Tuesday, May 02, 2017

The Evolution of a Secondary Character (Part III)

How about a SERIES buy link?
AT LAST WE HAVE ARRIVED!
(And once again, SPOILERS ABOUND! So if you haven't read Beyond Fate, you'll probably want to skip this -- unless you want to view it as an excessive tease, I guess. but. I don't recommend it!)

So after I got my (very long and very in depth) editorial letter on the manuscript I had submitted to WWP (represented by last week's less than stellar scene work -- and to think at the time I thought it was some of my best writing. yikes.), I had some brainstorming to do, and some serious rethinking of Marcus's role. He was problematic as a character because, well, he didn't HAVE a lot of character. Maybe a little bit of jealous personality but that was all he had going for him when it came down to it. So what was I trying to DO with him? What purpose was he meant to serve? Jealous friend-zoned guy wasn't going to cut it.

There were two major elements:

  1. I wanted him to be a representation of Eve's dissatisfaction. For the first two books, Eve had been happy to embrace her role in the world, but after everything she's experienced, everything that's happened to her -- well, she's struggling. She's grown a little bit more jaded and a lot less content. I needed a love interest for her that could illustrate some of why that was. (And by love interest, I do mean "guy interested in her.")

  2. He needed to be Joe Normal. A John Doe. A human, mortal tether for Eve, to ground her in the world. Kind of like Garrit and the House of Lions, but on a smaller and far less successful scale. Ultimately, he wouldn't completely succeed, and maybe he was being set up to fail, but he had to be positioned in such a way that he could give it his all. Marcus had to be the normal person who might have been perfect for Eve -- before Adam and Thor.

Maybe those two elements are more just one really complex element, but ultimately, those were the purposes Marcus had to serve in the book -- in Eve's story -- and so that was the shape I needed to grow him into. And it needed to start with their history.

In the Draft One (his second incarnation) Marcus had become someone who Eve had kind of grown up with. The Boy Next Door. But I hadn't done anything with that information, beyond using it as a reason for why he didn't buy Eve's blithe explanation of Adam as a long lost brother. (Something along the lines of "Uhhh, you never had a brother before? I think I would have noticed.") But in the final draft, I dug deeper into that. Marcus had to KNOW Eve. Or at least he had to know the girl he'd grown up with. And the struggles she'd faced. And I needed to give the readers a sense of how MUCH history they shared with more than just a one-off line.

It was still an awkward meal, though in a very different way than it might have been. Marcus had temporarily given up his planned romantic overtures, evidently believing that Thor had gotten to her first, and neither Eve nor Thor dissuaded him of the notion. Not that it had stopped Marcus from showing off.

“Anna can’t stand to be around children,” he said at one point. “Didn’t you ever notice the way she recoils? I’m sure you must have run across packs of them during your adventures, overseas.”

Thor had just refilled her wine cup, and if Marcus didn’t notice the way he hesitated, his hand hovering frozen with the bottle for just a heartbeat longer than it should have, Eve certainly did.[...] Marcus may not have realized the significance of what he was saying, but if Thor had watched her all this time, he surely did.

“The elderly, too,” Marcus went on. “We tried to get her to volunteer at a retirement community during our Twelves, and she had an anxiety attack. Head between her knees, trouble breathing, the whole works. Lucky for her, I was there. But she was always odd about large groups of people, anyway, growing up. The most introverted of introverts.” He smiled. “Good thing I was friends with everyone for her or she’d never have made it through grade school. Don’t you remember, Anna?”

She remembered. She remembered Marcus’s encouragement and kindness on their first day of school, his hand wrapped tightly around hers, lending her the strength to face their classroom when she’d been overwhelmed by even the thought of so many minds. He’d never understood. How could he? Marcus loved people so easily. And they loved him back. Because he never judged, never faulted. Hadn’t she been that way, once? Before she’d learned her lesson. Before Adam had left her. Before Elah had drowned her in silence. She couldn’t even remember how she’d managed in her past lives, not when the noise of it stretched her so thin, now. So brittle. She’d been devastatingly lonely in her last life, walking a fine line on the edge of sanity, but this? The way the world felt to her now, all yawning green pits of despair and starvation. In its own ways, it was worse.

“First day of our Nines, when we got off the bus, I thought she was going to faint,” Marcus said, laughing far too lightly for a friend treading much too near to truths they’d sworn never to speak of in company. “Her face went whiter than snow when she saw how many of us there were. My poor, socially stunted girl. Her parents tried to put her on medication for the anxiety, but she was having none of it, even then. And now? Forget it.”

“Enough, Marcus,” she said. The weight of Thor’s curiosity had shifted toward concern and she was fast losing what was left of her patience. Marcus had never understood, but he had promised not to tell anyone about the severity of her troubles, as a child. Not her parents. Not their few mutual friends. Certainly not Thor.

