As I said last week, music has always been a major part of my life. More than anything, it is music that inspires me as a creative person, and it is most always in music that I can see the plot of any book I am trying to write.
With War Witch, one of the biggest problems I faced was the sheer number of characters I needed in order to make the story work. The plot itself is pretty standard fantasy fare, with a bad person doing bad things, and heroes needing to stop them. Had that been the whole of the story, odds are, I would have lost interest in it and never finished the first book. It was the characters that drove me to write this, and what made the plot more than what it began as.
That problem I mentioned, though, was in keeping each character distinct, unique, and possessed of their own voice, motives, goals, and failings. The cast of characters kept growing, and as any writer will tell you, when you have a large cast, it’s painfully easy for them to lose what makes them stand out.
So, when I began the final draft for the first book, I set about finding songs that spoke to who each of the characters were at this point in the story. Or at least, each of the major characters. There are a couple of characters who were so easy to write, I never needed the help.
Specifically, I mean Rayne and Mastiff. For Rayne, it’s her personality that makes her easy to write. That, and any song that spoke to who she was would inevitably be by Weird Al. For Mastiff, well, if you’ve read the book, then you know. Mastiff needs no help keeping his character centered, because he’s motherfucking Mastiff.
Ramora, on the other hand, posed a host of problems. She is one of the two leads, but she’s mute, so I didn’t even have any particular dialogue tricks to fall back on when writing her to help keep her character on track. The problem it created was that it was hard to keep her from being overwhelmed by the other characters, to prevent her from fading into the background, lost in the eccentricities of the rest of the cast.
Writing is not a visual medium, obviously, so when you have a character who never speaks a word of dialogue, it’s actually difficult to make sure their voice is heard. At least, it was, until I happened to be listening to one of my old favorite bands, and heard her loud and clear.
From the very beginning, near on to twenty years ago now, the conception for Ramora has been that of a tragic hero, the living embodiment of what it means to be a Blessed in the world of The Mythic Age. A hero fighting for a world she can no longer be a part of, a soldier who will never have a home of her own to return to when the war is done, because she will not survive it.
Since the main element of the story was about the bond between Ramora and Chara, that conception of her as a tragic hero carried multiple meanings. She has returned to the Middle World to avenge her own family, who were so horribly killed by Draco’s forces, and at first, that was enough for her. She believed it would carry her through whatever she might face, and was content to shoulder that burden alone.
As she slowly came to care for, and fall in love with Chara, however, that changed, and she realized that avenging her family could not be the whole of her life. They deserved justice, yes, but not at the expense of her own happiness. With Chara at her side, Ramora realized that as much as she wanted to avenge her family, they would never want her life to become about that, and that alone.
Just as she accepted that, however, Rakiss pulled she and Chara apart, and Ramora had to watch the woman she loved in the arms of another. As much as she is a Blessed, a Priestess, and a solider, she is also human, and was not ready to face the world alone, so she endured it, and traveled with them, now the outsider.
When she met Leto, she beginning to believe again, that there could be more to her life than her quest, but again, that was taken from her, leaving her broken, empty, and lost. She begin to believe that she would never know what it was to be loved, and because of what she felt when she and Chara traveled together, just the two of them, had come to realize it was something she needed for her life to have mattered.
Vengeance is not enough. For our lives to truly matter, they must be shared, with friends, family, and the people we love the most. People that, at every turn, were taken from her, and that was the real tragedy of Ramora as a hero.
Lay a whisper on my pillow
Leave the winter on the ground
I wake up lonely, there’s air of silence
In the bedroom and all around
This, more than anything, helped me connect to Ramora as a character. That sense of loss, of loneliness, with lyrics that seem to enforce her own mute nature. Her perpetual silence, separating her from the world around her, keeping her from even casually saying what is on her mind.
Make believing we’re together
That I’m sheltered by your heart
But in and outside, I turned to water
Like a teardrop in your palm
For the Blessed, the first and last line of defense against the Demon Gods, there is constant praise by those they defend. Yet, they are forever alone, seeking only to be sheltered in turn from the horrors they must see, and the pain they must endure.
For Ramora, that all too brief moment when she believed she and Chara might have a future together, only to lose it, made her feel as if she had no more substance than a drop of water, fading and forgotten, left to face the harsh nightmare of being a solider against the Demon Seed with nowhere to shelter her own heart.
It was in those emotions that I found Ramora’s true voice, as well as her facade of humor and faint sarcasm that she hides behind to keep others from seeing how wounded her soul is. It was what helped me make her stand out, even without dialogue, for it was her heart that spoke the loudest in every scene she had.
Next week, I’ll tackle Chara, and the song that helped me find balance with her chaotic character.