Thursday, September 24, 2009

Foiled by Drago

In our last post, we created Drago and put him in direct competition with Johnny for a medical school scholarship. I gave you a simple exercise and series of questions designed to help you understand how to exploit "core conflicts" -- conflicts that arise from clashes between people's core beliefs and needs. We also had an external conflict in the competition for the scholarship.

As the comment thread shows, most of you had a relatively easy time putting Drago and Johnny into a position where these core conflicts would have an impact on the progress of the meeting. None of you hunted for common ground between Johnny and Drago -- same major, same age, same career goals, perhaps some other similarities that might form at least some basis for a casual friendship. All of you focused on their differences and on the way their differences create conflict. These differences are the soul of drama. Conflict can be created by two people who want the same thing (a scholarship), but that conflict becomes dramatic when the people involved challenge each other on some deeper level.

I did this on purpose. I created Drago specifically so that he would challenge Johnny and Johnny would challenge him for more than just a scholarship. And now I would like to take a moment to explain how I did that.

One Simple(ish) Method for Creating Foils

Step One.
Identify the character's core emotional need.

Johnny has a core emotional need for status. We already knew this, and knew some of his other competing needs. But I chose to focus on status when creating Drago.


Step Two.
Figure out what would threaten that core belief.

This is pretty easy once you get the hang of it. Imagine something that would take away any possibility of satisfying that core emotional need. Johnny's need for status is expressed through material things. Taking away those material things in another character would call up the emotions for Johnny. See, it's not that Johnny actually wants all the latest gadgets and the shiniest car. He wants what these things represent. (Yes, he might actually want many of these things for themselves, but this doesn't explain why he always buys his new iPhone on the first day of release.) Taking away any possibility of gathering all these status symbols is good, but taking away both their physical presence and the desire for them is even better.

In the comments, some of you have mentioned that you know a guy just like Johnny. Have you ever had conversations with them about what other people own? In my experience, these conversations have three levels:
- envy (He has more than me, therefore he will be better than me until I get it, too.)
- confusion (I don't understand why he thinks this one is better. What am I missing? Do I have to get one of these things now, too, even though I don't understand it?)
- dismissal (They got nuthin. Ha! I win!)

In all those cases, Johnny is comparing what he has to what others have. This is how he relates to people. Remove the possibility of object comparison, and you remove his habitual means for relating to people.

So right away, I knew we wanted a character with nothing. But mere poverty would not suffice, because Johnny would dismiss them easily. After all, in the world according to Johnny, money can be made, even if you're a kid. Babysitting, lawnmowing, paper routes, even lemonade stands. So we needed a character for whom none of this would have been possible. And that impossibility would have been so absolute that even Johnny would see it.

I considered a scholarship student who grew up in foster care. I think we can all agree that foster children rarely grow up with silver spoons. Maybe he moved around a lot, so things like a paper route would have been out of the question. And there would have been some tragedy in his past that would have triggered the foster care situation, so this might have awakened some sympathy in people who met him.

But I changed my mind because of step three.


Step Three.
Make it big.

We talk alot about "big" books, but it's not always easy to explain what we mean. So let's look at an example. Remember, we're evaluating these scenarios in terms of how they challenge Johnny's core emotional beliefs.

Scenario 1: Character's parents are both doctors. He grew up in a wealthy suburb. Went to the best private schools. Drives a BMW convertible. He was raised to believe in service, the old "those to whom much is given, from much is expected" thing. He spends the lunch with Dr. Cannon discussing his volunteer work at the hospitals where his parents work. The discussion of volunteerism might challenge Johnny a little, but Johnny would still evaluate this character in terms of what he owns. There's little meaningful challenge here, so it's a fairly small conflict.

Also, it's worth noting that we're talking about a character with a fairly typical upper-middle class upbringing. There's nothing shocking, nothing to rouse our sympathies, and nothing to make it bold or unique.

Scenario 2: Our foster care student. This guy had little stability as he was growing up, and there wasn't a damn thing he could do about it. We know that Johnny has some stability needs that tie into his status need. Johnny would feel uncomfortable around him on some level, but ultimately he would be able to resolve it. "The guy grew up with nothing and no possibility of getting anything. But it's different now. He got a free ride to a state school for his bachelor's degree. All the foster kids get that. It's guaranteed (stable)." And then, having resolved the stability question at least in part, Johnny would start thinking in terms of whether the free public school was "better" than the high-priced private school he attended.

