Fantasy fans, check out this excerpt from Witchslayer's Scion by L.T. Getty and then learn how the author creates her characters' many layers. Download your copy and then follow the tour for more. Best of luck entering the giveaway!
Koth’s life was decided for him since before he was born, for his ability to heal wounds by touch is rare even among his people. When an attempted kidnapping turns to sacrificial murder, he embraces vengeance and the sword. As he journeys far from his small isolated village in the north, he learns the truth as to why his bloodline is targeted by strange magic, in a world still rebuilding from a time when dark sorcerers didn’t bother with secrecy.
Koth thinks his quest is straightforward enough--find the men responsible, and kill them--and any who aid them. He will soon learn that those who have both privilege and power, there are few things they lack--and in the pursuit of godhood, their allies can prove even more sinister as mere mortals seek to advent empires and dynasties.
Read an excerpt:
“Something’s wrong,” Una said. “Koth, wait here.”
“Why?” If there was a problem, she should be waiting outside for him.
He sensed inside, his aunt’s thoughts remained hidden from him. Una shouted, and he ran inside the building. He thought there were lights on inside, but he saw no candles.
The tea house was very dark, and he felt a sudden dread—he wanted to leave. Baro barked from the outside. ~Una!~ he thought, before something hit his neck.
He knew at once it was a poison dart, and ripping it out he tried to smell what it was. Seeing metal reflect moonlight and he moved his hand, his skin cut. Moving instinctively out of the way, his next reaction was to purge the toxin that coursed through his body and tried to understand the wound. It was mostly his forearm, deep but he could still use it, the bone unaffected. He’d do a better healing later. He focused on something not unlike a burn before going for the knife at his hip. Striking 85 in the next liquid motion, Koth realized he was attacking his aunt.
She grabbed onto his injured flesh and seared it, destroying, weakening the sinew and the cartilage and causing it to age and die, following up the bloodstream, to find the heart and kill. Koth tried to brace; he couldn’t heal and keep her at bay. He was physically stronger and much heavier, but she was weakening his muscles. He tried to wrench the knife from her.
He knocked the blade to the ground then tried to lock minds with her to find nothing short of blinding pain take him over, wrestling him to the ground and making him drop his knife. She took the dagger and when he tried to force himself up, a familiar sense washed over him. Magic, but not coming from Una.
“Do not kill him yet,” Yeshbel said, “we will bleed him first.”
Writer’s Guides often talk about knowing your character inside and out, and I don’t disagree. But instead of knowing how they’d react, we need to give them something that allows the reader to empathize or at least understand their motivations.
I’m not talking about ‘rescue the princess’ or ‘save the kingdom’. A noble character like Superman might go about saving the world in a different way than a more broody character like Batman, even if we were to give Batman Superman’s powers for the time necessary to tell the story. The question I ask myself is, how is this character going about that same plot differently, and why should the audience care? Or, if I were to switch out leads, how would the story differ?
For instance, in my first novel Tower of Obsidian Kale is a traditional hero figure, but he’s also a bit of a people pleaser. He’s betrayed by his Lord’s men, but keeps wearing his honor about him, doing what is right or at least what would be expected of him.
Koth from Witchslayer’s Scion is very different. He’s dissatisfied with his lot in life, preferring to hunt as opposed to heal, and sets out on a path of revenge after his brother’s murder.
If I were to switch their plots, I’d imagine that Kale wouldn’t take up the mantle out of revenge. He’d be aware of the quest before him, and set out to ‘smite the evil that is in the lands’. If Koth was betrayed by his Lord’s men and captured, once his captors become prisoners like him I’d imagine he’d not be too kind to any of the men who were responsible for his predicament. Now I’m imagining Koth going to the tower and thinking becoming part of the tower as being Cursed with Awesome.
When I create a character I’m usually starting out with them fulfilling a role. I try to get in their headspace because how a character reacts to a situation determines the tone and course of the plot. You may think this is as simple as, “The plot demands that they go to an Inn. Kale would pick a nice one, Koth would pick a seedy one.” That’s a launching point. The plot may require both men to sneak in, but given what little I’ve established for readers who aren’t familiar with either character, Kale might be worried that someone saw him going into a house of ill-repute, whereas Koth just needs somewhere to lie low, and maybe he can win some money at dice while he’s there (he won’t).
