When Characters Wrest Control

Sometimes, while playing God, writers get surprised. Occasionally, while we’re creating our little worlds and our little people to inhabit them, one of those people doesn’t stay in the intended space.

Wresting ControlToday I’ll consider the topic of characters getting too big for their britches, and assuming a bigger (or different) role than the one planned for them. When this happens in your writing, should you take it as a good thing or a bad thing?

This has happened to me a few times. In my story “After the Martians,” the character Frank Robinson is a war AftertheMartians72dphotographer. He’s meant to be a secondary character, pursuing a parallel plot line that intersects the protagonist’s life near the end in a meaningful way. However, Frank became a little more compelling than intended and darn near overshadowed the protagonist. I kept most of his exploits in, so the reader cares what happens to him and follows his plot line with interest.

RippersRing72dpiIn “Ripper’s Ring,” Diogenes is a Bassett hound owned by a Scotland Yard detective. You know how some movie actors dread performing with animals because the animal might steal the scene? That nearly happened with droopy old Diogenes, whose seeming lack of interest in following a scent made him an endearing comic character in an otherwise dark and philosophical story. I kept him that way.

ATaleMoreTrue72dpiThere’s a French servant named Fidèle in my story “A Tale More True” who almost ended up having a more compelling personality than that of his master, the protagonist. Once again, he was a secondary character meant to provide comic relief and to showcase the protagonist. However, he tended to get the best lines, and to be the one suggesting the right course of action. I kept him as I’d written him, since the story is a voyage of learning and discovery for his master, and Fidèle is a necessary part of that.

WithinVictorianMists9Another servant, this time a plump Irish one named Daegan MacSwyny, nearly took over my story “Within Victorian Mists.” I’d meant this secondary character to be funny and unintelligent, but he ended up being secretly wise in almost magical ways. As with Fidèle, he gently prodded his master, the protagonist, toward the right answer at every step, though it’s never clear whether that’s by intention or accident. MacSwyny and all the Victorian Mists characters appeared again in “A Steampunk Carol” but there the servant kept to his secondary status.

In each case, a secondary character threatened to take over the story by force of personality and by being more endearing than the protagonist. That’s just the way my muse rolls.

But not only mine. Other writers have blogged about this phenomenon. Mae Clair lets it happen, for the most part, and later writes separate stories featuring such characters.

Melanie Spiller had written such a good scene about the death of a character whom she hadn’t meant to kill off, that she kept the scene in. She’d once been told a character wresting control of the story is a sign you’ve created a believable character.

When a character takes on a bigger role, you have choices. You can:

  1. Let that character go in this new direction, at least to some extent.
  2. Rewrite the story to keep the character as intended.
  3. Delete the character.

So far, I’ve always chosen option 1. Other writers choose either 1 or 2. It would be gut wrenching to opt for 3, so I suspect that’s rarely done.

When you play God by writing fiction, do you have characters wresting control every now and then? If so, what do you do? Or do you just like that word ‘wrest?’ Rise above your role as a blog post reader, and leave a comment for—

Poseidon’s Scribe

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Making an Ottoman Spacecraft

Yes, the title of this post is correct, not a misprint. And, yes, I’m aware the Ottoman Empire did not build any spacecraft. At least, not in our timeline…

ToBeFirstWheels4I’ve been blogging about some 3D-printed models made by a close acquaintance that depict gadgets and vehicles from my stories. Today I’m featuring the Ottoman spacecraft from my tale “To Be First,” which is combined in one book with another of my stories, “Wheels of Heaven.”

IMG_0104The model she built is the way I imagined it while writing. I pictured a variant of the Apollo spacecraft, but with a Command Module shaped something like the dome of an Ottoman mosque.

For inspiration, she used this model, designed by Dan Marohl, who is known as sterling500. For mine, she deleted some harder-to-print details like retrorockets on the Service Module, and substituted the mosque-shaped Command Module, with a very impressive spire.

IMG_0105When painting the model, I added some writing on it. I would have loved to write “Ottoman Space Agency” in Ottoman Turkish, but I settled for what I could easily find—the motto of the Ottoman Empire, pronounced “Devlet-i Ebed-müddet” or, ironically, “The Eternal State.”

IMG_0107“To Be First” takes place in an alternate historical timeline where the legendary exploits of Lagâri Hasan Çelebi really happened. That is, a man actually took flight in a rocket-powered chair in the year 1633. (I found out about this legend watching an episode of the TV show Mythbusters.)