This character's upbringing is less typical than the doctors' kid. There might be something shocking in his past that led to the need for foster care. Foster care can rouse people's sympathies, and so it's a bigger situation than that of our first student.

Scenario 3: Drago.

I don't think we need to revisit the ways in which Drago challenges Johnny's core beliefs. He does, and we've explored various ways that this might play out.

Let's look instead at the relative bigness of his situation.

Genocide is less common than foster care, which is less common than a middle-class upbringing.

Civil war is more destructive to a person's environment/stability/material accumulation than foster care, which is more destructive than a middle-class upbringing.

Civil war, genocide, being rescued by the UN, being an international refugee -- these are all played on a bigger world stage, where foster care is statewide, and a middle-class upbringing is local.

We could go on. I'll leave it to you to find other means for comparison, and post your ideas in the comments.

But here's your real assignment for this post. People have a fairly limited number of core emotional needs. Some common ones are needs for approval, power, or independence. Choose one of these, or choose another core need if you prefer. And then think of two ways (one smaller, one bigger) that this need could be challenged through a character foil.

Yeah, it's a harder assignment, but it's a fun one. Have at it!
Theresa

37 comments:

green_knight said...

None of you hunted for common ground between Johnny and Drago

I don't think there is much common ground. They're very different people, for all that they might have superficialities in common. I found it much more interesting to see what each of them might have in common with Dr. Cannon who stands - at least in my imagination - squarely between them - the outward trimmings of Johny's world with at least some of the experiences of Drago's. And in showing what she has in common with Drago, we get a glimpse of the man Johnny *might* become... if he gets over himself.


I found it interesting to see how you came up with the two, because my take on it was completely different. I'd pitch Johnny against someone with whom he cannot compete - for everything Johnny has, *this guy* would be in a different league. As in, millions in the trustfund, *and* highly gifted. Maybe a touch of celebrity thrown in as well. Someone, in short, who outcompetes Johnny on Johnny's own turf.

The guy who volunteers isn't a foil. All Johnny would think is that that was a clever career move, and he ought to have done the same; but they're too similar. They might be rivals, and they might be friends.

The foster care scholarship student probably provides the greatest conflict potential IMO, because he could go in so many directions.

Drago, on the third tentacle, is maybe too black-and-white. His past almost gives him a free pass - it's hard to ridicule him, imposible to state that he hasn't had to work hard to get where he is. He is interesting in and of himself, something Johnny will not achieve unless he _lives_ a bit.

In short, I don't think Drago challenges Johnny's _status_ at all. He's moved beyond that, he's concerned with more important things, he doesn't play the same game. Put Johnny on Drago's turf, and he'll have to grow or be exposed as shallow and without substance, which I think makes for excellent story - but it will no longer be about status at all.

Jami G. said...

Teresa,

If you don't mind, I thought of an extra-credit question to go along with all of this...

Some people admitted that they were rooting for Drago in this scenario. Doesn't this tie into the other post about how to get readers to pull for the main character?

What is it about Drago that makes some of us root for him over Johnny? Troubled childhood? Check. (sorry, Jordan, I know it's pat, but it works really well usually) This especially works here because Drago is a survivor about his past, and not all "woe is me". Noble cause (Doctors without borders, etc.)? Check.

What else do you see as the differences between them that made you want to pull for Drago? And if you liked both of them equally, maybe it's because your Johnny had more sympathetic characteristics than other people's Johnny. (Murphy, I'm thinking of your inability to make bad characters bad, here. :) In addition to dating Johnny in a past post, what else made your Johnny sympathetic?)

Very interesting exercises, Teresa,
Jami G.

Murphy said...

Theresa, you're killing me! What a great exercise. I'll give it a go AFTER I'm finished all my work for the day.

And JG? You say: In addition to dating Johnny in a past post, what else made your Johnny sympathetic?)

You walked right into this one - I almost feel bad about putting it down. But, um, here goes.

You should all feel bad for poor Johnny and sympathize with him BECAUSE (are you ready?) He let a rare gem of a woman like me go!

Listen, I waited for someone to say - they sympathized with the poor guy because he had dated me...you all had your chance.

Disclaimer: It's been a couple of days so I've completely deluded myself into believing that I dumped him and not the other way around. I'm really good at that. hehehe

Murphy:D

Jami G. said...

