Antihero: A Closer Look At Artemis Arrowsmith

This is a continuation of earlier posts about the roles of protagonist, antagonist, hero, villain, antihero, and antivillain, as well as my exploration on the nature of the hero. I have previously talked about Damon Roth, the protagonist in Gods Among Men, and Demiurge, the antagonist, and why both fail to be either a hero or villain. I have multiple posts about Morel and Tara Rihtwiz, who fill the roles of classical and modern heroes respectively. Those posts can be found by following the links to parts 1, 2, 3, and 4.

Today I will focus upon Artemis Arrowsmith, a woman who has evolved into the role of the antihero. I begin by reviewing how I came to conceive of her character and the various twist and turns that led to her current incarnation.

In a previous post I described how I first conceived of the story that would become Gods Among Men. To recap, I was a teenage geek who loved playing Dungeons & Dragons (a.k.a D&D), and so my initial musing on the story revolved around stock characters drawn from my experiences with role-playing games.

A character-type central to D&D is the Ranger. A Ranger in D&D is a hunter, a tracker, a woodsman, a fighter who has special expertise fighting certain enemies. Back when I was teenager it was clear that the creators of D&D were basing their Ranger upon the character of Aragorn from The Lord Of The Rings, who himself was based upon archetypal hunter-heroes.

Initially, I added a ranger-type character to Gods Among Men without much thought. The story I was conceiving revolved around the wizard that became Damon Roth. When I was sketching out my original ideas, a common theme in D&D adventures were background details like, “A long time ago there was a wizard so-and-so and his ranger ally such-and-such that fought the great evil etc…” Another concept that could be directly traced back to The Lord Of The Rings and the relationship between Aragorn and Gandalf.

And so, once I began thinking of a wizard as the central character, I naturally decided he must have a ranger ally. Having no better idea than that, I created a male ranger, named him Smith (nickname Smitty), and tried to figure out where he fit into the story. I thought of him as a tough, experienced, deadly fighter who could dispatch enemies without a second thought.

I also thought of the ranger as the character that would balance the group of heroes. In my mind, the wizard would be in constant conflict with the knight figure (who became Morel) and with other characters I was starting to introduce into the story. My first draft of the ranger had him as a peacemaker that pulled each person’s extremes back toward the center so they could complete their quest.

It took me a while to realize the contradiction inherent in this concept of the character: the killer that makes everyone want to be peaceful and happy together. I found the contradiction impossible to fully reconcile, and so began changing the character more and more.

Perhaps the first major change came when a former girlfriend read my early drafts and noted, “You don’t have any female characters.” This prompted me to look at my major characters and consider which ones would benefit from a sex-change. The ranger named Smith was the first to undergo the procedure. In the process, I dropped the horrible nickname Smitty and the non-descriptive name Smith and began looking for a better name.

Being a fan of all things mythological, when I began thinking of a female hunter I immediately thought of the Greek goddess, Artemis. I liked the symbolism, so I gave my huntress a bow and changed her name to Artemis.

Later I stumbled across the name Arrowsmith; it was the name of the central character in Sinclair Lewis’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Arrowsmith. I immediately liked the name Arrowsmith because it underscored the archery aspect of the character and created a nice alliteration: Artemis Arrowsmith.

After a bit or research, I discovered the character in the Sinclair Lewis novel was a doctor torn between the demands of society and his own desires. I liked the symbolism there as well, so Artemis Arrowsmith became my new and improved ranger character.

In my next post I shall continue reviewing Artemis’s development as a character and the various influences that affected my choices with her.

Hero, Part 1: A Closer Look At Morel Rihtwis

This post is a continuation of my earlier posts about the roles of protagonist, antagonist, hero, villain, antihero, and antivillain, as well as my exploration on the nature of the hero. I have previously talked about the protagonist in Gods Among Men, Damon Roth, and the antagonist, Demiurge, and why both fail to be either a hero or villain. Today I will focus upon Morel Rihtwis, a man whose very name translates as moral, right, and wise.

Morel is an archetypal hero. Some of the characteristics that identify archetypal heroes are:

  1. Unusual circumstances of his birth
  2. Leaves family and lives with others.
  3. Traumatic event leads to quest.
  4. Special Weapon
  5. Supernatural help.
  6. Proves self on quest
  7. A journey that leads to an unhealable wound
  8. Atonement with father
  9. Spiritual apotheosis

Unusual circumstances of his birth
Morel is born into royalty, into one of the richest and most powerful families in the world. He begins life in the highest reaches of society with all of its advantages and disadvantages.

Leaves family and lives with others.
Morel’s mother died before he was ten years old. His father was king of Zephyr and gone for most of Morel’s childhood. Morel had a brother, Carloman, who was almost a decade his senior. Morel’s earliest clear memory of Carloman is him leaving to join the military. Morel spent most of his childhood surrounded by tutors, trainers, and staff. When he was in his teens he joined the military as a prerequisite for one day inheriting Zephyr.

Traumatic event leads to quest.
Before Gods Among Men begins, Carloman, Morel’s brother, dies in a senseless accident. Carloman was the heir apparent to the kingdom of Zephyr and the Rihtwis fortune. With his death, Morel becomes the heir apparent. Also, Morel arrives in the city of Guildtown, capital of the empire that Zephyr belongs to, shortly after the city has been attacked and its military defeated. These twin events, along with the responsibilities Morel feels as heir to a kingdom, forces him to follow Damon Roth. This sets Morel on a path to save his daughter, the kingdom of Zephyr, and the world as a whole.

Special Weapon
Morel wears armor forged from the hide of a dragon. This armor grants him superhuman strength and renders him almost impervious to magic. He also carries a sword forged by Damon Roth and Morel’s distant ancestor, Gideon Rihtwis. This sword is unbreakable, never requires care or sharpening, and is capable of cleaving a person in two. Later, Morel will come into possession of a lance specially made to kill dragons.

