In my previous post I looked at Fiarra, my protagonist. Well, from the outset she has four key friends, the people with whom she has lived and travelled since the plague hit and the governor upped and left. Who are they, where did they come from, and what do I have planned for them?
The first character I developed was a foil for Fiarra. Tath is a young man of a similar age and background to Fiarra, but a very different outlook. And, as I have just discovered, Tath’s name is going to be repeatedly corrected to “that” by Word, so I’m changing his name to Teyt. Right, starting again. Teyt has been Fiarra’s rival since childhood because where she is idealistic, he is cynical; where she is optimistic, he is pessimistic; where she sees injustice, he sees human nature. But when the plague hit, they worked together looking after their respective mothers, and found common ground in the understanding that they need to work together to survive, built on a foundational belief that society works best when people work together for common cause (even if they disagree on whether this is possible).
I’m using Teyt as an alternative moral compass to Fiarra. Sometimes he’s right, and sometimes he’s not; sometimes his worldview holds out and his ideas and plans take better account of this than Fiarra’s do. In these respects, he’s an opposite and a balance to Fiarra, expressing extremes when Fiarra voices favour for being moderate, and expressing moderating views when Fiarra seeks the extremes.
Teyt also presents choices Fiarra could have made, and the consequences those choices have – good and bad. I don’t mean to present Teyt as a cautionary tale here, but a valid alternative – his choices bring as much good and harm as do Fiarra’s, and perhaps would have ended up with a similar result, albeit by a different route, if this was his story and not Fiarra’s.
Corun is one of the few former soldiers left on the island. When the governor and his staff left, along with the majority of the regiment, the soldiers left behind either swiftly died of the plague or were driven away into the uninhabited part of the island or killed by the convicts. Corun was a fairly laid back, friendly guy as a soldier, and no convicts had a specific grudge against him. His existing friendship with Teyt and others meant nobody was too bothered about him, so he survived.
Laid back and friendly are Corun’s core traits. It means he easily makes friends, but he’s not too bothered about making his own decisions, or indeed working too hard at anything provided he can survive. He’s not ambitious and he doesn’t get deeply involved in ideological causes, he just wants a lifestyle that allows him time for fun and sleep.
Corun’s storyline will diverge from Fiarra’s early on in the story and stay that way – they were once close friends, but the path Corun finds himself on, and is reluctant to remove himself from, will be quite different to what Fiarra and indeed Teyt are aiming for. This will cause conflict and misunderstandings, though after a certain point I don’t think Corun will be a major player simply because he’s not a key player in what’s going on, he doesn’t lead the charge, he follows. More important will be Fiarra’s reaction to his choices, or rather lack of them – she might be surprised, and later disappointed in herself that she’d not seen this coming, that she’d not known him well enough to know he’d rather keep the status quo when things aren’t going bad for him than challenge it to improve things for his friends and many more.
The Old Convict
Siko is a woman in her forties, a more recent arrival to the island than many convicts. She was friends with Fiarra’s mother, and one of the few of her age who survived the plague. After a lifetime of petty crime, she’s got a lot of street sense (even if there aren’t as many streets on the island as she was used to). She’s quiet and observant, patient. She occasionally comes out with some good wisdom, but equally often reveals her own insecurities and superstitions in the things she says, and doesn’t realise that there’s a difference.
Siko has a view of herself both as the wise old guru and as the hardened criminal, but she never quite fulfils either vision. She occasionally makes poor decisions or gives bad advice, and when confronted with the darker crimes committed by the antagonists she’s ill prepared for it, becoming more introverted and less socially conscious, and more cynical and selfish in the process. Perhaps selfish isn’t the word I mean here; she becomes more concerned about keeping herself safe, and she loses confidence in her friends’ ability to or desire to watch her back. She thought she was tough, and when she realises that there are horrors in the world which are beyond her capacity to cope with, she shrinks back from the world and her friends, isolating herself.
As with Corun, Siko’s story will diverge from Fiarra’s fairly early on, though not quite as early and for very different reasons. She’ll make a return, I think, and how Fiarra decides to react to her will be part of the core theme of justice and shades of grey morality.
The Young Convict
Deego is a boy of 12 or 13, the youngest convict on the island and one of the more recent arrivals. Deego looks up to Teyt – he has a foundation of cynicism that allowed him to quickly latch onto Teyt’s worldview when he arrived. He is slow to trust and not always honest even to those he cares about, believing that he must keep something up his sleeve at all times in case he is betrayed – as he was back home in a scenario which led to his transportation to the island.
Deego presents a cheeky, angelic persona and can be humorous, bringing levity to serious situations, sometimes when levity is not appropriate. Behind this, though, he is deeply insecure. Part of his storyline sees him act against the group’s interests for his own safety, a decision he regrets but one which isn’t easily forgiven. Deego’s storyline will neither remain close to Fiarra’s nor see him side with the antagonists against her, but take a very different route in which he struggles alone, rejecting and rejected by both sides.
With Deego I wanted to present a third route, the choice either Fiarra or Teyt could have made to simply turn their backs on the conflict and run away from it, play no part in it. At the same time Deego’s route is not a sustainable one – he will be sucked back into the conflict come the end. The point with Deego is that major conflicts affect even those who choose to ignore them. I’m still undecided, but I might have it that even though Deego has tried to ignore the conflict in vain, it’s never too late to make a decision to play a part and make a difference.
So that’s Fiarra’s friends, at the start of the story. Things will change. I’ve not quite got the plot sorted out, but in developing the arcs of these four characters I felt I rounded the story out more, gave it more substance. What I’ve described above is censored a little – I don’t want to spoil the story – and in any case none of it is set in stone yet.
Next time I’ll look at another group of characters, the antagonists: the main villain, self-styled as the new Governor; her Dragon, who presents another moral position opposite Fiarra’s and ends up at the centre of Fiarra’s moral dilemmas about justice; and the Mine Director, who presents Fiarra with an alternative parallel to her views the Dragon’s moral position.