Well, another week has gone by, and I am a few more miles down the road to getting my books back out into published world. Thanks for joining me. This week did not go as expected.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m currently writing book 5 of The Sun Child Chronicles, Kaynenh’s Triad. I’ve introduced you to is Vahrenn, a new character in this book—a wizard with a magical affinity for water. I’ve just finished a scene of over 4,000 words involving a problem he had to tackle and solve. Cold, hard reality… possibly none of the scene will end up in the book. Not sure yet. But if it doesn’t—no regrets! I got to know Vahrenn much better in the process of writing the scene. And that’s important.
Characters and “Show, don’t tell”
For any writer whose writing thrives on character (as mine does), it is absolutely necessary to know more about your characters than will be written about. To clarify, the knowing imparts authenticity and integrity, and makes them a whole, round person. That will show in their actions, reactions, and words. It will show, but much of it won’t be told. Sure, I might mention dark eyes, or a toothless grin, or a six-pack. But I know way more about the character’s history, motivation, and fears than I’m ever going to spell out in print. Nowhere in writing is “show, don’t tell” so important.
No, that’s not a rule!
Oops. I almost sound like I’m dictating what writers should do or should avoid. And I can’t do that. My words are far from the final ones—only what works for me. At least most of the time. But Somerset Maugham said:
“There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”
And that same famous author of bygone days also said:
“You can never know enough about your characters.”
So then I rest my case. Sort of. Really, I’m just plugging along and learning as I go. That hasn’t changed since my earliest days as an author.
Characters are dangerous (but fun) drivers
One of the things I’ve done in my previous posts is introduce you to some of the characters in The Sun Child Chronicles. As I mentioned, characters drive my stories, and in fact, even though I might pretend they’re in the passenger seat. Any character of significance will grab the wheel and send us careening around an unexpected corner. Sometimes they even kick me right out of the car.
That’s part of what makes me want to come back to The Sun Child Chronicles. I love the characters, and they make writing fun. Also, there are a lot of them—more all the time, because as is usual in fantasy series, the story gets bigger with every book.
I interviewed the wizard Thurlock
Now, speaking of characters and knowing them, let me introduce you this week to Thurlock. He is the most important wizard in the series. A “helper” character who guides the main protagonist through, over, and around all sorts of difficult problems. Often grumpy, often laughing, sometimes kind, sometimes scary. A while back (when one of my books was being released), I interviewed him for another blog. And even though I already knew him pretty well, some of his answers surprised me. Here’s that interview, slightly modified. I hope you enjoy his grumpy-wizard self.
In his own words
I’ve been wondering about Thurlock ever since I met him. I mean the old wizard is kind of a mystery man, right? I recently caught him with a cell phone call on a day that he popped over to Earth for a Chai Tea Latte and some pumpkin bread with too much sugar icing. He wasn’t really happy about it, but he does know where his bread is buttered, so to speak…
Hey, Thurlock. Lou Hoffmann, here. You got a few minutes?
This is my off-page time, Ms. Hoffmann. Off-duty. Why are you calling me? Haven’t you put me through enough already? What with several more books about The Sun Child and me coming up, I’d think you’d have plenty more trouble to make for me without seeking me out on my private time.
Well, Jeez, Thurlock. I got to thinking people must really wonder about you—”
“Do they, now?”
“I think so. You’re interesting. I mean 1000 years old—”
“Now you’re just being mean.”
“No, really. I thought you might answer a few questions.”
“I’m rolling my eyes, now. Thought I’d tell you since this is a phone call. I mean, I can’t do the eye-roll as good as Luccan, or even as good as Han, but it is a problem with non-face-to-face communication that gestures and facial expressions can’t be seen. I’ve been studying this phenomenon and have found research, mostly by Earthborns, that shows—”
“Thurlock, you’re rambling.”
“Oh yes, sorry. I was. Never mind then, let’s just get to the point.”
“Okay, questions. Before I start, though, I know I’m supposed to know you best, and I’ll be honest. Some of these questions I’m going to ask I’m pretty sure I know the answers to. Answer anyway, if you would, and feel free to surprise me with the truth.”
“Shouldn’t be hard to do…”
Where and when were you born? Tell us what your childhood was like?
I was born a very, very long time ago, in the northern part of the Sunlands, on the western outskirts of the Greenwood. The place was called Kharravale; we had a farm a mile or so from the village. My childhood…. How rarely I think of it now. I guess if nothing else I could indeed be thankful that you brought it to my mind. It… It wasn’t all good, of course. No childhood is, but as I look back through this vast stretch of time, it seems wonderful. Golden and filled with sun—perhaps Behlishan had chosen me even then, though I didn’t feel chosen as I ran in the fields. I loved the smell of the earth—you know, mud, pines and oak and maple, mown hay, wild honeysuckle. I never wanted to go indoors until winter came, and then only for hours at a time. The snow would fall heavy and deep and stay clean and white for a month. We had toboggan races, we children. And when parents went visiting it was by sleigh rather than wagon. Even the horses liked it better I think. Or maybe they just knew hot mash would be waiting, the same way we looked forward to sweet tea and honey cakes. Oh yes, it was a beautiful thing to be a boy in that place in that time. I suppose if I thought of the future at all, I thought I’d live out my years right there in the valley, perhaps raise my own children, run the family’s farm. But I went to school instead.
