The Lord (Invasion, Part Two) | Flash Fiction

Even the mightiest of old gods grow concerned with imminent danger. Where the disciples Cian and Cynthia saw an opportunity to celebrate the coming of their Lord, the Thunderer Taranis, the god saw a countdown ticking down to doom. His host was all but dead inside him, his mind scorched away by fear and the blinding lightning that scorched the woods all around them.

“We need to secure a host for the true Lord,” Taranis told them. Through the voice of his host, his power rumbled deep and brooding. Cian and Cynthia looked at him worryingly. “My brothers remain caught in the void, their voices muted against the veil that pulsated around this foreign land. I hear them as I hear the sea storm and the trees break against the oncoming tide of darkness, trapped and in need of your assistance.”

Cian stumbled forward, the black robe that was his favoured clothing for the sacrificial rite of his Lord now torn and muddied and soaked with rain. “But, you are our Lord. You and you alone.” The Thunderer glared at him with a ferocity that hadn’t been witnessed in centuries. Cian stood his ground. “I am here only to serve you.”

The only other remaining disciple of the god, Cynthia, stepped away from Cian. “His wish is to save his brothers. That’s how we serve him.” She turned her eyes to Taranis. “Do you know where to find the next sacrifice, my Lord?” She placed a hand on his bare chest. Sparks danced along his skin, partly the aftermath of his thunderous arrival, partly a demonstration of his unchecked power.

He lifted her hand away gently. “There will be time for flirtations, my child, but it is not now. Not while the darkness hovers on the horizon.” He breathed in the air deeply. “There is a feeding station nearby. My brother’s sacrifice is there.” He led his mismatched disciples through the woods and the rain.

What Taranis called a feeding station was in fact a garage. It sat within a small town that seemed to materialise out of nowhere as they walked. The god smirked as Cian and Cynthia looked back to an open field. “Where are the cars?” Cian asked.

“Where you left them,” the god replied. “But we are nowhere near them, now. We have passed along the width of the storm.” He raised a hand and pointed to a man refilling his car. “There. His name is Dermot. You will grab him.”

Cian rid himself of his robe, wearing his regular clothing underneath, and together with Cynthia they marched on Dermot. “Please, we need help,” Cynthia announced as they drew closer. She sobbed against the rain, earning a sympathetic frown from Dermot. “Our car, it broke down a few miles from here. We’ve been walking in the rain this whole time. Our phones are dead.”

Dermot approached them, getting just close enough that it became too late for him to escape when Cian pounced. “Jesus Christ,” the man screamed. He punched Cian roughly, but the disciple’s determination held still. Cynthia was less fortunate.

“Get off my husband,” a woman screamed. She tackled Cynthia to the ground. “You picked the wrong man to mess with,” she sneered. Cynthia scratched the woman’s face and tumbled her over. The woman’s jacket opened in the struggle.

“You’re a Garda,” Cynthia gasped. “You have to understand. This is for the greater good.”

Dermot finally escaped Cian’s grasp, shoving him to the ground. “Jessica, run for God’s sake,” he cried. He tried to walk, only to find his ankle trapped by the clawing hands of his attacker. Cian yanked at him, dragging him to the ground.

“I can’t leave you here,” Jessica shouted. She received a brutal punch in the face for her words, and a cut from a stray ring. The rain washed the blood to the road with a cold sting.

Finally seeing his opportunity, Taranis entered the fray. He grabbed Dermot’s jacket roughly with one hand, close to the base of his spine, and heaved him into the air. “I always forget how weak humans can be,” he sniped, stepping over Cian. “Grab your ceremonial garment. It has a more appropriate use.” He fashioned Cian’s robe into a noose, wrapping it around Dermot’s neck while his wife watched on helplessly.

The bundles rope that was Cian’s robe stretched into the air as if pulled by a giant, lifting Dermot off his feet. Taranis recalled the efficiency with knots that his disciples had previously displayed in the binding of his host. Cian hadn’t let him down, in the end.