It had been difficult for her to readjust to living within the world. Difficult to live. And maybe Marcus hadn’t understood, but he’d been there, always, to help her through. Crawled in through her window to keep the nightmares away, when they were children. Locked the other girls out of the bathroom for her at school when she’d been crippled by migraines and had to get away from all the noise of undisciplined minds and furious hunger. Cut school to take her home for the same reasons, when they were both older. And she’d never been certain if he’d done everything he’d done because she’d called to him, manipulated him, or because he’d just . . . known.

But they weren’t children anymore. And he wasn’t looking to take up residence in her bed just because he was worried about her. Not this time. Though she couldn’t honestly say it wasn’t part of what contributed to his overprotective habits.

Is he kind of a jerk to go about things the way he does? Maybe. But his heart is in the right place. It had to be in the right place or Eve never would have tolerated him for long. But if Marcus was going to be protective and jealous, I wanted him to have a darn good reason for it. Not just "I want to date you." But "I want you to be happy and healthy and safe and I know you've had a hard time your whole life, and I'm going to keep standing by you even when you push me away. And yeah, btw, I think I could be the perfect man for you, but that's secondary to the rest of this."

Which meant our cafeteria scene from Part II got a revamp:

“Is it so impossible that alone, in a strange place, I might form a relationship with someone?”

“No, of course not.” Marcus raked his fingers through his hair. “But did it have to be him?”

“Did you have to date that gorgeous model from Sweden? Or what was her name? The transfer student when we were in our tens? Come on, Marcus. I never once stood in your way in all the years we’ve known each other. I don’t know why you’re getting in my face now.”

“You know exactly why, Anna. And even if you expect me to believe you don’t—you can’t compare this with any of that. You need me.”

She sat down with her fruit, and found her cheeseburger and fries already waiting for her, spit out by the printer. All she’d had to eat was some mint tea to help settle her stomach so she didn’t have to fake interest in her food to avoid engaging any further down that line of reasoning. It was too much to hope she wouldn’t have to engage any further at all, and Marcus plopped down across from her, looking absolutely miserable.

“Did you sleep at all last night?” she asked, frowning.

“I was too busy agonizing over having left you alone with an unknown quantity when I knew you’d had too much to drink. And the way you were acting—I know you haven’t had an attack in years, but after China, and coming back to school, for all I knew it might have been a perfect storm for a comeback tour of crippling brain-fail.”

“I’m fine, Marc.”

“But you’re different,” he said, scrubbing his face with the heels of his hand. “Every year, you push me further away. You push everyone away, and what are you going to do the next time you need help getting out of a situation that’s sending you down the rabbit hole? Or do you really want to be alone that badly? Because that’s where this is going if you keep this up, and I’m not even sure you realize it.”

She picked at her fries and said nothing. Of course she realized it. She’d been trying to shed him almost since he’d befriended her, and no one else had ever stood even half a chance. It wasn’t his fault he was exactly what she was hoping to avoid—a romance she couldn’t afford emotionally. If she’d met him before Adam, before Elah’s birth, before Thor . . .

But she hadn’t. And she was done with love. Done with these relationships that only ended in pain and loss, and that yawning green pit beneath her feet.

“Anna, I’m really trying here.”

“I know.”

“Can you help me out? Give me something.”

She shook her head. “That’s just it, Marc. I don’t have anything left.”

So once I had their history sorted out, there was still the issue of their romance -- such as it was. But giving them that history meant their romance made more sense. It was still about convenience for Eve, to a point (she *has* to be engaged with the world, and she can't do that if she's walling everyone off from herself), but it wasn't ONLY about convenience, because they both genuinely cared for one another.
“I can’t give you what you deserve.” The words were bitter on her tongue, and she grimaced. Hadn’t she just had this argument with Adam, and now here she was, using his excuse for herself. “I love Thor. I’m always going to love him, and you’re always going to be hoping for more from me, but it isn’t ever going to compare.”

[...]

“Just wait,” he said, his smirk shifting into something softer. He set his bottle aside and took hers, too, leaning closer in a way that told her he wasn’t at all dissuaded. “Let me make you an offer you can’t refuse.”

She crossed her arms, and eyed him. “Go on.”

The last thing she wanted was this night to end by having to walk him out of her room against his will. Not that she wasn’t above it, in self-defense. Anymore. But if she didn’t let him say his part, knowing Marcus, she could be sure he wouldn’t forget, and she’d be treated to it at their next meeting, all the same.

He grinned, an acknowledgment of his own foibles as much as it was his confidence. “If you need a distraction, I can give it to you. I can keep your mind tied up in knots of pleasure, if that’s what you want. And as a friend,” he emphasized the word with a comical leer, “I’m more than happy to provide you with that service. There’s no reason this has to be all or nothing, Anna. We’re not living in the dark ages, no matter how many paper books you buy.”

She shook her head. “That isn’t the kind of woman I am.”

“Then it’s going to be a long lonely life waiting for Thor to show up again,” he said, leaning back. “I don’t think you’re that kind of woman either. And don’t cite the last however many years to me. I’ve had a lot of time to think about all this, and when we were younger, you had no problem snuggling up with me. You were a lot more friendly across the board when you weren’t denying yourself every kind of affection. Case in point, tonight.”

