As part of my author guest blog series I am proud to present another guest blog spot.
Is out NOW!
So go get your copy!
Writing an Eccentric Character
by Darrell Drake
When folks reflect on A Star-Reckoner’s Lot it often involves an appreciation for Waray, one of the book’s secondary characters. But I’ll find myself swept up in discussion of the setting (uninvited rambling more like), heroine, or themes. That’s all well and good, but I’m going to use this opportunity to peer into Waray’s underpinning. What went into writing a character with such a markedly eccentric personality?
Well, most importantly, she was shored and buttressed same as her companions. Her past undoubtedly shaped what she has become. A quirky character can be endearing, but I prefer a bit more substance. In looking to achieve that, I try to avoid approaching from the outside in. A past and personality must first be established; motivations must find purchase. This may seem obvious, but it’s easy figure you’ll leave it for later, or overlook the necessity entirely. This is doubly true when it comes to bizarre or batty characters.
So my research began with finding a suitable time for her upheaval, a drive, an idea of where this person came from. Half-person, actually; Waray is half div. Divs can briefly be described as mythological creatures that seek to spread chaos and corruption, as numerous and varied as the excuses I give for my mistakes. This heritage and her humanity are locked in a constant struggle for control. During my research of Sassanian Iran (in keeping with the setting), I happened upon a client king who was overthrown—ostensibly due to fraternizing with divs, and overindulging in vices. I won’t go into further detail due to spoilers. Suffice it to say, what happened between Waray and this king uprooted her life and sent her down a dark path.
Her experiences with her brethren in the land of the divs shaped her same as her interactions with humans, ultimately leaving her with nowhere she truly belonged—an outcast at best, a threat to most. When we first meet Waray, she speaks of a search. Obliquely, as readers will come to find she is wont to do. But a search. And it’s this search that has transformed her more than anything else.
Once her substance had been established, I had something to work with. This is where her idiosyncrasies come into play, and why they’re extensions of who she was and has become.
Her turbulent childhood and displacement had the unfortunate effect of developing symptoms of schizotypal personality disorder, which only worsened as time went on and her abuse persisted. This all reached a boiling point after a certain life-changing event. Waray found herself in a bad . . . way.
*As I’ve discussed in a guest post elsewhere, I strongly espouse a researched and more importantly sympathetic portrayal of mental illness.
It isn’t until much later that she first appears in A Star-Reckoner’s Lot. Waray’s idiosyncrasies are immediately recognizable. Many of which can be traced to her mental illness, her terrible bloodline, or both.
Like a bird looking this way and that, Waray’s head will cant while speaking, while pondering, or idly at times (not constantly—just once will suffice). She exhibits peculiar behavior in her voracious appetite for and knowledge of eggs, which she pilfers from many a clutch, and in the way she arranges the nests afterward. In her speech, she’ll often describe things as “šo-”: šo-damned, šo-irritating.
She’s contradictory, prone to pranks and lies, and generally goes well out of her way to be disruptive to the party. She abhors authority and orders. Oh, and I suppose she’s also pretty prone to rage and bloodthirst, though she does her utmost to keep it in check. While some of this overlaps with her disorder, it’s all deeply rooted in her nature as a half-div.
Waray will respond to situations inappropriately, such as blitheness where it doesn’t belong. She’ll oftentimes outright ignore it when someone addresses her, and regularly responds with a “Maybe” or “I think” that screens her answer in uncertainty (even when certain). She’ll voice thoughts that are highly irregular and convoluted, but somehow inspired in so being. She’ll perceive events outlandishly. Sometimes she’ll be swept up in the delusion that events have some special significance, as if they’re all revolving around her. As with her half-div idiosyncrasies, many of these symptoms overlap with her lineage.
As a clear consequence of everything she has endured and continues to endure, Waray doesn’t travel with others. Those that won’t try to run her through or run away on sight—who really are few and far between—never get a chance to earn her trust. It isn’t until her journeys in A Star-Reckoner’s Lot that she begins to confront her trouble with social interaction. Even then, she’ll disappear for days on end, only to rejoin the party as if she’d never left.
Waray also finds many an opportunity for some humor. And while I could explain it away (and some of it is without question her nature as a half-div), I’ll openly admit that I gave it to her out of a desire to displace some of the gloom. Neither the book nor her path are uplifting stories, but I refuse to write uninterrupted doom and gloom. Or characters without a sense of humor for that matter. Readers seem to appreciate the combination, so I’m glad I chose to go that route.
There’s more to Waray than I’ve discussed here—than I can discuss without venturing into spoiler territory. The lies she carries are no ordinary lies, as her introductory chapter demonstrates. Hers is a tragic tale. One I encourage you to experience.
Many thanks to James for having me. I raise my drinking horn to you.
Darrell Drake has published four books, with A Star-Reckoner’s Lot being the latest. He often finds himself inspired by his research to take on new hobbies. Birdwatching, archery, stargazing, and a heightened interest in history have all become a welcome part of his life thanks to this habit.
Ashtadukht is a star-reckoner. The worst there’s ever been. Witness her treacherous journey through Iranian legends and ancient history.
Only a brave few storytellers still relate cautionary glimpses into the life of Ashtadukht, a woman who commanded the might of the constellations—if only just, and often unpredictably. They’ll stir the imagination with tales of her path to retribution. How, fraught with bereavement and a dogged illness, she criss-crossed Sassanian Iran in pursuit of creatures now believed mythical. Then, in hushed tones, what she wrought on that path.