The man’s wife screamed as the life left him, his last breaths failing, catching in his tightened throat. For a few minutes he hung there, to the small audience. Cynthia climbed to her feet, leaving Jessica sobbing on the road.

“Is it done?” Cian asked. Taranis frowned. “What went wrong?”

The Garda staggered upright. “You killed my husband,” she exclaimed. “He was the only person I loved, and you killed him.” She rushed at Cynthia, stopping only when Dermot’s body began to emit a soft light. With an explosive force that knocked the rain from the sky, the light erupted, crashing into Jessica with the weight of a truck.

She was thrown off balance, but caught herself with impossible poise before falling. Dermot’s body collapsed to the ground as a smile grew on Jessica’s face. She ignored him, looking to Taranis. “My brother, you did well.”

Taranis dropped to his knee. “Esus. I was worried I had failed.”

“This is your brother?” Cynthia said with a laugh. “He’s in a woman’s body.”

Esus glared at the woman. “The gender of my vessel means nothing,” she stated plainly. “But mockery. Violence against the true vessel. Those are things that matter dearly to me. I am the Lord. I am the Ruler of the Three.” She stood nose to nose against Cynthia. “We can do without it,” she added,” grabbing the disciple’s neck and twisted roughly in one quick movement.

The Thunderer sighed, the sky rumbling. “I wish you hadn’t killed her,” he groaned.

The Lord shrugged. “It is of no consequence. We have another.” Cian gulped and shrivelled up behind Taranis. “The hour draws near, brother. We need to move on from here. We need to find Teatates, before it is too late.”

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The Thunderer (Invasion: Part One) | Flash Fiction

Someone found out his name was Kevin. That was before they tied him to a tree in the middle of the Irish countryside, far from unwanted company. They travelled in two cars to the edge of a wood, five of them in total and their guest, bound and gagged for the journey.

“Did I miss the memo on wearing a black robe?” Cynthia asked.

Of the five, Cian wore a robe. Cynthia was in a simple tracksuit, Deano, Nicky and Kerrie in whatever clothes they’d worn to work that morning. Cian had travelled with Deano and Kerrie, with Kevin in the back seat. Nicky had picked up Cynthia along the way.

“It felt appropriate,” Cian responded. “When I heard the voice of our Lord, I knew what I had to wear. I knew what felt right.”

Cynthia scoffed. “We all heard the voice. All five of us. No one heard anything about robes. Just this location. Just each other’s names. Just where to find… him.”

“And what to do with him,” Deano interjected.

Kerrie pulled out a knife from her handbag. No one fully understood how she’d kept it concealed all that time. Kevin, still gagged, tried to scream for help. He’d been beaten up to the point of unconsciousness by Cian and Deano. His shirt was ripped and dirty, his face scratched from when he’d fallen onto the ground.

Nicky grabbed him by the throat. “No one can hear you out here,” he hissed. “But that doesn’t mean you aren’t pissing me off.” He pulled out the gag and removed his hand from Kevin’s neck.

“Why are you people doing this to me?” he shouted.

Cynthia sighed heavily. “We heard the Voice of our Lord. We heard his instructions.” She gestured to the sky above, barely visible through the trees. The clouds had turned black, and a gentle rain was beginning to fall. “It won’t be long, now. Our Lord is coming, but a sacrifice is required.”

“Who gets to talk to him, first?” Deano asked.

“Me, naturally,” Cian replied quickly. “I was there in Dublin. I was witness to the destruction, and almost a victim. But our Lord saved me. I was his first.”

Cynthia scowled at him. “But I was there in Galway, where he saved me from the literal jaws of Death. He saw my value. He saw my worth. He interfered with me where no others were saved.”

They argued for a few minutes between them, the other three staying out of the conversation while the rain poured down on them. Kerrie hid under an umbrella that barely did the job of keeping her dry.

Kevin stared on in wonder, clueless as to who they were talking about. He pulled against his restraints, but they held despite his struggles. Whoever these people were, they were good at what they did. But, Kevin noticed, they didn’t know each other. Cynthia was a Galway native. Cian and Deano were Dubs, through and through. Kerrie was from Wexford, and Nicky was from Donegal. Three had met up to grab him in Dublin, and they’d all met together here. But they didn’t know each other’s stories. They didn’t know each other’s reasons for doing this.