Eve snorted. “Unbelievable.”

He wasn’t wrong, and that was what made it all that much more ridiculous. He really wasn’t going to give up. No matter how many times she told him she couldn’t love him the way he deserved to be, it wouldn’t make a lick of difference. He’d just change his attack plan and try again. Though she had to admit, this “it’s okay if it’s completely meaningless” approach was the last thing she’d expected.

“And yet, it’s all true,” he said. “You can’t lie to me, Anna. I know all your secrets.”
And Eve's pregnancy revelation -- that got a revamp too:

She let out a breath. “If I tell you the truth, you have to swear you aren’t going to go all noble on me. You’ve got a lot of youth left and you shouldn’t be throwing it away taking care of me. You should be out having fun with Sophia, or Ashley.”

He snorted. “Sure thing, Grandma.”

“I’m serious, Marcus. I’m not going to do this with you. I’m not going to do this with anyone. I’ve had enough of the grief that goes with it.”

“Anna, you’ve never had to go it alone a day in your life, and your life has barely been a blip on the map. Stop talking like you’re an octogenarian, and spill.”

She bit her tongue on a protest and ground her teeth. The problem with being Anna and not Eve at this age was the utter discount of her experiences. Marcus was the worst of all, because she couldn’t bluff on what her life had been like before they’d met. Well, fine. She’d given him an out, and she’d give him plenty more, and if that didn’t work, she’d find some other way.

“I’m pregnant.”

His jaw tightened, and he rocked back. “Whose is it?”

She shook her head.

“So it could be mine.”

“It doesn’t matter either way. You’re not ready to be a father, and I’m not interested in entering into any contracts.”

“Anna, for the last month and a half, it’s been you and me. No contracts, just us being us. You’re my girl, and no matter who the father is, I’m not going to leave you high and dry.”

“I’m not your girl, Marcus,” she said, even the thought of the old argument making her tired. “We have fun together, and you’re a great distraction, but that’s it. That’s all that this is ever going to be, and I made that clear to you from day one.”

“Now who’s being ridiculous?”

“You are! You’re supposed to be sterile. Why should you take any responsibility for a child that isn’t even yours?”

He shrugged. “I always knew my boys could take care of business, if they really wanted it. I mean, it isn’t unheard of. Sometimes implants fail, and you certainly didn’t impregnate yourself, but mine or not, even if you insist that we’re never going to be more than this, this still means we’re friends. And friends don’t ditch one another when things get rough. I’d never be able to look your parents in the eye again, if I did.”

“This isn’t about my parents.”

“No, it’s about you. And denial. And lie after lie after lie. I’m not even sure you tell yourself the truth anymore, Anna, because you can keep saying this is just about fun and you’re eternally in love with someone else, fine, but he left you, and it doesn’t seem like he’s planning on coming back.”

She rolled over, turning her back to him, and focusing on the wall. On the touch of Thor’s love in the back of her mind, promising eternity, if she could only reach him. It wasn’t his fault he wasn’t coming back. It wasn’t his fault they couldn’t be together. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“I know there’s no way you’d have let me in your bed if you thought this was only some vacation. If you really believed there was any chance you’d be together again, you’d have kicked me right back out of your room, no matter what secrets I knew.”

She didn’t answer. She didn’t want to think about anything that he was saying.

“Maybe what you feel for me won’t compare to what you shared with him,” Marcus said, much more gently. “But it doesn’t mean there isn’t something here. It doesn’t mean there isn’t love, Anna. And fun. And happiness. Tell me I don’t make you happy, and I’ll leave right now.”

But that had been the whole point. The distraction. The pleasure. She wouldn’t have been with him at all if he hadn’t given her that much. And he knew it. He’d known it from the start. She pulled the pillow over her head and shut her eyes.

Maybe Marcus was still in the dark about some of the truths of Eve's life, but he's loyal. Not just the jealous shoe anymore, but a steadfast friend as well as her lover. Someone who is consistently willing to call her out when she's overly maudlin, or acting inconsistently with the life she's engaged in. He's not just a sidebar, but a solid secondary character who is trying his absolute best to do right by someone he considers his closest friend. And yeah, sometimes he still gets jealous -- but it's not his defining characteristic anymore. He's also funny, even charming. Light-hearted and stubbornly supportive -- all the things Eve needs to keep herself balanced. And we see that it still isn't enough -- that it will never really be enough for her -- but he's going to keep trying.

Which is why I'm writing him a little epilogue of his own. I'll be including it in the anthology I'm putting together for the existing Fate of the Gods novellas and shorts, titled FACETS OF FATE.

Because maybe Marcus isn't everyone's favorite character -- he really can't compete with Thor and Adam and he's not supposed to be able to compete with them -- but I think he deserves an end to his own story, all the same.

Watch the blog for more information about FACETS OF FATE coming soon, including cover art and a release date!