Murphy,

Johnny didn't have a chance at handling you... LOL! (And no, that's not an insult, I believe at some point in time with these posts you, yourself, mentioned that you'd eat him alive or something... LOL!) It takes a special man to be with you and the poor boy just didn't measure up.

Jami G.

Jami G. said...

Teresa,

Okay, I'll take a stab at your assignment. I'm going to go with the core emotional need to belong for character A. Although successful as an architect, she's always felt like an outsider.

Character B offers her the chance to belong to an exclusive professional organization, but she finds out they're so exclusive that they discriminate. She can easily relate to those excluded (even ignoring the discrimination aspect). Will her need to belong overpower her inherent urge to stand up for others?

Character C offers her the chance to join him at an exclusive gathering of the world's top architects. He's extremely well-known in this field and this would be a truly one-in-a-lifetime experience where she could make connections that would catapult her into the upper echelons as well. Just one problem. He's also well known for hitting on his proteges and not taking no for an answer...and she's married. Would she take the risk to her marriage (even if nothing happened, others would assume that it had) for the opportunity he presented?

Here's how I see Character B as the small foil and Character C as the big foil: personal risk. The Character B scenario challenges her need, but the Character C scenario involves much more personal risk on several levels. How others in her field would view her (both positive - seeing her as belonging with those top architects - as well as negative - having her peers assume that she slept her way to the top). How her marriage (itself a source of belonging) would be challenged by the suspicions and whispers. How she might lose the opportunity by giving the "no" answer. etc...

Thanks, Teresa!
Jami G.

green_knight said...

Jami G,
I can imagine any amount of scenarios in which Drago comes across as not very sympathetic, but I could not imagine one in which Johnny comes across as the good guy (without invoking that tired clichee of the squeaky-clean all-American boy and the sinister Eastern European).

But what really drew me over on Drago's side is that Johnny is a boy. Yes, he might drive and have a college degree, but he's obsessed with boying things - someone else is sorting all the important things in life for him, he has no real worries, he's *never* wondered where the next meal will come from, what he imagines as the the highest price of failure is humiliation. For Drago, it's death; and Drago has faced in his daily life more hardship and more important decisions than Johnny can contemplate.

I'm still wondering what it will take for me to like Johnny, and I come back to the same: whatever it is, it will involve knocking some sense into him. He'll have to get down and dirty; he'll have to prove that he can take hardship without whining abou it, that he won't run home to mommy when the going gets tough. If he can manage that, I think he and Drago might become friends.

Edittorrent said...

Green knight, you're absolutely right that the upper-middle class kid is not a foil for Johnny. I was using him to show a progression from similar/un-big (if we can use such a term) to dissimilar/big.

When we're doing this kind of character work, there really are no wrong answers. You want the foster care student to be the foil? Do it, and exploit the situation for everything it's got.
Your character can do anything (and be anything) as long as it's motivated properly.

Jami, how would the scene change if neither student was allowed to discuss his childhood?

Theresa

Jami G. said...

Teresa,

Wow, that's a tough question, mostly because I can't see how a conversation could happen where Drago wouldn't find some way to at least obliquely mention the hardships he's overcome. :) If I think about this lunch as being like a job interview, Drago could easily slip something in during the "what are your strengths/weaknesses" part of the conversation.

If you force me to come up with something, I'd say that Drago would still emphasize his passion for Doctors without Borders. But Johnny would feel more confident because the rest of the setting works against Drago.

Jami G.

Murphy said...

Meet Milred S. Peirce. A woman in let say the 1800's. She’s been brought up in new and exciting times. Things are changing. She’s smart and strong and wants nothing more than her own independence. When her husband dies, instead of being upset she seizes the opportunity and remains in the small mining town to make a go of it on her own. She’s prim, business like and efficient. She hangs a shingle outside the house in town that they were renting and begins to take in miners. Hot bisquits, large meals and clean sheets - that’s her motto and soon men are flocking to her door.

Jezebel Sunday wanted to see the world. All she desired was to have the means to do this. She was a girl who hated conventions. But her parents married her off to a young farmer for the price of a few acres of land. She sucked it up until her husband died and soon the crops dried up because she didn’t know how to care for them. And then Rudely Studwell from the neighboring farm came over one day, and she knew how to care for him (but his wife didn’t like that - hence the subsequent tar and feathering and being run out of town). All she wanted was her independence. To do what she wanted without the tar, you know? So she examined her predicament and with no other options open to her, she took to the streets of a popular mining town to make a living and began to do what she does best.

