Writing Gray Characters = fun! (Character development of Orin)

Fans of my writing tend to love (or hate) the characters. Or dislike them and learn to like them during the adventure. Or hate them but just “have to know what happens next!” so I am going to be writing on how I create these types of characters without being too fluffy over the next few posts.

I will admit why writing gray characters is so much fun is simply they will do things I will never do. No, I am not just talking about using a sword, great battles or reading minds. I mean in the everyday level: they live a life so different than mine. They have different view points, they have different sets of morals.

Note: neither Lark or Orin are helping the man who is literally being eaten alive by the ghost.

Specifically in this post, I am going to introduce you to Orodherthin, Son of the Lady Nora and Master Bowyer Calafas of the House T’Ralom. He is older brother to Lady Meadowlark (Lark) and Calthal. Writing and drawing him has been a blast. Why? Because he is ultimately a villain softened by the eyes of his little sister.

Coming up with the leading male protagonist of Faminelands (depending on your point of view, he also might be considered the antagonist)  was so much fun. While Lark came fully formed in my head, Orin was much more of a cypher. I was playing DnD at the time and what sparked the story was the relationship my friend’s character and my character shared. They worked well together.

The first question I thought about: What was his relationship to Lark? While, I wasn’t sure it would be familial love in the beginning, but I knew that love would be a major component to his redemptive character arc.

While I did not know that they would be brother and sister, oddly, I always knew Orin and Lark were never lovers or romantically inclined towards each other for a few reasons. She was simply too young and romantic, if Orin seduced her, the reader would hate him–and Lord Malak would have killed him!

Originally I tried to write it with them just as friends in the Crua –as I said like the friendship between the two characters in the game–but that didn’t work either. Otherwise, every time it got tough, Orin would just bail.

When they were friends, there was simply no tension. No reason Lark wanted him to be redeemed. I tried writing a back story about how he protected her a few times, but it felt trite. Ultimately  it was two people just skipping along on an adventure. Fine for a DnD game, not okay for a book. Because when it all comes down to it: making them siblings makes it easier for them to be cruel to each other without dire consequences. That was when child abuse slithered its way into the story.

Here is a little backstory for both character: Mom was often gone supporting the family with their adventures, which meant Dad raised them. Then everything else began to click into place. Calafas was a father who had no idea how to control his wild son. Because Lark and Orin are bastards, other relatives could only do so much for the kids. Since this is a fantasy faux middle ages story: the idea “spare the rod spoil the child” was meant literally. Orin becomes sympathetic.

This next image is from page 32 of the Carp’s Eye. Orin’s memories of childhood.

But child abuse is passed on and we also see Orin hit Lark. Mainly he does it, because he is terrified if he doesn’t punish, she will face a worse fate. And (this is key to how I kept him a sympathetic character rather than just an overbearing jerk) he has no idea what else to do! FYI: No matter why he does it, I make it clear, what he is doing is VERY WRONG!

In this scene in Living Stone, Orin just slapped her, she kicked him to get away and now he has her.

Orin is larger than his sister–he is a grown man while she is still an adolescent–this tension rules the first two books. Making what might have been fairly stereotypical characters into what I hope feel realistic ones. Flaws make these characters real. Don’t apologize for writing characters with real problems! Orin gets mad, he gets scared, he makes huge mistakes.  The very best comments I have heard is “They are more human then elves!”

When Carp’s Eye opens, Lark has discovered her brother is in debt to the Crua and he tortures people for a living to pay for that debt. Still what makes Orin specifically a great villain turned protagonist?

1) Orin is not a sadist. If he was, he would not be a very good companion on this adventure. It simply would not be fun to see him derive pleasure from hurting people–if that is what you are looking for, look elsewhere. Any character arc that follows a road to redemption can not be an easy one. If he was a true sadist, could he be redeemed? Would he want to be?

Perhaps, but not in the eyes of the Daoine or in the eyes of their family. And most importantly, not in the eyes or heart of the reader.

2) His relationship to Lark. Even in his most evil moments, there is never any doubt in the reader’s mind that Orin loves his little sister.

3) The relationship to women. As with many fantasy protagonists, Orin is a lothario. He is roguish, without being cruel. See # 1 above. He tends to pay for sex since this is a fantasy realm where prostitution is looked down upon, but legal trade. Still he ends up being a favorite customer rather than one the girls dread.

So that is an introduction to how I wrote Orin’s character. How do you form your characters?

Also if you like what you see consider investing in the Print Faminelands: Mareton’s Curse Kickstarter Campaign which will be running mid October to November. More information to follow!

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One response to this post.

  1. […] past few days, I have written about how I write gray characters in Faminelands. I talked about both Orin and Lark, but today I am going to talk about how I wrote my two favorite characters: Lady Aster and […]

    Reply

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