The only thing that tied them together were the delusions of a voice in their heads.

“Does it really matter?” Deano snapped. Silence fell in the woods, save for the falling of rain and the rustling of leaves. “You two are arguing over who gets to meet him first, but neither of you are concerned with making sure this works. You know what happens if we fail.”

“He remains trapped,” Cynthia confirmed. She turned to Cian. “He’s right. Our Lord will choose correctly.”

Kerrie handed the knife to Nicky. “You know what to do with it.”

Nicky nodded, marching on Kevin. The bound man screamed, but the knife never touched him. Nicky used it to cut away strips of Kevin’s shirt, tearing the clothes from him without needing to remove his restraints.

Kevin felt exposed as they tore his shirt into strips. Cian and Deano threw piles of logs around his feet, surrounding him on all sides with them. He could see where this was going, but he was out of words. There was no reasoning with these people, who would so liberally expose a man to the elements without a second thought. He shivered in the cold rain as they began pouring petrol around him, stuffing soaked pieces of shirt through the wood, and gathering one large bundle before him in their hands.

“This is necessary,” Cynthia told him.

Under the cover of Kerrie’s umbrella, and with a lighter from Cian, they lit the shirt on fire. It burned hot and bright in Deano’s hands, before he tossed it against the pyre they’d built around Kevin. The fire burst around him, flames licking his skin in an instant.

He screamed louder than he thought he could, but was immediately interrupted by the booming of thunder overhead, and a bolt of white-hot lightning ripping through the very tree he was tied to. His voice died in his throat, and he went limp, the pyre bursting away around him.

The group of five were thrown to the ground by the explosive force of the lightning. Cian and Cynthia climbed painfully to their feet, but the others remained still. They looked to one another, trying not to think the worst. That Deano, Nicky and Kerrie were dead. That they had failed.

Kevin stood up with ease, grabbing the couple’s attention. He rubbed his wrists where the restraints had dug through the skin. Aside from dirt and ash, there wasn’t a mark on him. When he looked to Cian and Cynthia, a pounding filled their ears.

“My Lord Taranis,” Cynthia muttered. She and Cian fell to their knees. He ignored them, looking to the sky as the clouds parted and faded from view. “Is there something wrong?” she asked.

He looked at them with the same fear Kevin had worn before he died. “Something is coming,” he whispered, his voice a booming force against nature, “Something even the Thunderer cannot hope to defeat.”

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NaNoPrep: How to Beat Writer’s Block

NaNoWriMo has one goal: write a lot of words. It’s an issue, then, when we forget how to write. It’s a thing every writer goes through at some point, when the words don’t flow and you’re left staring at a screen wondering just what the heck you were thinking signing up to write 50,000 words in a month. While I have a whole set of writer’s block posts to help deal with this issue, there are some that I want to highlight for the sake of NaNo simplicity.

Write a Haiku

Writing a haiku has always been one of my favourite ways to make myself focus on word choices. They’re a type of short-form poetry originating from Japan and ruined by Western culture, and I’ve found that they work well as a mental stretching exercise before starting to write.

Don’t Start on a Blank Page

A blank page puts a psychological barrier in front of a writer. There’s so much potential, and absolutely nowhere to start. (Spoiler alert: the top of the page is usually right.) If you can help it, start your writing session mid-chapter. This gives you somewhere to pick up from.

“It was a dark and stormy night”

Sometimes, writing a bad opening sentence is a good way to just get started. You can litter your novel with cliches and bad writing if your goal is to later (after NaNo) go back and edit. While it’s not something I recommend actively practising, it’s useful when you just need to put words on the page.

Skip a Difficult Scene

Not all writers work linearly. If you find yourself struggling to write your book, try skipping ahead to another scene. A change of pace, of setting, or of character can lead to greater ease in writing at a given moment in time. It’s worth taking note of which kind of scene you struggle with the most – and when – so you can mentally prepare yourself for them in the future, too.