Meet George Washington. A young black man who was recently freed and seeks to make his own way. He always dreamed of making it in the world with no one to tell him what to do. He sets out for an up and coming mining town as he’s heard that there are opportunities for a man to become independently wealthy there. His strong suit is laundry, (he heard I hate it) so he starts a business for himself and soon he’s making a good living.

Okay, the way I see this playing out? Poor Mildred, who is striving to do the right thing and make the money she needs to become independent. (You see her marriage wasn’t all sunshine and roses. Nope, her handsome husband had a mean streak in the bedroom which really turned her off of men.) She controls her anger at the opposite sex, by controlling them in the environment she supplies for them. They are grateful of course, for the creature comforts she supplies after 18 hours at the pit, so they put up with her sergeant major attitude. They tip their hats and bow their heads and nothing could please her more...Until Jezebel comes into town...uh, oh

Murphy said...

Jezebel, as a working girl, carves out a unique place for herself. She’s most sought after and she begins to pull in some serious dough. The men in town know there’s only so much of her to go around so they’re all trying to pay their respects. Yep, soon she’s shopping at those same stalls that Mildred frequents and be still my heart, the men are tipping their hats to her, hoping to garner her favor. Between you and me because it’s a big secret? Soon she’s exchanging her services for George’s, on the sly. Only Mildred finds out and she’s fit to be tied. She’d like nothing more than to stop sending her hotel laundry his way - especially when she spies, first hand, one of Jezebel’s corsets hanging on the outside line, but then she wouldn’t have nice clean sheets and her business would suffer and if the town folk found out, George would be run out of there so fast all his wet clothes would be dry.
So? We have Mildred and Jezebel striving for a common purpose. The way each chooses to get there is totally different but with interesting parallels. Mildred rebuffs men physically while Jezebel embraces them. It’s interesting that both are trying to control men by controlling what they supply to them.:) (Jezebel’s bad) but when you get right down to where they can connect? It’s laundry. (I’m laughing here but it’s true - listen) Who better to be doing it than someone who knows a thing or two about withheld independence, like George.(I have a visual of myself chained to the washing machine.) But isn’t it interesting that Jezebel sets herself up to be tarred and feather/thereby losing her newly established independence by sharing herself with George’s kind and George, who by taking the risk to be with her - is obviously willing to risk his business/independence because he’d lose everything if he’s caught While, Mildred - the one who has the least to lose, isn’t willing to tip the hand and take the risk...why?

Murphy:D

Jami G. said...

Murphy,

Yes, interesting parallels in your story. (And I love the laundry aspect. LOL!) One of these days I may have to name a character Jezebel in honor of you...

Jami G.

Murphy said...

JG, you didn't answer the why. And it's kind of cool how it all relates back to the core concept of acquiring or attaining independence. I'll give you some time and a hint. It REALLY comes down to the laundry. Go figure.

Murphy:D

Babs said...

JG, do you think it's because Mildred’s a woman and can relate to Jezabel on that level. I thought despite their differences in journey, Mildred, may be able to respect Jezabel's need for independence. If this is true where does the laundry come in? I think Murphy is teasing us about that.:)
Murph, I loved Rudely Studwell! LOL!
Babs

Jami G. said...

Murphy,

Oh, I thought that was a rhetorical question. LOL! Umm, Mildred really hates doing laundry? It's symbolic of something to her? Sorry, I'm drawing a blank here. :)

Please, enlighten us...
Jami G.

Murphy said...

JG, how should I know if Mildred hates doing laundry? If she does I don’t blame her, though.:)