Forged by Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1) Tempting Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1.5) Fate Forgotten (Fate of the Gods, #2) Taming Fate (Fate of the Gods, #2.5) Beyond Fate (Fate of the Gods, #3) Honor Among Orcs (Orc Saga, #1) Blood of the Queen (Orc Saga, #2) Postcards from Asgard
Amazon | Barnes&Noble 

Helen of Sparta By Helen's Hand Tamer of Horses Daughter of a Thousand Years
Amazon | Barnes&Noble

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Evolution of a Secondary Character (Part II)

Amazon
To experience The Original Marcus Iteration -- Klikk Klikk for Part I! But if you haven't read Beyond Fate, BEWARE SPOILERS! ALL THE SPOILERS!

(Also blogfriends, 2008/9 me was just not as good of a writer, I apologize. Thank goodness for my editor and the rewrite that came after this draft!!!)

Marcus's second incarnation was a little bit more fleshed out -- if not much more sympathetic. He had graduated from background guy to jealous background guy, for the most part, so it wasn't much of a step up. But he definitely took up a lot more physical space in both Eve's life and the first third/half of the book as a whole, and that gave him a little bit more room for personality. Even if it was the kind of personality you wanted to roll you eyes at more than root for!

So in this installment, I've got three scenes for you -- Marcus's most significant, I think, in his second coming. Two with Eve, and one with Thor, and between them, they kind of map the majority of his arc. (I use the term "arc" loosely here, because mostly he's just jealous friend-zoned guy who then gets the girl because she settles, but ultimately he doesn't get to keep her, and we never really find out how he resolves any of that heartbreak.)

This scene from Draft One (as opposed to Source Material Draft Zero) ended up getting significantly reworked, but the gist of the conversation still made it into the final cut -- meet Marcus round two, in a very special performance of Jealous Shoe:

Marcus met her in the dining hall as she breezed through to pick up some fruit. All these lives later and strawberries were still her favorite thing to eat in the mornings. The first fruit she had ever tasted, in the cave, in the Garden, that first morning after she had been made.

They didn’t taste quite the same anymore. Were never the same if they weren’t found growing wild and fresh. But they were still strawberries.

“So who is this Thor guy?” Marcus asked, leaning against the counter next to her.

She recognized that he was trying to be casual, and wondered if it would be better, or worse, if she pointed out to him that he was failing. She shook her head and picked a dozen or so of the reddest, ripest berries from where they sat on top of a cooler, tossing them into a bag to eat during her class.

“He told you. We met overseas. We must have had the same plans, because we ended up at all the same spots. We traveled together for a little while.” And that was one way to describe their marriage, so long ago.

He frowned at her and picked up an apple, tossing it back and forth between his hands. “What do you mean you traveled together?”

“I mean we got on the same train, and shared cabs in Hong Kong.”

Was she being too specific? Maybe it didn’t matter. If Thor was half as talented as she was starting to think he was, he’d pick the details from Marcus’s mind the minute he started asking questions. For all she knew he was listening in on her right now. She paused in the act of dropping the last strawberry into her bag to listen to that part of her mind where she had felt him last night, but she had no real way of knowing if that meant he was listening or just open to her. She shook her head again, annoyed with herself and her preoccupation.

“Why?” she asked.

“He just seems awfully interested for someone you barely know, that’s all.”

She crossed to the beverage dispenser and Marcus followed. She was going to need coffee to get through today with only one hour of sleep. Especially for this first class. American history had never exactly thrilled her. Maybe because she had spent a good portion of it in a mental ward.

“I think he got to know me pretty well.”

“How well is pretty well?” he asked.

“I don’t know.” She watched her mug fill and tried not to be irritated by his jealousy. This would have been an easier conversation to have if she’d gotten enough sleep. “Well enough that we’re friends. That we’re planning on getting to know one another better.”

“He sounded like you had been more than friends, Anna.”

She felt her face flush, and pressed her lips together, concentrating a little bit too intently on getting the lid on her mug and trying not to remember when he had kissed her, two hundred years ago.

“Hey, I’ve gotta run to class. I’m going to be late.” She grabbed the mug and her berries and forced herself to smile. “I’ll talk to you later.”

“Sure. Lunch?” he called after her.

She was far enough away that she thought she could get away with pretending she hadn’t heard. The last thing she wanted was to endure the second half of this conversation over a meal.
And of course it doesn't help the reader sympathize when our leading lady finds him kind of obnoxious. But I don't particularly blame Eve for that. Especially not in this draft. (If I recall correctly, my editor didn't really love Marcus at this point either.) The dynamics in this draft were a little bit different all around though (Fate Forgotten had a slightly different ending, too). Eve was still in love with Adam, waiting for him to find her again, and taking any excuse she could find to travel, looking for him. So not only was she not interested in what Marcus might have been offering, but Thor was an unwanted distraction as well -- bringing confusion to her otherwise well-ordered world.

Naturally Thor doesn't particularly care for Marcus either, as we see in this not particularly well-written scene, after Eve and Thor return from a trip to Asgard:

“Anna?”

Ah. The boy. Thor stroked her cheek, and wondered if kissing her would be too bold. It would get the point across to her friend though. Quite effectively.

She looked away. “Hi, Marc.”