Put a Song on Loop

This is baffles people…but try listening to the same song over and over again. I do this regularly while writing. The idea is to block out other sounds, while eliminating how much attention you pay to a change in music. It’s a concentration technique I picked up from Tim Ferriss’s podcast, which I utilised to write A Death in the Family. (‘All Time Low’, covered by Walk Off the Earth, in case you were curious.)

Write Something Else

Sometimes the best way to write more is to write something else entirely. Short stories, poems or short scripts can be effective ways of taking your mind off a problem in a book, while ensuring you get yourself writing again. While it’s not recommended when you only have a limited amount of time, it can be a life saver during a long writing session to be able to take yourself away from your book whenever you’re stuck.

Force Yourself

Finally… force yourself. It might seemed like a moot point, but if you force yourself to put one word after another, eventually you’ll have a sentence. Even if it means just writing the dialogue, or just writing the exposition of descriptive paragraphs, words on the page are better than none. You can go back and fill in the gaps later.

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Blood and Bones | Flash Fiction

There were many more people capable of necromancy – and other, less narratively relevant forms of magic – than were advertising their services in The Black Pages, and more still that were practising the art with any sort of meaning. Magic was widespread and mostly unused, the necessary suspension of belief and untoward intention required to perform the most basic feats escaping the general public. It was probably better this way.

Not everyone who knew about magic could practice it. Nor could everyone who wanted to be a necromancer successfully raise the dead.

Herman Nulty refused to accept the reality of his predicament. He had thus far been incapable of bringing even small birds back to life, yet here he was: a stone circle, candles, a burning picture of innocence, and all the intent to raise his long-dead father from the grave.

It wasn’t working.

“Rise, damn it!”

The ground shuddered in response. He had never witnessed a successful necromantic ritual. He assumed this was normal.

“Rise, I said. Rise!”

Dirt exploded out of the way of a skeletal fist. Herman watched the rest of the arm push its way out, followed by a skeleton in a black suit, with a plum tie hanging loosely around its neck. The skeleton’s clothing was loose, a belt holding trousers up, shoes barely clinging on. His father had been a trim man. There was nothing of him here but the bones.

“Dad?” Herman asked tentatively. “Is that you?” The skeleton did not respond. Herman raised a hand, and the skeleton mimicked him. It had no eyes – no light for eyes, even, like he thought might happen if he failed to bring them back. It had no organs. The suit was rotted through in places. “Say something,” Herman intoned.

The skeleton’s mouth wagged voicelessly.

Even in death, his father was a source of anger for him. Herman punched at it in a temper, and the bones shattered. It wasn’t quite like getting hit by a car. It would be more accurate to say that the bones of Herman’s father attempted to redecorate the graveyard with explosive force and only the very dust that formed its old bones to work with. Herman coughed through the calcium cloud as the remnants of his father’s suit – shreds – fell to the ground.

“What the heck?” he yelled, before hacking up a calcium-phlegm ball. “What sort of necromancy is that?”

Herman had inherited many things from his father. The capacity for magic, for one, and a temper that could only be tamed through sheer and utter destruction. With the bones exploded beyond recognition, there was nothing else to aim his fury at. He swallowed it, held it inside, tried to stop it wrecking the whole graveyard – his superstition outweighing his anger, in spite of his earlier intentions – and recoiled in pain.

His arms were bleeding.

It took him a few minutes to realise why, and that didn’t help. Sharp spikes were pressing through his skin. Spikes made from bone. His arms shook as he tried to make sense of what was happening, which only made the jarring of bone against flesh more intense.

The sensation spread down to his hands, until his hands had turned to claws of bone and blood. The spikes continued to extend from his arms, until they more closely resembled rose thorns.

Like his father, Herman had been a trim and slight man. His arms were ruining the illusion, bone ripping muscles and fat, skin and veins apart, until everything hung limply from the shoulders done. He was screaming, though he couldn’t remember when he’d started, and the pain in his arms was gone.

He realised, with some considerable willpower, he could move his arms, even flex his fingers and bend his elbows if he wanted to. He was still bleeding from the shoulders, and he thought about blocking off the veins with bone. It worked, to a degree, though the pain remained.

