Photo credit: Desertbloom Photography.
Last time, an Author and a Reader stepped through the Storywell and entered the world of Reimira. After a perilous encounter with a dragon, the Author used her magical Storysword to locate the main character of her novel. It isn’t every day that an author gets to meet her own characters. What could possibly go wrong?
Hardly able to contain her excitement, the Author of Ashen Blaze pops out of the bushes and strolls nonchalantly toward the auburn-haired girl in the tattered green cloak who stands on a clifftop overlooking the sea.
“Why is it that all indie authors make their main characters exactly like themselves?” the Reader grumbles.
The Author spins around, her face eclipsed by a wrathful expression. “What are you talking about?! You think it’s a bad thing when an author takes a small part of their soul and imbues it into a character?”
An eyeroll perfectly captures the Reader’s opinion on the matter. “I get tired of reading about heroes who sound like carbon copies of their authors.”
“And how do you know they are carbon copies? Do you know the author personally?”
“It’s easy to tell if an author has pasted themselves into the world. The MC will either be shallow because the author has disproportionately presented their good attributes while ignoring their faults, or they’ll be too angsty because the author has used the book as a therapy session. It’s even worse when the MC becomes a tool to convey the author’s bias.”
The Author’s forehead creases. “I think I know what you mean, though I personally don’t have a problem with characters being based on their authors. We do our best work when we write about something we know. There’s also more of a chance that readers will connect with a character’s experience if it comes from real life and isn’t just a shot in the dark.”
“What I would recommend to you authors is that you don’t copy and paste yourselves into a fantasy world,” the Reader advises, holding a finger in the air. “Make the character a character in her own right, with experiences and motivations that fit in the setting of her world. And don’t use her to rail against the sins of humanity unless that’s the theme of your book.”
“Oh, you know what a theme is?” The Author chuckles nervously.
“Of course. It might be the only thing I learned in Literature class.”
“Our secret weapon has been revealed, it seems.”
“What’s a theme?” a quiet voice asks.
The Author and Reader freeze, stare at one another for a moment, then slowly turn to face the redheaded girl standing like a shadow among the trees. She glances between them, eyes probing.
“It’s like the main message of a book,” the Author tries to explain. “The way that characters interact with the story and each other is supposed to tie in with the theme.”
Ariella and the Reader gaze blankly at the Author. She sighs and crosses her arms. “Look, I don’t have time for a crash course in theme. Heaven knows I’m not an expert on it, either. You should ask Josiah or one of the other Story Embers peeps.”
Ariella and the Reader blink, looking the part of two sleepy owlets. “Can I get an example, please?” the Reader asks.
“That would be helpful, Miss…who are you?” The MC’s eyes bore into the Author again.
She clears her throat. “No one of consequence.”
A smirk twists one corner of the girl’s mouth. “I must know.”
“Now she’s making references. I have taught her too well—eeeehhh, I mean—” She begins cough-laughing, which only makes her appear more ridiculous in the eyes of the Reader and her creation.
“Let me see if I understand,” the Reader says, kindly intervening on behalf of the Author. “A theme would be like…joy in the midst of suffering or hope when all seems lost, correct?”
“Yes,” the Author gasps, still trying to recover from her fit of laughter.
“So, taking this nice girl for example, suppose she went through a lot of tough struggles that tried to make her despair, and even though she was hard-pressed, she never gave up hope. That would be a good way to convey the theme of hope, right?”
For an instant, Ariella looks like a deer in the headlights, the statement having hit too close to the truth. “Entirely hypothetical, my dear girl,” the Reader assures her, and she relaxes a little.
“Your assessment of theme is exactly right,” the Author says, smirking. “I’m impressed, Reader.”
“Thank you, Author.”
“Are those nicknames?” Ariella asks, her voice level, but with a hint of curiosity.
“Yeah! Oh, hey, we have a few questions for you.” Noticing Ariella’s wariness, the Author hurriedly adds, “You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to.”
Ariella eyes the two for a moment, assessing their sincerity. “All right, ask away.”