 “What are you wearing?” Marcus asked, taking in her appearance, and the oversized cloak. Then Thor, belatedly. “Oh, it’s you.”

Thor resisted the urge to growl and straightened, dropping his hand from Eve’s face. He cleared his throat and nodded. He couldn’t bring himself to express any kind of joy at seeing Marcus again. It wasn’t that he had any malice for the boy, just that he didn’t understand how he could be so oblivious to Eve’s discomfort. To her disinterest. He almost frowned. Maybe he understood too well, after all. Knowing her, loving her, it was difficult to give up hope that she would return that love. But he hoped she did not see him as she saw Marcus, all the same.

Eve tugged the cloak into place again. “I was cold.”

“I couldn’t find you for lunch,” Marcus said.

“She was with me.” Thor smiled. “Sorry about that. We were just catching up.”

“Oh,” Marcus said again, glancing in his direction. He seemed to think better of glaring, and looked back at Eve. “Well, I’m about to go get some dinner, if you’re interested.” He didn’t look at Thor as he spoke, and it was clear that the invitation was for Eve alone.

“We were just thinking of going, too,” she said, raising her eyes to Thor. Please?

When Marcus glanced at him, he nodded. “I’m afraid I didn’t feed her this afternoon.”

“You got her to miss lunch?” Marcus sounded surprised. Then frowned. “You skipped lunch with this guy?”

She turned pink and dropped her eyes. “I’ve just got to run back up to my room quickly and grab something. Do you mind waiting?”

“Not at all,” Thor said. Truthfully he wasn’t sure he wanted to be left alone with Marcus, but he smiled at her anyway. Go ahead.

She didn’t wait for Marcus to agree before ducking into the building. He could see her as she sprinted up the stairs, narrowly managing to avoid tripping on the cloak.

Marcus was watching her too, and he shook his head. “What is that, a blanket?”

“Something like that. It was all I could find to keep her warm at the time.” He followed her aura as she slipped out of sight, moving up another staircase, slower now.

“Where were you guys?”

He looked away from the building and studied the boy. Marcus reminded him slightly of Garrit when he had been younger. Before he had met and married Eve. But he was fairer, with blue eyes, and lacked the character of the DeLeon line. And the maturity.

“I brought her home with me. To show her where I lived.”

“And you didn’t feed her?” But then the skin around his eyes tightened and his lips thinned.

Thor hid a smile by rubbing his face. Marcus had already jumped to his own conclusion about how they had spent the afternoon. And exactly how she had been distracted from her lunch.

Marcus sighed and looked back at the building, shaking his head again. “You’d just better treat her right, Thor. Whatever it is you think you’re doing. She deserves to be treated right.”

“Yes.” He was glad that they could agree at least on that point. Maybe Marcus wasn’t as ridiculous as he had thought. “She absolutely does.”

“Well, whatever. I’d threaten to beat you up if you don’t, but you’re kind of big, and I don’t think you’ll take me seriously. But I promise you, man, I will find a way to do you injury, even if I have to round up four other guys to make it happen. And you will regret it.”

Thor clapped him on the shoulder, perhaps a little bit harder than he needed to, because Marcus stumbled under the weight of it. He heard Marcus revise his estimate of four other men to six, mentally. Thor could respect him for making the threat, even if it would be suicide to carry out.

“If I have it my way, Marcus, you’ll never have to go through the trouble.”

Marcus frowned. “I’m not sure I like that any better.”

Eve came out then. Cloakless, and her hair pulled into an unruly pile on the top of her head. She looked lovely with curls. Even if they seemed to frustrate her. She blushed again when she saw him looking at her, and smiled at Marcus. “Are you ready?”

The boy shook his head. “You two go ahead. I actually think I should eat in my room and get a start on my reading. You know how it is. Skip one night and it all spirals out of control.”

“You’re sure?”

Thor almost laughed. For a moment she was just as anxious not to be alone with him as she had been about dinner alone with Marcus. Poor Marcus. She really didn’t know what she wanted, did she? Or maybe she just knew too well.

“Yeah, I’m sure. Go on. Have fun. But you owe me a lunch tomorrow, all right?”

“Lunch tomorrow. Absolutely.” She leaned up to kiss Marcus’s cheek, and then took Thor’s hand and started pulling him in the direction of the dining center. “Good night, Marc.”

Marcus touched his cheek where she had kissed him, almost absently. “Good night, Anna.”
Poor Marcus the Jealous Shoe. Even when he got more page time he still wasn't going to win any hearts. But in this draft of his (and Eve's) story, Thor still is forced to leave and Marcus is still sent by Elah to comfort Eve -- if less explicitly set to the task -- and ultimately, Eve and Marcus live together until Adam's arrival, which prompts Thor's return as well. Marcus is pretty peeved about that, too. But who can blame him? (It isn't really a good look for Eve, either.)

“Are you going to tell me what’s going on? What all of this is about? Your so-called brother? Thor showing up out of nowhere?”

She sat down at the table and served him a slice of pizza. “It’s a little bit complicated, Marc. All of this. And I’m not sure if I can explain it all.”