No, how the laundry comes into play is like this: Mildred has mapped out a clear path to her own independence. She has worked tirelessly to earn the respect and money she needs to make this happen. By her accounting, with her present budget, she has a year and half left before she figures she’ll have the funds she needs to buy her house and live as a woman of independent means. The catch? She’s basing all this on her current arrangement. One of the biggest facets of that is George - working his fragrant magic with her sheets (that’s a big selling point with the miners) And then the unthinkable happens. She learns Jezebel and George’s secret. If she outs them (and she’d really love to do that because you know, it wasn’t fair that Jezebel was accumulating wealth and prestige in town doing the nasty - but that’s the reality and it’s eating away at the prim and efficient Mildred.) BUT Mildred’s desire to get what she ultimately wants, outweighs her immediate desire to satisfy her lesser need. Here it comes: Her ultimate desire is independence, right? And if she spills their secret, George won’t be around to do her laundry anymore - so she’ll lose precious time, even if she could find someone as competent to take over doing it - and that would jeopardize her time frame. Maybe even extend it to two years instead of a year and half. So, Mildred decides to keep their little secret PROVIDING George does all of her laundry for free from now on. What does this get her? Out of that shit hole town six months earlier!:D Her independence established. But then, it does beg the question. In this scenario? Who’s the prostitute, now?
And, as for George? Well, for a year at least, that poor guy is stuck in the town doing two women’s laundry for free. So I’m thinking he’s not ready to be independent as he failed to prioritize his needs like Mildred. I mean, Jezebel is fetching, but COME ON! Yep, I’m thinking Jezebel has the right idea and it’s really frying Mildred’s ass. Especially when, at the end of that year, good old Jezzy has more money than George and Mildred combined. Ain’t that a kicker?

Murphy:D

green_knight said...

I have to admit to being utterly fascinated by the way people _create_ characters. Mine just walk in, and they just _are_. I construct bigger pictures from the bits I know about them - their background, their behaviour, their reaction, how they bounce off other people in the scene.

Babs said...

Murphy! I thought you were kidding about the laundry connection. LOL! It works. What happens to Rudely Studwell in your story?
Babs

Jami G. said...

Green Knight,

Actually, I find the whole process of writing fascinating. :) I don't think I'll ever see my writing as being good as other published authors simply because I see the "sausage-making" that goes into mine. LOL!

Now, I will admit that this exercise was hard for me because I had to actually create the character. Most of mine for my stories just march right into my brain and start demanding that I tell their story. So I understand where you're coming from.

Murphy, I just knew you'd set it up so that I couldn't help but admire Jezebel. LOL!

Jami G.

em said...

Murphy,
I can see it all now. There’d be oodles to work with. So, I'm not going to ask if you're going to write it. I will ask, because I'm curious, where do you come up with this stuff? Especially with the laundry motif. There're you are, mentioning it last week and all of a sudden it's incorporated in this new post? Either you're far too clever or there's a fix on.:)

Murphy said...

Hi, g_k, *waves*
Yeah, I hear you about that. First I do the prelim story set-up and then I let the characters enter each scene and bounce off one another. Man, do you know how many characters Jezebel bounced off of? It was disgraceful.;)

Babs, about Rudely Studwell. I'm sorry to say, but his wife threw him over for the young choir boy who showed them to their pew every Sunday at mass. It was curious, that all of a sudden Sundays meant something to him, too...*shrug* maybe one day he'll head out to find Ms. Sunday - you never know.

JG? I'm so glad you got that. She's a bad character, right? (before you answer that, remember I'm Catholic and say yes) and still, as the prostitute? She was the only one in my scenario that was honest about what she wants and how she’s going to get it. She makes no excuses. I think if I ever wrote something like this, I'd really like her and yet, if you'd asked me that three days ago I would have said impossible.

Theresa? (imagine my voice doing a sing song here) I think I've learned something else.

Signed Murphy, who believes that no matter where you are in life, in terms of goals, success and accomplishments - there's always room to grow and learn. (Of course, in this case, you had to do the work...and I’m so glad that I did.)
Thanks Theresa!

Jami G. said...

Murphy said: She was the only one in my scenario that was honest about what she wants and how she’s going to get it. She makes no excuses. I think if I ever wrote something like this, I'd really like her and yet, if you'd asked me that three days ago I would have said impossible.

That's awesome! And you succinctly summarized what there was to admire about her. So I think you should stop thinking in the negative (I'm bad at writing bad characters.) and instead put it into the positive (I'm good at writing bad characters that find redemption, or at least possess some admirable qualities.) :)

Yeah, and how come we're the only ones doing the work here? You can't learn this stuff if you don't play, right? :)

Jami G.

Babs said...

Now I'm feeling guilty you guys. I did try to do it, but it's hard. I was thinking of the need for approval. I had a good situation, work related. The boss not giving his approval to my MC but lavishing it on my MC's co-worker. I just couldn't make it work out right. This exercise is harder than you think.
Murph, thanks for the update on Rudely Studwell.:) I think he and Sunday would make a great pair.LOL!
Babs

green_knight said...