Silence returned to the graveyard.

He walked with slow and determined steps, careful not to accidentally destroy his legs while he walked, or stab himself with the thorns along his arms. “This isn’t necromancy,” he said to himself, and he wasn’t wrong. He stopped at another grave. He didn’t know this person. He tried to will the skeleton to rise, and it felt like it was working. At the same time, though, his arms became less mobile. Whatever the limits of his powers, he thought he had discovered them.

He really needed to keep his legs, now.

He left the skeleton half-out of the grave and allowed his arms to move again. With a tug of inhuman strength, he reefed the bones from the earth, holding them up – and together – with a sort of cruel determination. The same magic that gave his arms mobility also gave them power, though he wasn’t sure he long he could keep it up. Magic had its limits.

Herman held the bones in his claw, and willed them to dust. It was less dramatic than when his father’s skeleton had spontaneously exploded, and he was sure his temperament and the force of the magic he had thrown into it had had something to do with that, but he was, mildly, successful. The bones fell apart in shards, rather than dust, cracking under pressure.

The ordeal left Herman’s own arms limp, and the rest of his body weak. He collapsed to the ground, sweating and panting for breath.

“So that’s that,” he said to himself. “No blood, no muscle, no skin, no soul. Just bones.” He looked at his claws and his spiky, thorny arms, stained red by his own blood. “I could make this work. Maybe. If someone’s looking for a living weapon. Or a freak show. Or to break a few bones.”

His mind was awash with possibilities.

He was almost over the idea that he was inept as a necromancer. He had almost accepted that he looked like a monster. He had almost retained his sanity. Almost.

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NaNo Prep: Write-In to Write More

Every year, the good folks at NaNoWriMo put together The Night of Writing Dangerously, a write-in in San Francisco. For most of us, that’s both too far away and too expensive to participate in. Not to be discouraged, the Dublin NaNoWriMo group – specifically one of our amazing MLs – organised a write-in: Midpoint Madness. We booked a room at a coffee house, brought our computers and our notes and too much food for the day (this sort of coffee house allowed for extra food) and got to writing.

Everyone wrote more that day than they did on a regular day. I shot up almost 8000 words because of the write-in. I was still 7000 words behind, but imagine how much worse-off I’d have been if I hadn’t attended.

A write-in is a tested way to bolster your word count in the presence of other writers, almost everyone wearing headphones. We’ve taken the model to our weekly meet-ups since NaNoWriMo, writing when we meet up instead of merely talking about writing. So, here are my tips:

Location

Find somewhere that allows you to stick around all day. A Time House is ideal, but a regular coffee shop should do. Though I hate to endorse a specific brand, some Starbucks are open to social bookings if you talk to the staff in advance.

Other things to consider:

  • Are there sockets for charging computers?
  • How reasonably priced is it?
  • How many people can you reasonably expect to stay all day?
  • Is there a separate space you can stay for the day?

Time

Picking a time of the month is important. You need something that suits everyone, and that makes sense based on when people need it. The first day is good, because that’s when people will be looking to get ahead.

The midpoint works for recovering from a poor start, or trying to get ahead in case something comes up unexpectedly.

The end of the month works for a last-minute rush to reach the desired word count.

This April, we’re lucky to have five Sundays. In Ireland, we also have a bank holiday on Easter Monday. The Dublin Wrimos will be having write-ins three times during the month, as well as our usual meet-ups.

Rules

Let’s say you can find a venue and a time that suits everyone. You need some ground rules. These are to make sure that everyone gets the most out of the write-in.

  1. No talking. Okay, some talking. But if someone is busy writing, don’t interrupt them with a whole conversation. Questions are allowed. Catching up on the latest episode of your favourite TV show is not.
  2. Show up to write, or not at all. It happens. Someone decides they’re going to write for the day. They just want to hang out. Which is fine, except they’ll inevitably break rule number one.
  3. Keep the music down. Headphones, obviously, are mandatory. Anyone can and should break rule one to ask someone to turn down their music if it’s unreasonably loud. (I have been guilty of this – street-level music is not the same as write-in-level music.)

