People tell me that readers like to know an author’s process, where the ideas come from and which ones get thrown back, how characters’ resumes are handled, etc. So I’m gonna blog about that now. Bear with me…
Today, I have been going back and adding bits and pieces of scenes (yay!) to “that novel that I may finish one of these decades.” (It does have a working title, but I don’t want to mention that here.) And, because I have finally reach a decision concerning which character is the protagonist (not that this is the only POV character, nor even the only major character), I’ve been doing a lot more to add to her scenes, show who she is and what her goals are in the story, as compared to and contrasted with the goals of the other characters. She’s set up from the start as being in opposition to one of the other major characters, because she works for the government and they don’t like what the person he works for is suspected of being up to… (Yeah, deliberately vague. Also, ironic. Did I mention that this novel is science fiction and in no way a contemporary story?)
Anyway. MC (her initials, not “main character”) has some… unique problems due to her job. She’s a telepath — that’s the whole point of her being sent to find out what the employer of character 2 is really doing with that nifty new warship they built, because she can find out whether anyone is willing to talk or not (Yeah, sure it’s no good if everyone knows she can read minds… Just you try not even thinking about a pink elephant after someone says, ‘So, this pink elephant you have hidden in the basement — what’s up with that?’), but being a telepath has some drawbacks. (If you can’t imagine any, you don’t read nearly enough sci-fi or fantasy. And have a poor imagination. Who are you, and what are you doing reading my blog?) One of those drawbacks is that, unless she’s shielding, she gets inundated by mind-noise from the people around her. That can be annoying, even painful. Also, it can lead to sensory overload, which is no fun at all.
As a result of this, MC doesn’t like to be around large groups of people: too much mind-noise. So far, so good, right? I mean, her job has just taken her offplanet, away from the teeming thousands in the bigger cities like Anglin. (Yeah, I said thousands. There is a trace of the post-apocalyptic in this novel, too.) On the other hand, being around no people is also uncomfortable, because the places where no one at all lives are the empty places, the ruins of pre-War cities or wastelands covered by the Ice. Cities equal noise, but silence equals death.
Ideally, MC would like to be surrounded by people and hear just the faintest hint of their thoughts without having to listen to them.
So that’s one conflict for the character, outside the central plot of the novel, and one that will probably not be actually solved so much as come to terms with. Life is like that sometimes.
Yet more conflicts, having more directly to do with plot… (SPOILER ALERT. Not that you’ll remember any of this by the time I get the novel finished, but still…) MC gets herself aboard the aforementioned nifty new warship as a government observer, only to find out that the military has sent an observer of their own. (It’s complicated, I know.) And he can’t be read telepathically. MC suspects it’s due to some kind of high-tech brain implant, but there’s nothing she can do about it. This character, whom I will refer to here as GM (’cause those are his initials), has secrets even beyond the obvious — why else make him telepathically “silent”? (Y’know, I sometimes ask myself that. Actually, I ask my clone that: Why did we decide that GM is psi-null, anyway, other than that it would fuck with his friends who could otherwise read him? And then I think, Oh, yeah — reason enough right there, because some of GM’s friends have been a bad influence on me.)
There’s another major character in this little tale, and again, MC cannot read his thoughts — under most circumstances. (GM creates a psi-null field around himself unless he deliberately and with effort shuts it off. JG, on the other hand… Well, I’ll save that one for another post.) And MC knows that GM knows more about this person than he’s telling anyone. (She knows because the smug bastard says so.) MC, because she’s one of my characters and thus has some of my, um, obsessions with things like secrets and the keeping and finding of same, is determined to learn what’s really going on, not just with the nifty new warship (you haven’t forgotten that, have you?) but also with the long-lost-and-now-returned ship that was sent to scout for a colony at alpha Cent… and the person who came back with is who is clearly not part of the original crew, no matter what GM says to the contrary.
To learn those secrets, MC has to not only find a way to read the mind of one (or both!) of these other characters, but also face what she will discover if/when she does. And that, my readers, is definitely a topic for another post. But maybe you got enough from my comments on my short story “Finder’s Fee” to have some idea of the whole “be careful what you look for” issue. Not saying that MC shouldn’t try to learn all this stuff, just that she is gonna have to deal with the consequences of knowing it if she does.