Babs, I think what you have is different. Both the Johnny/Drago scenario and the one Murphy created sprang from characters who had something in common (a common goal), but who had chosen different paths to get there... which put them into opposition. And then sparks began to fly!

Can you go back a step? Who is your MC? What are his traits? What is he looking for? Then go and consider what kind of co-worker he would be best pitted against. What do they have in common? Where do they differ?

Never mind what the boss is actually doing - that's out of your character's hands - but concentrate on what the two rivals will do in order to get noticed, to win that approval. Do they chose the same strategy? Different strategies? Do both fight fair?

Babs said...

Thank you, green_knight, that makes sense. I was thinking to have the two women work on the same project and while one works hard to get her end done the other one doesn't. But she always seems to be at the right place at the right time, because the boss is always there to applaud her efforts. I'll have to think about what they can do to win his approval. I like your question about both fighting fair. This has certainly given me something to think about. Although I still say this isn't easy - for SOME people.;)I must keep in mind that they're rivals.
Thanks.
Babs

Murphy said...

Babs,
Gold star to you for trying. No need to feel guilty. If you're having a hard time making things work just ask. There are plenty of people around here who are willing to help out. Already g_k, stepped in with some great ideas. Don’t be afraid to ask, it’s the only way to learn.:)

Hi Em,
Sorry I missed you in my earlier comment. Hmm...laundry motif? I really would like to call it a motif. I mean, that sounds so much better than just a pain in butt, doesn’t it? :D But ah, no, there is nothing clever about it. It was called wishful thinking. I needed to have George have a business that was integral to Mildred reaching her goal - and well, wouldn’t it be great if a gal could get her laundry done for free for a whole year? So, I thought, what the heck - someone, somewhere, even in fiction, deserved a laundry reprieve.

Murphy:D

Jami G. said...

Babs,

You're right, it is hard. As I mentioned above, I'd never designed a character in this way before. (And you can see that mine was nowhere near as fleshed out as Murphy's.) But there is no reward without risk. :) You definitely get a good star for trying! LOL!

Jami G.

green_knight said...

Jami G.,
I can't design characters either. An alternative is to imagine a scenario and to cast about: If you're looking for a woman (Murphy, I'm borrowing shamelessly, because I like the setup) with ambition in a small mining town, what kind of woman would she be? Which path would she choose? Which obstacles would she run into? There are thousands of mining towns out there, and in one of them you will find the character you were looking for.

For me, a character needs to be alive before I can write about them.

(Word verification: locklych. That sounds like a particularly nasty type of undead. Ah, genre, never far from my mind.)

Dave Shaw said...

Okay, let's see what y'all make of this one:

Ron Coates was orphaned when he was 12, and has no close relatives that he knows about. He's survived to the age of 33 by his wits and by the kindness of people who knew his mother, a woman of somewhat questionable virtue who never told him who his father was. Now stuck in the middle of a war, he's profited by his ability to slip behind enemy lines to retrieve items of value, including bits of intelligence about what the enemy is doing. He presents himself as independent, clever, and tough, a facade that fools most people, but not himself. Too many people he cares about have died or are in danger, and it's weighing on him.

Against his better judgment, he becomes entangled with a group of refugees that a faction among the enemy has marked for extermination. The human military wants him to lead the refugees to a new colony, hoping they can hide until the war is over and the enemy has forgotten them. He'd turn the job down, but the admirals have plenty of blackmail material on him, his mother knew some of the refugees well and he can't just walk away from them, and the crazy commander of the refugees' tiny military force is the most alluring woman he's ever met.

Judy Shapley, one of the leaders of the refugees, believes that hiding is the wrong solution. She thinks the group would do better to negotiate with the enemy faction for peace, or failing that, to return home and demand that the military protect them. She can't believe that the situation is as desperate as this Coates kid, whose mother was nothing but common trash, says it is.

Verminhunter is an alien mercenary with a powerful fleet. She's been hired by the enemy faction to eliminate the refugees, and she will not let anything as puny as the human military stand in her way. Stretched as they are by the war, there isn't much they can do against her forces anyway. She just has to find her prey. Her only real problem is the cleverness of a human named Ron Coates - a human who's tricked her too many times. The refugees are business, but Coates has become personal.