Word Sprints

We didn’t practice these, but word sprints are a good way to introduce some competition. Set a timer, and everyone writes furiously towards getting as many words as possible.

But remember: everyone writes at a different pace. Who wins in a word sprints? Everyone who did their best. The whole point is to write a lot and quickly. It doesn’t matter who writes more than anyone else, so long as everyone writes more than they would have. It’s also a good way to plan a group break, so people can talk afterwards for a few minutes.

Have Fun

The point of a write-in is to have fun and increase your word count. Make sure both are included. It helps if you like the people you write with. (I do. I’m really lucky that way. Except when we talk more than we write, then the books suffer.) Talk to your ML, and see what can be arranged for the next NaNo. If it’s Camp NaNoWriMo, and your Cabin is made up of your local friends, why not organise one yourself?

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NaNo Prep: How to Manage Your Time and Write More

Let’s have full disclosure before I get any further: time is an illusion, the last day of NaNo doubly so. You can prepare your time in advance, and still end up needing to go full-speed on the last day. My November 2017 experience goes as follows: on target for days 1-3, and then behind until day 30. I won, but only after squeezing out over 6000 words on the last day.

It’s that experience I want to write about here. All the planning in the world to have time to write doesn’t count for shit the moment day 1 rolls around and something comes up out of the blue. For me, it’s conventions. And a birthday. And I don’t even know what. I didn’t write for ten days out of thirty because of (a) other commitments and (b) laziness.

Basic Time Management

  1. Before the month starts, block off the days you know you’ll get nothing done. (Days, weekends, weeks…) Don’t kid yourself that on the day you’ve arranged to meet three different people you’re going to have time and energy to write afterwards.
  2. When that’s done, block off times in the day that you can write. If you think you can write 1667 words in an hour, give yourself two hours to write and aim to stick to your hourly goal.
  3. Give yourself more time in the month to write than you think you need. Something is going to come up, or you’ll write less than you thought you would. It happens.

My Trick

Let’s be real: I can do everything above and still not have enough time if I stuck to just writing at my computer like I grew up doing. Here’s how I finished my 50K in only 20 days in November:

Learn to write anywhere.

If that means bringing your computer with you everywhere, do that. But what about the bus? What about the few minutes in the office before the working day, when you can’t just whip out your laptop and start writing?

This isn’t just about the mentality of writing in public, which is a whole thing in itself. This is about learning to write through devices you wouldn’t normally be comfortable with. The majority of my November novel was written using my phone. I started with a Bluetooth keyboard, but the set up was taking too much time. So I ditched it.

I wrote almost exclusively using the touchscreen keyboard on my smart phone.

Google Docs was a Godsend. Mobile writing is so much easier when you can just close an app and it’s saved. (I would recommend downloading your files every night or two, though, onto a separate device, for safety.) It also meant being able to jump from my phone to my laptop seamlessly.

On the last day of NaNo 2017, I wrote on my phone on the journey to and from work, and on my lunch break. A total of almost three hours, all counted up. Then I switched to my laptop when I got home. I didn’t miss a meal, I stopped to make tea a couple of times, and managed to finish a few hours before midnight. Because I could write in public, and write on my phone. I couldn’t do that in October, let me tell you.

Going Forward

My April novel is supposedly more conventional than my November novel. For a start, it won’t be in 120+ pieces. But I’m also faced with a few events. I’m losing two weekends straight off the bat, and one evening to a midnight screening. (Avengers Infinity War – worth it!) All things considered, I’m down a about 6/7 days before I even get started. I’m looking at about 42 hours to write 50K, which is doable. I’m also, most likely, underestimating how much time I’ll have each day. But with bus journeys, I’m guaranteed a couple of hours each day I’m in work.

One thing I have to do before I get in NaNoWriMo is clear myself of other deadlines. I can’t manage comics at the same time as I’m trying to write a lot. I can’t busy myself with recording videos on the days I need to write. This might mean recording several videos in one go. It might also mean just not having a video ready.