He was still staring at her. Watching her. And he hadn’t sat down. “When did you marry him?”

“The night before he left.” That much at least she didn’t have to lie about. “You have to understand that he didn’t want to go. He never would have left at all if he had known about Lars.”

“Lars.” Marcus pulled out a chair and dropped into it. “Of course. Lars is his son. That’s why you wouldn’t let me offer you a paternity contract.” His eyes didn’t seem focused on her anymore. “Did you know he was coming back? All this time?”

“No.” She reached for his hand, covering it on the table. “No, Marc. I swear I didn’t know. If I had thought it was at all possible, I never would’ve done this. I wouldn’t have ever put you in this position.”

“So, he wants Lars then? Is he moving into town?”

She bit her lip, and he blinked, then looked at her again. She didn’t want to say the words. Didn’t want to tell him he was going to lose them both. He must have seen something in her face though, because he pulled his hand free from hers.

“You’re still in love with him.” It wasn’t a question, but she felt his hope that she would deny it. “He means to have you both.”

“I want Lars to have his father,” she said slowly. Trying to find a way around rejecting him utterly. Trying to find a way to keep from hurting him as deeply. “To have a proper family. I think he deserves that opportunity. That chance.”

“What happens if he disappears again, Anna? For another four years? How can you think this is a good idea?”

“He won’t leave Lars.”

He stared at her in silence. Just stared. “So. That’s it?”

“I’m so sorry, Marcus.”

He looked away, his face empty. “I guess I’ll go stay with my parents for the weekend. You can do what you need to do.” He pushed his plate away and stood up. “I’m not hungry after all.”

But he stopped and looked back at her, and for the first time she saw his pain clearly in his face, in his eyes. Guilt tightened in a fist around her heart. But she hadn’t made Marcus any promises. And lying to him now – she couldn’t do it. Not to Lars. Not to herself. Adam had been so right, and she’d been denying it for so long, now, trying to force herself back into a life that no longer fit. She couldn’t live this way. She couldn’t spend the rest of her life, her lives, living a lie, pretending to be something she wasn’t.

“You know, I never would have thought this was the reason you didn’t want to get married,” he said. “I always figured you were just trying to spare me the responsibility. Never in a million years would I have thought it was so you could pick up and go whenever he showed back up again.”

It made her feel sick. That he would think her so disloyal. And it hadn’t been her motivation. Not then. She had wanted to love him, really love him. “Marc—”

“Don’t, Anna.” He shook his head again. “Don’t explain. I’ve heard enough.” He stared out the window for a moment, and she felt a shaft of his anger, his hurt, cut through her. The window which looked out on Lars, playing with his father.

Marcus left the kitchen, heading toward the front of the house.
So that's Marcus Mark II -- we've got one more round to go with some BEYOND FATE scenes to illustrate a little of his growth. But you can see for yourself that just giving a character more lines/screen time does not actually mean his characterization is improved. In this Draft, Marc is clearly still a one note wonder. (Sorry, buddy!) BUT. I was starting to definitely get more of a feel for the threads that tied things all together, as far as his relationship to Eve went. And I was still figuring out where to show instead of tell -- and how to show what I wanted to show, too. 

Part III should arrive May 2!

Forged by Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1) Tempting Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1.5) Fate Forgotten (Fate of the Gods, #2) Taming Fate (Fate of the Gods, #2.5) Beyond Fate (Fate of the Gods, #3) Honor Among Orcs (Orc Saga, #1) Blood of the Queen (Orc Saga, #2) Postcards from Asgard
Amazon | Barnes&Noble 

Helen of Sparta By Helen's Hand Tamer of Horses Daughter of a Thousand Years
Amazon | Barnes&Noble

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

The Evolution of a Secondary Character (Part I)

Amazon
No character in my Fate of the Gods series grew and evolved from one draft to the next as much as Marcus* did in BEYOND FATE. Eve and Thor and Adam and Lars (who kind of de-evolved, actually), Elah, Garrit, Reu, Mia, Athena, Ra, they all had strong developed characters pretty much from the moment of their creation (whatever draft that took place in**). But Marcus -- he was a different animal. So I thought I'd give you a glimpse behind the curtain so you could see where he began, and a little bit of his journey to where he ultimately ended up.***

WARNING: Spoilers for BEYOND FATE may abound, so if you haven't read book three yet... well, don't say I didn't warn you!

So let's start with Marcus's genesis -- in my original-original 2002/2003/2004/2005 source material, these are the only real significant elements of Marcus's involvement of what would become the first third of BEYOND FATE (and I am truly sorry, this is not well-written because 2002-2005 author me had not mastered her craft at all):
Her contemporary friends would ask about him, some out of romantic interest which she was swift to dissuade them from, some out of interest in her- the two of them could behave as if they read each other’s thoughts. Some saw in him a new boyfriend for their good friend, or competition for their attention, others just saw him. None suspected the truth.

“Just admit it, Anna, he’s perfect for you,” her friend Marcus teased her one night. He was laying on her bed, trying to read the assigned text for the classes he had the next day. She was trying her best to ignore the homework she hadn’t done yet.