Once I start to give them a bit of a personality, the next thing I like to do is ask myself if the character is very similar to another one I’ve written. There’s nothing wrong with liking heroic figures with tragic pasts, or noble characters or whatever, but I want characters to feel like only they could fulfill that role. That isn’t to say that Koth should be the only archer or the only one who can fight mages. Koth is initially driven by his anger and his anger should have a consequence. Koth is lippy and drives other people away as opposed to letting them get close. Koth has powers that allow him to heal, but part of which also makes him take on empathy, and he’s an emotionally immature man when he sets out. There’s a reason he doesn’t want to take on other people’s emotions, he’s internalized healing as feminine and soft, but it doesn’t take long for the reader to realize that what he and Una does isn’t just instant love and repair. Now, most people in this world would kill for the kind of ability Koth takes for granted, and if he plays his cards right, he would be well-received almost anywhere, but he chooses to generally not play well in most sandboxes. That says a lot about his personality. So far, Koth fulfills the requirements of an anti-hero, but, how does he differ from other anti-heroes?
There’s a lot to Koth that makes him unlikeable and probably a little hard to take for certain readers. Koth’s motivation is revenge but really what he felt was helpless when he watched his brother die. He could do nothing to stop his brother’s death, or the death of a child that took place literally days prior to that murder. He felt trapped by his station in life and wanted an out. The out arrives, and it’s not what he wanted at all.
He spent almost a year learning to poison and tracking down one of the men responsible. By luck, he does find one of them. Because it was personal, he deviated from the calculated plan and it almost killed him.
But he deviated from the plan a second time and saved someone who needed help. At first he cursed himself because he was caught and spent months captive. But then, it turned out his actions saved the right person, who was able to help not only Koth but his aunt, and that action not only led to an alliance but a willingness to save as opposed to kill.
The second book I dive into this more. Koth begins to realize that killing Radij won’t bring Bizen back; nothing can fix that hole. He licks his wounds and now that he doesn’t let his emotions become the better of him, becomes more calculated in dealing with mages, as well as letting other people help him, and not in a “I’mma steal your rations for the greater good.” Sort of way, either.
You’d think it be less interesting when he technically became a better person but he doesn’t see the error of his ways and completely change. He’s still a lippy jerk by the end of the book, but now he’s a lippy jerk who’s become less easy to manipulate. He’s far from perfect and man he’s got issues, but it’s a realistic progression of his character and a reader who is nothing like him can understand him.
Now that we have his motivations and arc, I can start plugging the holes of character development. I give him little nuance issues and quirks, and the more time we spend with the character the more time we really get to know them. I love it when you meet a character and you’re in someone else’s perspective and you think a certain way about them, but then you finally get into that person’s motivations and headspace and you find it was a shallow interpretation of what was going on. It makes for a better reread of the material.
This is one character in the book, and Koth wears his flaws like some people wear their heart on their sleeves. I’ll compare him to another central character who I’m going to say was emotional immature.
In my kid’s book, The Mermaid and the Unicorns, Daphne’s motivation initially is to become an elemental like her best friend. What she really wants is to be the best. It’s stated outright on the second page that she ‘hated to lose to anyone’ and she’s very competitive. I gave her some positive traits (brave, loyal, competent, but a bit reckless and prone to jealousy). Not only is it not realistic to be the best at everything, always, it’s not a healthy place to be in when you’re constantly trying to project yourself as better than everyone else.
The reader can’t relate to having magical powers or being a mermaid. They can relate to a desire to be the best. They’re also more likely to sympathize with her because she’s a young teenager who grows and matures throughout the story, unlike Koth who needs two books to get there.
So how about you? What are some of your favourite characters arcs, or just in general?
About the author:
L.T. Getty is a rural paramedic from Manitoba. She enjoys writing science fiction and fantasy and generally being creative.
My Blog: https://ltgetty.ca/
a Rafflecopter giveaway