“Brilliant!” The Author beams. “Take it away, Reader.”
“Uhhh…okay. What is…your favorite food?”
“I like cornbread with honey,” she replies after a moment, smiling faintly.
The Author nudges the Reader with her elbow and whispers something under her breath. Jolting a little, the Reader nods. “Right, right. I’ll do that.” They both turn back to Ariella. “What’s the weirdest dream you’ve ever had?”
“That’s supposing I even have dreams.”
“Well, supposing you do have dreams. Have you had any weird ones?”
Ariella dips her head. “Many of them. I see shadows in my dreams, but also light. My favorite dream is one where I’m standing on the balcony of a castle full of sunlight, looking out at the mist rising from a silver waterfall.”
“Is that a place you’d want to live?” the Author jumps in eagerly.
“I think so. It’s beautiful.” She frowns. “It’s only a dream, though.”
The Author smiles smugly and settles on the ground with her back against a tree to watch the proceedings. The Reader, uncomprehending, continues the interrogation. “If you could turn into any animal, what would it be?”
Ariella bites her lip at a flash of memory and shudders to dismiss it. “I don’t know. A cat, maybe. I like cats. They’re light of foot and can pass through places unseen.”
“Would you rather live in the Sahara Desert or Antarctica? I mean—” The Reader glances at the Author for help.
“Uuuhhhh…my friend means to ask, would you rather live in the desert mountains of the South Wild, or the Northlands?”
“The South Wild,” she answers immediately. “There are slavers in the north.”
“What about the Tehebris Alliance? You aren’t afraid of them?” the Author asks.
Ariella perks up. “You know about the Tehebris Alliance? I didn’t know they resided in the South Wild.”
“Oh…yeah…” The Author clears her throat uncomfortably and mutters something about spoilers. She aims a pointed look at the Reader, who hastily continues.
“If you had to fight someone from inside a hole with one arm tied behind your back, what weapon would you choose?”
A laugh bubbles up inside Ariella, the kind of jubilant laugh that has been long contained. “So the person is outside the hole and I’m inside it? How on earth did I manage to get inside the hole with one arm tied behind my back?”
“I assume you were captured, but got one arm free and ran, then fell in the hole,” the Author puts in.
“Or it was part of the rules for a weird competition,” the Reader suggests.
Ariella squints. “In the first case, I would use my free hand to untie my other hand, then attack with something long and pointy that could reach outside the hole. Probably a spear. In the second case, I wouldn’t even enter such a competition.”
“She’s one of those sensible-type characters,” the Reader whispers.
The Author nods and whispers back, “I like sensible types.”
“Which brings me back to my other point. Is she a carbon copy?”
“Of course not! She’s a character in her own right!”
Ariella clears her throat. “Excuse me. I don’t know what you’re talking about and nor do I wish to know. If you have no other questions for me, I’ll be on my way.”
“I have one,” the Author says suddenly. “Do you believe that your suffering is for a purpose?”
Ariella’s expression is unreadable. “That depends. Many could have purposed to make me suffer.”
“Do you think that something good will come out of it?”
“I…” Ariella glances down. “I can’t see how any good can come out of suffering like this.”
“You will,” the Author assures her, a smile lighting up her face. “I promise.”
Ariella studies her for a moment, unsure what to say. “Um…goodbye, then.” With a last backward glance, she retreats into the shadows of the forest.
As she leaves, the Author presses a button on her Storysword. “I just erased her memory of us,” she says softly. “I wish I didn’t have to, but you were right when you said it would ruin things.”
“Aw, now I’m depressed.” The Reader leans against a tree with arms crossed and head down. “That was actually…a little bit fun. Are we going to do it again?”
The Author smirks. “Maybe. Who knows?”
“Only the Author does,” the Reader sighs.
Thanks for reading! I hope to continue this Storywell series with my other book characters. If you enjoyed and want to see more of these adventures, please give this post a “like” and leave a comment! See you in the next blog post, Lightbringers!