Eve shook her head, smiling ruefully. “You don’t know what you’re talking about, believe me. He’s a great friend, Marc. He’s… indescribable, really, but I’m just not interested. I’m not ready for a relationship, least of all with him.”

He looked up from his book, quirking a brow, a very odd expression on his face “So you agree that he’s perfect for you?”

“I’m not having this discussion with you right now,” she said firmly, unable to bring herself to deny what was an exact truth. Of course he was perfect. He was a god.

“Of course not,” Marc replied mildly before dropping it and putting his nose back into his book.

She shook her head. They would never understand how hard it was for her to love anyone else. And how pointless it was to pretend otherwise.
And one more small scene:
She revealed little of what had transpired when Marcus found her still in bed, her cheeks puffy and flushed, her eyes red and swollen from her tears, he reached for her, and she went willingly into his arms. She crawled into his lap, as he was no small man himself, feeling herself to be much more fragile than she ever had before. Marcus wrapped his arms around her and pressed his lips against her temple. He sighed, heavily.

“Thor left, didn’t he?”

She said nothing, but silent tears renewed their course down her cheeks. With one hand, he wiped them away with his thumb, peering at her face.

“Dear Anna, no man can wait for you forever.”

She sniffed. “No,” she said. “I suppose no man can.”

He was silent for a moment. She could feel the conflict in him. “Did you love him, then?”

What was the answer? Certainly he had given her hope for love. “My heart was in too many pieces to love any man,” she answered slowly. “But he helped me put the pieces back together. He has made it possible for me to love men once more.”

He stroked her hair back, and she felt he understood the gist of it, if not the entirety. Poor Marcus had waited so long for her, she knew. He had stuck by her from the time when she had still told stories of her past lives. Then Thor arrived.

She stared up at him, her eyes searched his, and following his thoughts as he worked up the nerve to finally act. He placed a finger under her chin, and tilted his head to bring his lips to hers. It was not the most confident of kisses, but she kissed him back, gently reassuring him that he had made the right decision.

When, a month later, she went to him, confessing that she was pregnant, he didn’t seem to doubt for a moment the parentage of the baby. It was he, not she, who insisted upon a paternity contract, which would bind him to both her, as the mother, and the child, in legal guardianship. And when she looked at him thoughtfully for a very long moment before agreeing, she knew he believed it to be her evaluation of him as a parent, not her resolving to hide the true parentage of the unborn child. 

When the boy was born, he had a shock of thick blonde-red hair on the top of his head. She felt no resistance from him when she named the child Lars, she knew he thought his size unique, but considered it only to be some genetic throwback. When Anna agreed to become his wife, she knew he had forgotten Thor almost completely.

He couldn’t have known, though perhaps he suspected during her more difficult moments, that she had not.
The Source Material has a lot of big differences from the final version of the book (one of which being that all of this takes place on Jupiter's colonized moon, Ganymede, because I don't really know. I was obsessed with Jupiter's moons at the time I guess?) but ultimately, just like in Beyond Fate, Eve leaves Marcus for her son's sake.

There are a couple more awkward scenes between them post-marriage and pre-abandonment, when Adam arrives unexpectedly four years later, and then Thor does, and Eve is forced to explain herself and her existence to Marcus, at which point he takes some time away to sort things out, and Eve leaves Adam behind to explain her departure to him (off-page) upon his return. It's all terrible, to be completely honest, which is why events got reshuffled and reorganized in the final version, but the important thing to know is that Marcus really had no defining characteristics. He was just filler. A stand in. As my friend Sarah might say -- he was kind of just a shoe. Boring but a necessary placeholder, I guess.

It wasn't until Draft Two that he started to really take on a true shape of his own and become his own kind of character, but even then... well. You'll see for yourself in the next installment of EVOLUTION OF A SECONDARY CHARACTER!!! (I mean, presuming you care enough about any of this to read on.)

*Disclaimer: I know, I know. Marcus was probably not your favorite character. To be honest, he isn't really supposed to be, so in that respect, I guess I did my job pretty well :) That said, I think he's fairly easily redeemable -- mostly I think it's his context as the friend-zoned "nice guy" who won't be brushed off that makes him unpalatable, but the role he plays is perhaps not entirely one of his own choosing (there is a Certain Goddess pulling his strings, after all), so I guess I kind of feel for him, when I otherwise would be 100% team GTFO with all of you. I hope, whether you tolerated him or hated him, you'll hang in there with me for the behind the scenes, regardless.

**FORGED BY FATE and FATE FORGOTTEN didn't get redrafted the same way BEYOND FATE did -- FORGED had a lot of false starts before I figured out the sequencing, but the book that was published was fairly close to the book that I submitted to WWP. I just reshuffled in some of the Thor chapters from FATE FORGOTTEN, which of course then meant that I wrote some additional Thor chapters for FF before its submission -- but BEYOND FATE's submitted draft was... problematic, and ultimately I rewrote the entire thing from the ground up as the most effective way to approach the revision requests from my editor. And I'm not even a little bit sorry, because it's a million times stronger than it was. But that also means I have a lot of lost scenes and stuff that never made it into BF because of the ways the story changed in the redrafting. Like all of Lars's development beyond toddler, and some interesting Adam and Eve moments that I still love, and a seriously adorable Thor and Eve and Lars at the dinner table scene. "No telepathy at the table, please!" omg all the hearts. 

