The Lost Soul and Characterization

1I spent a wonderful afternoon yesterday hashing out the details of the latest Five Rims installment with my good friend and collaborator Jack Johnson.  If you don’t have a writing group from which you can bounce ideas around, you need to at least get a good friend who is also a writer or at least an avid reader.

In our conversation I would volley ideas about where I think the next novel should go (tentatively titled The Shibboleth Code) and Jack would springboard off of those ideas and help me shape the plot into something that will keep me from getting bogged down in story elements.  He’s also really good at finding plot holes.  In turn I’d help him with any projects he’s thinking about or mulling around.

Much came of the conversation, but one thing is certain, I’m pretty sure my main character Guillermo March is a lost soul.  A lost soul is a character that exhibits several traits:

  • Lost souls feel disconnected from others.
  • Lost souls fall back into bad habits repeatedly.
  • Lost souls feel like they have no place left to turn.

Guillermo has had these three main traits throughout the course of the first two novels (The Terminarch Plot, The Terminarch War) and as he has progressed, most of his character growth has been from trying to overcome these three traits.

I think there is much in store for Guillermo in the end.  One of the things Jack and I talked about was how in Breaking Bad, Walter White goes from being Mr. Chips to becoming Scar Face.  In my novel series, my character is kind of going the other way around in that regard.  He starts out as an un-loveable jerk and by the end he will do something that will set him apart as a true hero.

The fact that he is a lost soul has gifted his character with enough angst to try to better himself and those around him, even if the original intention for doing good came from a very selfish motivation.

Creating a lost soul as the protagonist for my novel series has been a fun ride, mostly because I had to figure out a way to make him redeemable for a reading audience.  How do you fall in love with a rogue who doesn’t seem to care about anyone but himself?

Have you ever had any experience writing a character who was a lost soul?  Share about it in the comments below!

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2 thoughts on “The Lost Soul and Characterization

  1. Most people know me only as a non-fiction writer. However, my start was in fiction (though never full novels).

    Lately, I’ve been getting the itch to continue a novel I did start some years back. And I definitely have a lost soul character in the works: a detached, self-serving jerk … who will unknowingly realize that he cares about a young thief he is originally only thrown in the mix with by accident. The lost soul character, however, is not brooding or dark. Rather, he’s pretty entertaining, crazy, cocky … yet still a total loner and completely self-serving.

    Here’s an excerpt (Savrek is king; the visitor is our lost soul):

    The posture of the visitor was almost cruel by comparison, making him seem barely half the size of the steward. He was, indeed, completely bald, for the top of his head was the only visible portion of it, so bent was he. It almost appeared as if he were inspecting the floor for a tiny, lost item. He tottered back and forth on stiff legs, with the continued aid of the steward. The rest of his body was shapeless within his sooty gray sack of a garment. It was clear only as they approached the dais that, within his gnarled free hand, clutched to his chest, were the parchment letter and scroll.

    Savrek leaned forward with feigned condescension, tilting his head as one might to a small child. “Welcome, friend. I understand you have come with news for me. I am most honored and pleased to have you.”

    The man released his grip on the steward’s arm and began to reel forward toward the steps. The steward swiftly tried to take his elbow, clearly not having expected his aid to have been thrust aside of a sudden, and fearing the old man would fall. But the silent, stooped man fervently rapped in annoyance at the steward’s proffered arm with his own clubbed hand, clearly indicating that he did not wish any further assistance. For the first time, the steward seemed a bit nonplussed.

    “Majesty?” he floundered, with raised brows that betrayed his bafflement as to what to do with the man who was attempting to hobble up the steps of the dais alone.

    “Let him come, Steward,” Savrek answered. “He has clearly been commissioned to deliver the letters himself, and so he must. So he must.” He turned his attention to the message bearer, who was hobbling up the steps unsteadily, threatening to topple backward from each painstaking one. Savrek leaned further forward, all but doubling himself over, and offered his outstretched hand, speaking as if to a pet. “Come, friend. Take a hand from the good king, and let’s have a look at those letters of yours.”

    The man, who had just mounted the top step of the dais, did reach out his knotted hand, which he wrapped quite tightly around the king’s wrist. Too tightly. And from the front.

    The next instant seemed to happen as if in a dream – slowly, yet somehow all at once. The man began to straighten as if by some miracle. His mouth opened to reveal a glint of sliver which was thrust out deftly with his tongue. The parchment and scroll had dropped from the man’s chest to the stone platform as his now-empty hand swung forward to catch the small crooked knife. Savrek was jerked roughly sideways on the marble chair, as the arm already within the man’s painful grip was pulled behind his back. The nimble bald man leapt onto the arm of the throne, and then slid into a crouch behind Savrek, with his front flush to the king’s back, and his knees on either side like a vice. The small claw of a blade that had been concealed in his mouth was now positioned, point in, against Savrek’s neck, just below the Adam’s apple – applying just enough pressure to assure that it had recently been whetted. Savrek felt the threatened puncture with each racing beat of his heart. The steward had dutifully rushed forward and was tumbling unceremoniously up the steps, as a low whine and hum from around the edges of the chamber indicated that several archers were cocking arrows to the ready.

    The newly-transformed intruder spoke in a hearty voice that sounded too jovial for the occasion. “Oh, now, put your silly arrows away!” he scoffed. “I’d have him gutted, cleaned and diced before one of you dimwits actually struck me, much less killed me.” He tugged upward on Savrek’s pinned arm.

    “Do as he says!” Savrek barked.

    The bald man’s face was pressed flat against the side of the king’s. He nuzzled Savrek’s cheek affectionately with his own, as might a cat. “There’s a good king. And now tell your other little fellow here to scurry along, as well.” He motioned with his chin, indicating the steward, who stood bewildered and panting, not more than a yard away.

    “Leave us,” Savrek obeyed.

    “Such a good boy. So agreeable,” purred the captor. “A suggestion for the future, perhaps? Well, first, clearly your entire brood of soldiers is just a mockery, really, in my humble opinion. But, be that as it may, at least instruct them to check an unknown visitor’s mouth before letting him waltz on into the throne room. Just because a fellow isn’t talking doesn’t mean he hasn’t anything to say.”

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