OK, here’s the deal. (Part 1)

–Note: I’ve been looking for a way of kickstarting my latest fiction project – the one where I ‘find the story only I can tell’ – and am thinking that sketching my jumble of organic concepts out on ‘paper’, in public, might help. So if the below seems like way too much information, not to worry, it’s not really important to anyone but me and can be safely skipped. Should you decide to plow thru anyway, however, feedback always welcome.

So…I have these characters. They have been with me since approximately the dawn of time. Or more accurately the mid-80’s, when I was thirteen or so and decided to translate my terror of a global nuclear holocaust into something more…manageable? I don’t know exactly what you’d call it.

It involved basically taking my current favourite characters from various media, giving them a mysterious immunity from radiation (also, um, some quick adjustments for maximum hotness), and having them wander around the ravaged post-apocalyptic landscape discovering how other less-than-favourites had fared. Not well, usually.
On the plus side, I had a pretty good time inventing various mutant and/or survivalist societies, especially once I got to Sweet Valley…yeah, there were actual Sweet Valley High characters in there. Also, at least one of the Bobbsey Twins. After the others went mad and, IIRC, started gnawing on her leg when she tried to escape…no, right, that was another character who got his leg gnawed. By giant mutated lizards from an ex-pet store, or something. Geez, I’d forgotten that scene…

…I dunno, calling it ‘many BMW payments for the future therapist’ seems to sum it up pretty well. (Or maybe I was simply ahead of my time, and we can call it ‘primitive NES POV shooter’.)

Funny, how the more fascinating the idea is to you – especially as a teenager – the less chance you have of actually experiencing it yourself. I was a white suburban teen whose big choices involved things like whether to have Cheerios or Mini-Wheats for breakfast; and so these people were my surrogate heroes. The archetypes of courage, of overcoming obstacles, of just generally being thrown into an impossible situation and figuring out how to cope, have always spoken strongest to me…um, obviously, I guess.

What was changing was the scale of the situations they faced, gradually shifting from spectacle to intimacy. I was getting older, and (marginally)  more sophisticated, and interested in how I could use my characters to explore my inner world, not just react to it. Eventually, the core group coalesced into recognisable people, and as I branched further out and started to care seriously about nuances in my relationships with others, developed a unique dynamic of their own.

My characters coped. Starting with Emily – and you can stop snickering, that’s her name and I can’t help it – who very quickly evolved into a sort of den mother to the group. The strength of Woman was something I could relate naturally to; not (exactly)  from a feminist POV, something much more primitive, the power to nurture and strengthen in turn, the whole paradox of being so powerful through being so exquisitely vulnerable. The whole ‘earth mother’ concept, I guess, except to me that always conjures up barefoot and dashikis, and that’s not the sort of thing I had in mind at all.

After Emily, the core cast is a little less well-defined, but I adore every one for different reasons, although I hesitate to record them in detail for fear they sound like the reasoning behind a really bad Bronte ripoff. Let’s see…there’s Ned (Edward) – look, again, these people were named when I was thirteen, they’re not responsible – the hero and love interest as much as there is one, big and stolid-seeming but with unexpected depths; Sean, Emily’s older brother, who devolves from unthinking confidence to damaged and bitter; Nella, Ned’s sister, a more abrasive personality than Emily but in some ways much more experienced, clever and confident; and Matthew…

…er, yes, Matthew. The, um, kid who got his leg gnawed – remember that? No? Right, probably for the best anyway. Matthew has gone through a few versions since this whole thing kicked off, but  always is something younger than the other characters – eventually becoming a kind of surrogate son to Emily – preternaturally beautiful, and physically very frail. Kind of like John Keats, assuming Keats ever had his leg gnawed by mutant lizards. 

Matthew is also half-French (at least in the latest version), and has curly black hair and blue eyes, a quick intelligence and a decided snarky streak. Really, the only thing saving him from hopeless Gary Stu-hood is his youth and consequent habit of racing in where angels fear to tread. Originally he had an equally attractive twin sister named Violet, but I can never quite figure out what’s interesting about her, so she gets dropped from most settings…

…oh yes, there are more settings. Somewhere in here, there may even be a coherent plot. Hold on…


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