Monday, April 22, 2013

Some Thoughts on Seren

So begins my effort to actually use this blog. If all goes well, expect more updates here that are generally less formal and likely more rambly than previously. We shall see how it goes!

I don't do a lot of talking about any of the thought process that does the ground work for the webcomic my wife and I work on, Of Stars and Swords. Mostly, I like to let the work speak for itself. That's the idea, at least. But after talking with people at Megacon this year and seeing some things other creators have been saying about their own work, I've been rethinking my silence.

So here is the result, some thoughts about the comic's main character, Seren. There will be some mild spoilers here, mostly from the first twenty pages of the comic that detail some important background, but that should be about it. If you don't want those spoilers, go read the pages then come back here!

The best place to start is at the beginning, so here's how things came together. The basic idea of what would become Of Stars and Swords always had it's inception in a fairly common concept: There are two brothers from a noble family, one is a jerk and one isn't. The latter gives up money and power and all that goes with it for a happy life with a loving family, but the former isn't about to have that and murders the family because he's a jerk. The family was always a wife, a son, and a daughter in my mind. In the initial thinking, it was the son that survives and goes off to find his father and get revenge.

At some point, obviously, that changed. Why? I'm not too terribly sure. The best I can remember is lying in bed, staring at the ceiling and thinking about all of this when I wondered why not have it be the daughter that survives. Somehow, that thought made everything else click. Why not have it be the daughter that survives and wants revenge? Her being arrogant, stubborn, a teenager, and all the other things that make her insufferable and/or wonderful were pretty quick to follow. She became a very well realized character in a short amount of time, to the point that I knew exactly where she had to begin and where she'd end up once all was said and done.

Writing Seren comes easy for me. I have never been a teenage girl with a murdered family in a fantasy setting, but I was a teenager and I look back on that with one clear thought: I was a little shit. We all were, really. In my mind, we all went through pretty much the same crap at that age, and it's just a matter of tapping that to find where Seren's voice is. She's stubborn, she thinks everyone around her is an idiot, she doesn't listen to advice, she doesn't think about anything but the goal directly in front of her, and she's very easily put off when things don't go her way IMMEDIATELY. And the worst part? She's smart, capable, and able to back up a lot of her talk with actual skill and ability. Plus, she's pretty good with a sword and fairly quick to use it.

In a lot of ways, she's a pretty terrible person. In those first twenty pages, we see her kill a man because...well, just because. There's no real good reason. She just does it. And barely thinks twice about it. It's a moment that made sense to me writing it, but has been jarring for at least a few readers. And it should be, honestly. I'm actually surprised that people ever admit to liking her at all, as we've seen very little of Seren being anything but a borderline bad person. Even writing her, sometimes I just want to yell at Seren to take some deep breaths and go pet a turtle or something for just an hour, because if she keeps brooding and yelling at everyone her face is going to get stuck that way and then I'm just going to type in run on sentences out of rage at how infuriating she can be.

But sometimes she does make the right decision. Sometimes she takes those revenge blinders off and there's a moment of possibility that she COULD be better. She just...keeps going the other direction. Obviously, the reason to keep reading is to see if she ever does turn things around, so I won't say anything on that. She might, but she might not. There are some rough moments coming up in the story, and so far Seren hasn't proven to deal with those all too well.

Before I end this stream-of-conscious-like blog post, I want to babble about one more thing. Namely, Seren being a girl, and a fully clothed one at that. Comics, especially, have a big problem with how female characters are depicted, and things are definitely in the process of getting better...but fantasy is a genre that seems to have even more problems with that, especially the fully clothed part. But here's the thing: Seren isn't a girl OR fully clothed to buck any trends or show people 'how it's done'. Seren is a girl because...well, I mentioned it before. She just is. It fit. The story came together the second that thought hit. Why? I don't know. And why is she fully clothed? Well, because she is dammit. Her design is something I put together that Caroline has then tweaked since she's the one doing the penciling, but even that was never a 'I'll show them!' in how she's dressed. It just made sense. Fantasy worlds are full of sharp and stabby things and, besides, showing skin is cold and stupid and just asking for trouble. You're all just lucky she doesn't have a mask or hood, as well, because that would sure make all the sneaking around a lot easier.

And I've rambled enough. I don't know if any of this makes sense, but it at least can give you an idea of where Seren came from and where I come from in writing her. Or I just read like a crazy person, which isn't terribly inaccurate. Either way, if you guys find this kind of thing interesting, I'll gladly do more of this in the future. Probably do it anyway, maybe even more about Seren as Of Stars and Swords moves along.