***This series is one I've been wanting to do for a while, in part just because I *can* do it, since BF had so many distinct drafts. But also because I think it's important to show that books don't always come out perfect the first try. Or even the second or the third or the fourth or or or. When I started writing Fate of the Gods, I was still learning my craft -- and it shows in my earliest drafts! Revisions and Edits are part of that learning process.


Forged by Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1) Tempting Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1.5) Fate Forgotten (Fate of the Gods, #2) Taming Fate (Fate of the Gods, #2.5) Beyond Fate (Fate of the Gods, #3) Honor Among Orcs (Orc Saga, #1) Blood of the Queen (Orc Saga, #2) Postcards from Asgard
Amazon | Barnes&Noble 

Helen of Sparta By Helen's Hand Tamer of Horses Daughter of a Thousand Years
Amazon | Barnes&Noble

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Musing on: Penelope's Suitors

Who *are* these men?
Mnesterophonia Louvre CA7124
Slaughter of the Suitors via Wiki Commons (public domain)

We know some of their names, of course, and even who their fathers are. We know that they seem to have some pretty poor manners, and as guests and suitors they have overstayed their welcome to an extreme degree (though it seems Penelope is in part to blame for not sending them away, herself, perhaps, too.) But. Who are they in the greater scheme of Ithaca's kingdom and community, post Trojan War?

Presumably, Odysseus took a majority of able-bodied men with him to Troy to fight. We know these suitors are the sons of now-old men, noble houses of Ithaca who were part of Odysseus's assembly. The sons of men who are now too old and weak to rule them -- much like Laertes is too old and weak with grief and sorrow to guard Penelope and Telemachus from the suitors, or even to engage in Ithaca's assembly to any degree. Had they been younger men, the fathers of these suitors would have left 20 years earlier with Odysseus to fight, right? And if the suitors had been older men themselves, they also would have left, for the most part, 20 years ago to fight with Odysseus.

So are these Suitors second or third or fourth sons (of second wives, perhaps)? Not quite so young as Telemachus, clearly, who was an infant when Odysseus left, but old enough to see their brothers sail off in his company, and just a shade too young to follow? Old enough to grieve for their brothers who never returned home? Are they acting out, taking back what they lost in some way, by pillaging Odysseus's stores in his absense and courting his wife?

During Telemachus's assembly in book two, Mentor says:
"Think: not one of the people whom he ruled
remembers Odysseus now, that godlike man,
and kindly as a father to his children!" (Fagles, p 100)
Is he accusing the Suitors themselves of not knowing or remembering Odysseus, suggesting that perhaps they were too young to have really engaged with him in any meaningful way? Accusing the old men of the Assembly of forgetting the kindness of their king, or betraying the kindness that Odysseus showed them by not standing against the abuses of the suitors?

It seems likely that reinforcements came to support the Greeks (generic national identity used loosely, here), so why didn't these suitors travel to Troy to fight at some later point in the war? Or had they not yet quite come of age, even then? Say they were only 5 or 6, and hadn't quite reached manhood before Troy was sacked? But that would make them only 26 to Penelope's mid thirties, at the youngest, assuming she was in her early/mid-teens when she married Odysseus and bore him Telemachus, now nearing 20.

Odysseus mustered 12 ships when he initially sailed to Troy with the army, according to Homer's Catalogue of Ships, and in the Odyssey, Odysseus claims to have begun his journey from Troy with a dozen ships, still. twenty to thirty oars per ship would mean a minimum of 240 to 360 men -- none of which returned home, save Odysseus himself. Could resentment for the loss of so many have fueled the blind eye that these old men turned to their youngest/younger sons who lived? Or simply the desire to spoil them, because they had not been lost when so many others had been?

Honestly, I'm kind of shocked that upon his return Odysseus is allowed to keep his crown, after losing so many men -- hero-kings have been thrown out of power for less, after all -- but perhaps it is the slaughter of the suitors that secures his power in the end. The old men, after all, clearly don't have the strength to stand against him when they cannot stand against their own sons. And with the suitors' deaths, an entire generation of Ithacans, ultimately, is wiped out -- leaving Odysseus with no one to challenge him at all.


Forged by Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1) Tempting Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1.5) Fate Forgotten (Fate of the Gods, #2) Taming Fate (Fate of the Gods, #2.5) Beyond Fate (Fate of the Gods, #3) Honor Among Orcs (Orc Saga, #1) Blood of the Queen (Orc Saga, #2) Postcards from Asgard
Amazon | Barnes&Noble 

Helen of Sparta By Helen's Hand Tamer of Horses Daughter of a Thousand Years
Amazon | Barnes&Noble