All I know is, I can plan my time to the minute, and it still won’t work out the way I want it to. That’s life. That’s NaNoWriMo.

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NaNo Prep: Creating Characters

Some people begin with a novel by defining their plot. Others start with the protagonist. I have a tendency to fixate on one or the other while I’m creating an idea for a story. In my last short story, the idea of what Chronoman could do was much more significant than who the man beneath the mask was. When it came writing the Meouch comics and A Death in the Family, everything began with characters.

Who Are They?

I have a whole questionnaire I fill out from time to time, but for Frankie the Cat in Meouch, and for Ben in A Death in the Family, I just needed some basic info to get started.

  • What does this person do?
  • What makes them different?
  • Are they action-takers, or reactionary?

Frankie is an assassin. He’s tiny, and uses ridiculous weapons, and he’s a cat, all of which informs who he is in the comics. He has a job, an owner, a client. All of those things are fine, but he had to stand out. He breaks the fourth-wall, mostly by talking to the reader or by having awareness of being in a comic. He swears in cat puns. (And only cat puns.) Aside from the fact that he’s hired to do his job, I consider Frankie an action taker.

Ben, on the other hand, is a Reaper. (As in, Grim Reaper.) He’s in his mid-20s, lives at home with his family, and spends the novel trying to get used to his new job/life, previously unexposed to the magical community. Making Ben different was difficult, because the story of “normal” person entering the secret parallel magical world isn’t new. So I had him stick to his regular clothing. I had him argue with his Scythe – an extradimensional tool with sentience, an attitude, and no ability to use the English language – and befriend a Reaper’s greatest enemy: a Necromancer. Like Frankie, Ben is assigned his tasks. But Ben is much more reactionary, at least in A Death in the Family. He’s still getting used to things, so he doesn’t make as many decisions as he wishes he could.

Are They a Good Fit for the Story?

Knowing who the character is – and my answers definitely came with some retrospection of having written some stories already – is the first step. Next is to figure out if they belong in the story you want to write for them. Some considerations:

  • Is the genre right?
  • Is the medium right?
  • Is the tone right?

I read a lot of superhero stories. But neither Frankie or Ben could be superheroes. Frankie kills for a living. His allegiances don’t stretch very far. When we plotted the first story, we settled on a job. Operation Bad Dog. A hit. If we’re going to call him an assassin, he’s got to kill something.

Ben is a hero, from his first decision to take up the Scythe all the way through. A Reaper’s job, in the book, is to take the soul to protect it from corruption. I wanted something of an apocalypse, so I needed a character to stop it, someone who had to care enough to put themselves at risk.

Are They Alone?

No man is an island. Everyone needs a supporting role, somewhere, in their narrative. Frankie has his owner and his client, which appear in each of the two comics in print at the moment. Ben has his family, for a start, as well as a number of people he’s introduced to in his first few days on the job – the previous Reaper, people from Damage Control, the Necromancer, and more.

Your novel might include more than one protagonist. They don’t necessarily need to meet, either. Think about the following:

  • How many points of view do you need, versus how many you want?
  • Does your protagonist have anyone to talk to?
  • Are you introducing characters that serve no purpose?

My advice would be to limit the number of characters you include in your book, depending on its size, especially if they’re always together. Names are fine, and relatively easy to keep track of if they’re different enough. Keeping track of what everyone in a group is doing is more complicated, for both readers and writers. Make things easier on everyone, and cap it based on the length of the story you’re writing.

Question Everything

There are a lot of things you can think about when creating new characters. There’s basic biological data (Height, Weight, Body Type), relationships (Family, Significant Other), occupation & vocation (Job, Religion), and desires (What do they want most from life?), and that’s barely scratching the surface.

Some authors are known to base their character’s looks around an actor’s or model’s. That’s fine, if it’s done tastefully and believably. Personalities, however, ought to be unique and formed by experience. The more you know about your characters before you start writing, the better.

NaNo begins in just over two weeks. (Unless you’re reading this at a time other than the posting date – then you need to look at the calendar and figure it out for yourself.)

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