IMG_0109In the backstory of my tale, that event did not fade into obscurity, but rather prompted the rapid development of rocketry by the Ottomans. Three hundred years later, when my story takes place, the Empire is a vast—and advanced—superpower. It’s just 1933, and the two heroes of my story are on their way back from the first manned mission to the Moon.

IMG_0108Before re-entering Earth’s orbit, they encounter a weird ionic storm, which sends them to an alternate universe…ours. The story involves these two Ottoman lunanauts dealing with a comparatively backward Earth in the grip of a worldwide economic depression. On this Earth, the Ottoman Empire is gone and rocketry is in its infancy.

“To Be First” is really about the two rocket-men themselves, as Yazid learns from Kemal about the human yearning to explore.

I’m very pleased with the model, and would love to read what you think about it, when you leave a comment for—

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Making Leonardo’s Lion

An artistic acquaintance of mine has been making 3D printed models of vehicles and gadgets from my stories. Today I’ll introduce another one she made, the mechanical clockwork lion from my book “Leonardo’s Lion.”LeonardosLion5

It’s a modification of the one available on Thingiverse here, designed by YahooJapan. She added a cutout section showing gears inside. I painted the model myself.Lion 1

According to some accounts, Leonardo da Vinci made a working, mechanical lion. It was toward the end of his life when he was living in France. Records aren’t clear, but the newly crowned King of France, Francois I, met Pope Leo X in Bologna on December 19, 1515. Either the lion was presented at that event, or was commissioned then and given to the king at a party two years later.

Lion 2The lion could walk, move its head from side to side, and open and shut its jaws. It then sat on its haunches; its chest cavity opened, and a bouquet of lilies fell out. The lion was the symbol of Pope Leo X and lilies symbolized France, so this mechanism represented the strong bond between the two.

Lion 3

 

 

 

 

 

In our modern world of automated gadgets, it’s difficult to imagine the effect such a lion would have at a party in the early 16th Century.

Lion 4I got to wondering what might have happened to that lion afterward. My story, “Leonardo’s Lion,” takes place some fifty years later. The lion stands forgotten in a storeroom, hidden among numerous other gifts presented to previous kings.

A ten-year-old boy named Chev comes upon the lion after escaping an orphanage. He’s able to get the automaton working, and is small enough to ride on its back. Inside the lion, he finds a message Leonardo had meant for King Francois I to discover, and a clue to a world-changing secret. Thus begins Chev’s ride on the lion’s back, through a country torn apart by warring religions.

In potential future improvements to this model, I’d love to have movable legs, a swaying head, and a seam for the chest cavity.

I welcome your thoughts about my model. Leave a comment on this post for—

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Making the Queen of the Clouds

The advent of 3D printing has made it economical to design and make some of the gadgets, vehicles, and character figurines from readers’ favorite stories. I’ve been working with a 3D printing expert to make some objects from my own books.

WithinVictorianMists9Readers of this blog already know about the Ring of Gyges from my story “Ripper’s Ring,” and the Martian tripod fighting machine from “After the Martians.” Today, I’ll discuss the Queen of the Clouds airship from “Within Victorian Mists,” a model I first displayed publicly at BALTICON last week.

The model airship is the one available on Thingiverse.com here. It was designed by Arnold Patrick Martin, who goes by RealAbsurdity on Thingiverse.

I painted mine a cream color. I know the airship in the story is silver, but I wasn’t sure my silver paint would be light enough. I later realized I could have mixed silver with white to lighten the hue.

WVM3

“Within Victorian Mists” is steampunk, and airships are common in that genre, but the Queen of the Clouds is actually a small part of the story. WVM4The main gadget in the tale is the laser hologram invention of the male hero, Stanton Wardgrave, but that wouldn’t be much to look at. The airship makes an appearance near the end when the female lead, Josephine Boulton, is about to board it and leave Stanton forever.

WVM5The concept of clouds/steam/mists/vapor/etc. is a main metaphor and symbol in the story, so Queen of the Clouds is an apt airship name.

For this prototype, I selected a design available online. If I were a 3D Printing designer, there are a few things I’d change to make the model truer to the story, aside from the color discussed above. First, I’d make the whole hull slimmer. Second, the Queen is a steam-powered dirigible (I know, not practical, but it’s fiction) with smokestacks, so I’d add those. Third, I’d add more propellers, and each would have just two blades. Last, there should be three gondolas underneath, not just one.

Please let me know what you think of this model. Have any of my stories inspired you to make your own 3D printed objects? If so, send pictures of them to—

Poseidon’s Scribe

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