personality is stitched together from Alec James and several 18th century explorers I'd researched for an earlier (abandoned) novel, with a dash of the previously-hinted-at Cyrano de Bergerac in his melancholy. His face is borrowed from Keats. His last name is a nod to Gideon Spilett of Mysterious Island.

Despite the excision of Alec and Bard from the key cast of the novel, however, I couldn't resist slipping them each in for a cameo appearance. They're still in the adjusted universe of Stuff of Legends, and in due time, their story will be told.

This has gone much longer than planned -- I did warn you it would be a ramble -- but I'll end it with what may be an authorial tip after all: like the "Little Darling" phrases that so often need to be cut out of a manuscript, if something isn't working in a story, don't be afraid to remove a favourite character. Some harmonies are better with fewer voices.

1 comment:

  1. I love the title of this, and I love the sound of Bard the Bard, but can definitely see how it would be hard to translate to a novel--at least a novel that isn't parody or tongue in cheek.