That leads me nicely to my second question—or perhaps I should say set of questions, Thurlock. When did you start your formal education, and how long did it last? Did you enjoy school, or want to go back to an easier time? Did you have a favorite teacher, or is there one who left a giant footprint on who you were to grow up to be?
Was I rambling? I’m sorry. And yes, you should say set of questions. Be accurate when you bother a wizard, Lou. To answer your question, I started early and I didn’t dislike school, but I did miss being a child, and being home. In those days, in that place, most children didn’t go to school at all, but when they were around twelve or so, the parents would contrive to get a batch together and teach them to read and add better, things like that. But Kharravale, you know, was named after the Kharrighan, and it was full of his descendants. Almost a tribe, or at the least a clan. Every generation sported a few young people with higher than average magical talent. I was not only among the best of my cohort, but manifested enough power, starting when I was ten, to scare my elders. By the time I’d had my eleventh birthday they’d made arrangements with a small wizarding preparation school in Nedhra City, and I never lived at home again, though I did treasure my visits. I did have a favorite teacher! Her name was Yolahnda O’Shanadah. I learned absolutely nothing from her. I was fourteen when I started studying with her and I instantly became infatuated. As far as the giant footprint, that was left by a very old man named Thomkit. An historian and a seer. I never learned to do what he did, but he taught me how to read and respect the prophecy, and how to disregard them for the sake of letting things unfold.
Did you have a best friend in your school days—tell s about them? Do you have one now?
I did have a best friend. He was Drakha, and every bit as heroic and beautiful as Han Shieth, though a hunter like Han’s brother, rather than a warrior. He’s one of the many, many friends I’ve watched grow old and die while I linger here far beyond my time. And yes. In honesty, though I’d say our relationship is quite complex, one of the things Han Shieth has become is my friend—the best of those few I have.
I’m sorry. Maybe talking about bygone days is making you sad. Probably I shouldn’t ask any more questions about the past, but I do have one more I’d like to slip in, if you’ll allow it. Were you ever so in love you thought you’d spend the rest of your life with someone, even if it meant giving up your position as a prominent wizard?
Yes. (Silence). We-e-ell, it looks as though you’re not going to let me leave it at that. Did anyone ever call you a busybody, Lou? No? They should have. But fine. I’ve loved two people that much. The first was a girl I met at a tea shop near a famous theater in Nedhra City. I saw her every day for a year. She was… I think in Earth you’d call her a transwoman, perhaps, though in Ethra we just call a woman a woman. She was the most easy-going, the least serious person I knew at the time. She was fully engaged with living life and had no great need to address the world’s problems. We ate and walked and went places around the city, or out to the countryside a few times. We talked about art and music and plays and the weather and her crazy clothes and her garden and… you know, just everything. And we made love and—oh I know some people think I should have had a problem with that. As Han says, men are not my type. But she wasn’t a man you see, and as far as the love-making went, everything fit together just fine and it all worked splendidly from my point of view. But I was studying, you understand, and at a certain point it became clear that I’d have to pay a little more attention to wizardry or else give it up. I chose give it up. She chose to write me a note and leave on the mantel piece for me, and I never saw her again. And the second person… Well, the second person was Isa. Yes, the woman you know as the Witch Mortaine, the one Luccan and I dismantled with Behl’s help in Black Creek Ravine. Yes, she was beautiful once, and elegant, even understanding, though perhaps never truly compassionate, certainly never sweet. But oh she took me by surprise, like cold water on a hot day. It ended when I tried to save her from her fate, and as repayment she tried to kill me. No more about my past now. Please. I’m becoming melancholy and that makes my blood pressure go up.
Tell us your honest opinion of Lucky—or Luccan as you know him. Do you enjoy being around him? Does he annoy you?
Oh, certainly he annoys me, but what 1000-year-old man is not annoyed by someone who’s 16? The sheer amount of energy the boy possesses drives me crazy. And the questions. Behl’s toenails! I’ve never heard so many questions, and so strange. Do you know what he asked me? “If life wasn’t life, what would it be?” I didn’t even try to answer—and you shouldn’t either Lou. Yet, Luccan has more of the true Suth Chiell about him than any I’ve seen since I became cognizant of what a Suth Chiell should be. And aside from that, he is a strong, kind, compassionate human being. And delightful—his humor, his smile, his wonderful curious mind. I think of him as a grandchild, though I know that’s ludicrous. I love him. And I pin my hopes for the future on him, with not a single doubt or qualm. Are we about done now, Ms. Hoffmann? My chai is getting cold, and I do have plans for the day.
I’m sorry, Thurlock. As you said, this is your personal time. I had no right to impinge and I do appreciate you answering my questions. I had wanted to ask you about Han… you know, the dragon thing? And also what your thoughts are on the future of Ethra in general. But I’ll cut it short with one more question I’ve been wondering about since I met you. Are you immortal?
Oh! Gods, I hope not.
And Thurlock hung up on me. I guess I should be grateful for what we did get.
Once more, thanks for joining me on the journey. I love comments, and I’ll answer them, too!
On Twitter, I’m @Lou_Hoffmann