The Evolution of a Story (Part I): Who

Alex_Rube_3
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The following is an article from a six-part series that explores aspects of creating the storyline for the End of an Age quadrilogy (yes, that’s a made-up word).

Characters are the heart of any story.  A few years ago I cooked up an idea about a young woman with “gnarly” powers evading governmental conspirators.  They would want to harvest her ability for their own nefarious purposes, and she would need to use that talent to evade them.

It made sense to pair her with a male protagonist who was not only her backup but also an obstacle for her pursuers.  He would have to have a strong sense of devotion and a quirky sense of humor to weather the trials they would face.  Their relationship would necessarily be a “me and you against the world” scenario, but they would meet some helpful people along the way.

Thus Alexia and Reuben began to take shape.  As I fleshed out their backgrounds and family histories and came up with details that will never make it into the books, they took on that life of their own quality that writers are familiar with.

One trait that was important for them to share was rural upbringing.  In a population where over eighty percent of the people lead an urban lifestyle, a “rurality check” was in order.  These characters had to burst out the gate knowing how to adapt to the circumstances they’re thrown into, and their backgrounds provided that.

Back in high school, when I ate shrimp gumbo for the first time, I also heard about the Cajun people.  Over the years I learned more about their culture (and cooking!) until my anthropologic leanings evolved mere curiosity into a long-standing fascination.  It seemed an appropriate heritage for Alexia.  She would need to be self-sufficient and tenacious, exemplifying what are generally considered some of the most admirable attributes of that people.

Reuben’s Ozark roots are personally “near and dear.”  But the decision to make him half American Indian was based on several motivations.  I was feeding my own fascination again, but there was also the drive to portray a character of his mixed heritage as someone who defied the assumption that he must choose only one lineage to identify with.  This seemed especially appropriate to someone who embraces the philosophy of striking a balance.

And finally there were their religious beliefs to consider since that was very much a factor of their personalities.  You can’t get more traditional than Catholicism for a Cajun.  But I wanted Reuben to be little less mainstream while maintaining the integrity of tradition.  The Noahide faith was perfect fit (Note:  In the books, I chose to spell his belief as Noachide because it reflects the pronunciation more, but Noahide is the more standard rendering.  It’s sort of like spelling Hanukkah as Chanukah.).

So there, briefly, is an outline of the characters.  In the next article we’ll peruse the aspect of What.  There’s a story behind how this tale came about.

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