Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Zero ... or Hero?

Last night, while I waited for the adjacent dorm of noisy 14-year-olds to quiet down, I found myself flipping through my blog archive. I had been meaning to do some writing, but having been through what felt like a thoroughly gruelling first day back at school, not to mention a very active (and somewhat bruising) karate lesson, I couldn't quite drag my brain into the zone, and everything I wrote ended up sounding contrived and forced.

And, while I was browsing, I found a post named "Two's Company - An Ode to the Faithful Sidekick". I remembered writing the post, though it didn't stick in my memory as being anything spectacularly entertaining. However, looking at the title "Two's Company" it got me thinking about the narrative style of my abandoned work, Warrior, the oh-so-originally-titled first book of the Aeserion trilogy. In the first draft, I only had one narrator - the infamous Rin, whom you've met in many a Beautiful People post this year. This time around, however, I remembered that I was going to have to pay attention to someone else as  well - a second narrator who really hadn't seen that much screentime as anything other than the "sidekick" until very late on in Warrior's original draft.

His name is Florien. Well, it is now - his name in the original draft was too similar to that of another rather central character, and the similarity was beginning to annoy me. And that's not the only thing about him that makes the writing part of my brain twitch.

Having two narrators to a tale isn't all that uncommon, especially in tales where the stories of the two characters run parallel or interweave. I wasn't planning to use Florien at all, until I realised that, while watching me slowly destroy Rin's belief in his own sanity was very entertaining, there was no way he could be aware of half the important events in the plot. And so a new page was saved in the Central Characters folder, under the name of my reluctant new narrator. He was hard work to pin down - he was nothing like as developed as Rin, and personality-wise he had more mood-swings than his pregnant landlady on a bad day.

And, even when I did pin him down, things got even more interesting.

The difference in Rin and Florien's narrative voices is like comparing  a greyhound and a poodle. Rin is fierce, opinionated, confident, and more than happy to liberate a few teeth from the mouths of anyone who invokes his wrath. Florien, meanwhile, is usually found hiding under the nearest table, hoping no one lands on him. True he's intelligent, friendly and talented in his own way, but ... he's no fighter, and he knows it. His sword has been affectionately nicknamed "Hearthwarmer" to indicate how much use it gets.

Not only that, but Florien doesn't want to be a hero. Rin may not like the lemons he's handed, but he'll bite his own fingers off before he lets some sick celestial joke get the better of him, and - like the mercenary he is - he'll take what advantages he can get. Florien would sooner run away. Run away, hide, and hope it'll just go away and leave him alone. Give him the option of taking a daring risk to win personal glory and gratification or staying home playing his pipes to amuse the locals, and he'd be reaching for the pipes before you even finished your sentence. Pacifist, people-pleaser and, to some, a bit of a pansy.

We've all heard of unlikely heroes, but very rarely will we meet one who actively avoids scary tasks for that long. Even if they're not gifted or set up in some advantagous manner beforehand, even the wimpiest of them will know when something has to be done. And, most importantly of all, they'll push their limits, their beliefs, their all to succeed - eventually.

Well then ... why on earth do I tolerate the presence of a character who refuses to even be called "unlikely" in my story? 

Well, no story is ever all about the battles. Fair enough, Rin is the more dominant narrator of the two, and its his story that drives the plot for the most part, but, without Florien, he'd have a slim chance, if any at all, of succeeding. Though he's little use in a bar brawl, having a man who could make even the grumpiest goat grin from ear to ear certainly brightens up miserable nights spent sleeping in haunted forests and wet, dingy borderland forts. Those pointless books he likes to read? They'll come in useful later too. 

And hey, you know what they say about invoking the anger of a gentle man.

So, I suppose, the lesson really is thus. Even if your narrator is even less likely a hero than Bilbo Baggins doesn't mean they're useless. It might look like it, they might act like it, heck, we might even believe it ... until we remember that it sometimes takes more than one central character to screw in a lightbulb. No matter how unorthodox their method.

- Charley R


  1. (UNlikely? Why he's a right good man to hang with Eh Flo? - Manuel raises a glass as his feet are propted up on the table, his chair leaned back.)
    (So of course Sarah has to pass by and tip his chiar over. She catches his beer - Don't want to spill that - she takes a sip before handing it back.)
    *facepalm* Look what you started talking about Florien and I blame Sarah fro the Flo - So sorry Florien, she just... she just likes to shorten names... I suspect it's a habit that's going to get some people annoyed at her.

    So it looks like you and me both are going for two voices eh. :} I like having Florien about to 'soften' Rin, if you will... *grins*

    1. Yeah - for all his "I don't want to be a hero!"-ness, I think I'll enjoy writing Florien. He's braver than he thinks he is ... and definitely a sweeter sort than Rin over there. Plus, he likes word games and ridddles and such. He could be a total pain if he wanted to with those ... ooh, the possibilities xD

      (Florien himself pinches Manuel's beer with a well practice technique, steals a sip and likewise hands it back ... making sure he's well out of reach)

      See what I mean? Bloomin' pest xP

      Flo *giggles* That's going in the story. He's gonna hate it, but Sarah won't be the only one with a thing for nicknames I'm sure xD

  2. The description of Florien reminds me a bit of the character Rincewind from Discworld.

    1. Ah, I remember Rincewind ... you'll be pleased to know Florien's not half that bright. Even if he tried to be :P

  3. Lololol. He sounds like a hobbit! (Never go on adventures or do anything unexpected...)

    I am also writing in two voices right now, one male POV and one female one. The female's easy. She's an ex-tiger with deadly dagger skills and a guilty conscience. Very serious, slightly formal.

    The male is harder, a charming, easy-going traveller who can read people as easily as you and I read books, has a deathly fear of leadership and is trying to protect his temper-prone younger brother.

    Six chapters in and I still don't know if I can pull it off. Perhaps I'll join Florien under the table....

    1. Florien the hobbit ... *just about falls over giggling at the image*

      Ah, I can see how your male narrator would be tough work - it's always the ones who do things we don't that are tricky. Florien says you're welcome under his table, though, you fancy it xD

  4. Ah, I do enjoy reading about your writerly escapades, Charley! It's always such fun. This was particularly interesting; I love when characters reveal things about themselves that you never knew! :)

    It sounds like Florien and Rin are pretty much polar opposites; I bet they're GREAT in a story together! ;) Although from what I've read, I can't imagine Rin having much patience for Florien's run-and-hide strategy. Best of luck with your new and unlikely hero, you might need it! ;)

    1. Polar opposites? Heck yes, that they are, lol!

      You could not have been more right - Rin has many fantasies about flinging Florien into his own fights and making HIM sort the mess out for once ... but he doesn't have the heart to do it really, bless him xD

      As for luck? Oh yes. I'll need it for him, and much else besides :P

  5. When did you abandon Warrior? I thought you were rewriting it?
    I'm so confused.... name changes should go to hell ;)

    1. This IS the rewrite! Florien was formerly known as Kairin, which looked too much like Caeren, and for that matter they even looked fairly similar ... gyah! The confusion! xD