Jami G. said...

Okay, Dave, I'll bite. (*ahem* Sorry, genre humor there...)

So, I'd peg Coates's core need as something along the lines of a need for independence. Judy (the alluring woman?) is a foil in that she challenges his need by making him care about others even more than he's already been doing lately. Her reckless actions in regards to the enemy will force him to get more involved. And she represents a whole group of people that need his involvement. No longer independent, he has a whole group acting as "ball-and-chains". LOL!

The enemy is an obvious foil in the standard way, but most importantly because of your note that she considers dealing with Coates as "personal". To really milk this foil-aspect, you'd have to make her threatened action against him more than just death. If she directly challenged his independence that would be more "foil-like". Does she have a reputation for keeping prisoners, etc.? What does she do to them that terrifies him?

Thanks for the story, Dave!
Jami G.

Jami G. said...

Green Knight,

Yes, that's a great way to put it. Imagine the scenario and let the characters who would get involved in that scenario introduce themselves to you. :)

I guess I do that sometimes too. I just hadn't put it into words before.

Thanks!
Jami G.

Murphy said...

Dave:

Gee, you see? There is no wrong answer and the possibilities are endless. I would have made Coates core need self preservation/survival. He's been doing it for a long time, right?

Judy Shapely? (I bet she is!) has a core need of survival too - but hers is directed more toward the preservation of, you know, humankind.

And Verminhunter - is the polar opposite. She's into killing, everyone - except maybe Coates. I'm with JG, what does this creature do that could terrify a man like him?

I think an interesting parallel would be that Verminhunter who is used to obliterating whole colonies - is interested right now in one man only: Coates.
And that one man, who is used to taking care of himself and surviving, finds himself drawn into helping a slew of refugees and by his sheer presence among them, could place them in greater danger - I’d probably draw on all that...

Murphy

Dave Shaw said...

Oops - should have clarified that Judy Shapley is not the love interest, although maybe I should consider making her a rival to the real one. Maya Ramesh is a wild child with issues, an alcoholic who thinks the end is nigh and that the only way to save any of her charges (and to be immortalized as a hero, of course) is to go out with a bang. Shapley hates Maya with a passion, thinking Maya's an undisciplined brat who enjoys the adrenaline rush of danger too much (not far from the truth, actually).

Hmm - Shapley's quite a bit older than Ron, but cougars are a lot more respectable in a time when life expectancy is nearing 300 (if one isn't killed in the war, anyway). Maybe she has a secret thing for bad boys and wants to redeem him from the 'shame' of his mother's past. Yeah, definitely make her interested in Ron - thanks for the idea, ladies!

Verminhunter's species, the Zhandenlar, are predators, bipedal tail-balancers that physically parallel velociraptors. Being kept as her 'pet' and forced to watch her and her troops devour their prey would be worse than death to Ron.

Verminhunter hates Ron because he killed her sister through a ruse. Zhandenlar get obsessive over vengeance at times, especially when enemies behave 'dishonorably'.

I'm thinking that Ron only thinks he wants to be independent. He really wants to be loved and to belong. He just doesn't know it.

Jami G. said...

Dave said: I'm thinking that Ron only thinks he wants to be independent. He really wants to be loved and to belong. He just doesn't know it.

But of course. :) Internal conflict comes exactly from this problem: a character being their own foil.

Jami G.

Murphy said...

Dave? Is this your WIP? Geez, you had me going there with Judy Shapely - I thought she was one of Jezebel's friends.

Murphy:D

Dave Shaw said...

Nope, not my WIP, although it would be in the same universe, 10 or 15 years later. I'm thinking that Maya is Sally's (the MC in my WIP) difficult younger cousin, with a bunch of the same genetic enhancements, just not the one that screwed up Sally's life expectancy but makes her such an extreme athlete. Ron's a character that was in my first draft of the WIP, but he got pulled because his subplot didn't add anything vital to the story. I keep fiddling with him, though, in hopes he'll find a home. Maybe this one will be it, someday...

Dave Shaw said...

Oh, and Jezebel would like the girlfriend Ron's with when he first meets Judy and Maya. Greta's a retired 'courtesan' - licensed in her home habitat, of course. Hehehe. (Added that one just for you, Murphy!)

Murphy said...

Thanks Dave! Jezebel will be really happy to hear that.

Murphy:D