Supernatural help.
Both the wizard Damon Roth and the False God referred to as the Lady aid Morel. In addition he will receive help from Elves. Damon saves Morels life and gives him the magical satchel that Morel will need as the story progresses. The Lady advises and protects his daughter, Tara, when he cannot. I have not yet decided how the Elves will aid him.

Proves self on quest
Remember when I mentioned that Morel will come into a possession of a lance specially made to kill dragons? He doesn’t use it against a Komodo dragon. He fights a very large, very deadly, dragon in the prime of its life. In addition, Morel must also show his commitment to honor and duty despite personal costs. He risks his life on many occasions and dies, twice.

A journey that leads to an unhealable wound
Speaking of dying, Morel dies in the first book of the series. Fortunately, this is an epic fantasy in which death is not a career-ending injury. Damon restores Morel to life, but the wound Morel receives gives him problems for the rest of his life. Later, he battles Artemis Arrowsmith, is struck in the same place, and dies again.

Atonement with father
Morel is not close with his father, though he isn’t estranged from him either. His father was absent for most of Morel’s life, so the two really know each other through what they have heard from other people. Unknown to Morel, his father was involved in a dark deed that gave rise to the villain, Maelgar Tregadie. At some point this fact will be revealed to Morel, and there will be a reckoning.

Spiritual apotheosis
During his life Morel reaches a mythic stature that makes him almost universally admired. Even his foes hate him primarily for his virtues. He becomes the example others aspire to emulate, including his daughter, Tara. After Morel’s death he is revered and mourned and cited as the person who embodied the best qualities of mankind.

Most of these qualities are shared by Damon Roth. What Damon is missing is what I believe is key to labeling someone as a hero: the moral center that guides and limits them. The limits placed upon a hero by themselves are, to me, a crucial element in their heroism. It is that moment when when the hero thinks, “I need to kill/hurt/steal/etc…, but I won’t because its wrong.”

This is the crucial distinction between Damon and Morel. Damon will do anything he believes is required to accomplish his goal. Morel will not. Morel is willing to accept failure as a consequence of doing what is moral and right, which makes him wise.

This subject is too big for a single post. I will continue with Morel for at least one more post, detailing some of the inspirations for his character. Later I will delve into his daughter, Tara, and explore other types of heroes and how they are represented in Gods Among Men.

Analysis of My Opening Paragraph: Part 1

A few months ago I wrote about the purpose of the opening sentence, and mentioned the opening paragraph to my epic, Gods Among Men. In that post I said:

I wrote the opening over and over, trying one starting point after another, until I finally found a formulation that felt right.

My final choice for the opening sentence introduces my central character and established a starting scene. It leads naturally into a first paragraph crafted to inform the astute reader what to expect from the whole story. The first paragraph is mirrored by the last paragraph of the entire multi-volume epic. Thus Gods Among Men is framed by two paragraphs designed to fit together. They form the beginning and the end, the alpha and omega….

…it is the right starting point for the tale I want to tell. I have been told, on more than one occasion, that a different opening might be better. Perhaps, but replacing that paragraph, to me, undermines a structure important to the overall plot.

In this post I want to explore a little of what I see in this paragraph and why I think it is so important to the overall story. Here then is the opening to Gods Among Men.

Damon Roth built a grand house. An extensive foundation supported mighty oak limbs that reached skyward, unwavering in their duty, holding soaring gables aloft through the centuries. Wide windows were the manor’s great eyes, searching in all directions from behind a gothic countenance. Color-stained eyes framed the world in a kaleidoscope of possibilities. Clear eyes actualized only one: a well-maintained garden of flowers and shrubs, a manicured lawn sloping gently away, and a resplendent thicket of trees that concealed the mansion from the world. Only the central tower, covered in a spider-web of vines, was tall enough to break the barricade of trees. From there Wizard Roth changed himself by changing the world.

The first two words identify the protagonist, Damon Roth. It tells the reader to watch this person. In addition, the name “Damon” carries symbolic connotations that I exploit throughout the story.

“Built” marks him as a person of action and accomplishment, someone who plans, implements those plans, and sees them through to completion. “a grand house” tells the reader Damon is capable of working on a large scale, of having a vision of a end result and successfully navigating the difficulties to see that vision fulfilled.

The first sentence is symmetrically linked to the last one.

From there Wizard Roth changed himself by changing the world.

“From there” implies the tower mentioned in the next to last sentence, but that tower is located at Damon’s grand house, mentioned in the first sentence. “Wizard Roth” informs the reader that this is a fantasy story and that Damon Roth has magical powers.

“changed himself” is the pivot point of the paragraph and the story as a whole. In two words it tells you that everything that follows is because Damon Roth wants to change who he is. His motivations are not for power or riches, but to become a different person. Whatever else happens, no matter the appearance or people affected, everything in the end is about Damon Roth and his personal quest.

The two words “changed himself” define the emotional center of the story, and raise a series of questions. What is it Damon wants to change about himself? Why does he want to change? What does he want to change into? Does he want a physical, spiritual, and/or psychological change?

One additional question is raised: How does Damon plan on changing himself? That is answered by the closing phrase, “by changing the world.” The scope is defined, the world as a whole is about to be reordered by Damon Roth.

With just the opening and closing sentences, the reader has been told this is an epic fantasy whose central character is willing and capable of challenging the established order to achieve a personal goal.

The opening and closing lines of this paragraph are symmetrical in that they focus upon a central theme. Who is Damon Roth? What is he planning? When is he going to act? Where is he at? Why is he doing the things he does? How far will he go to achieve his goals? The rest of a story is to answer these questions.

The other sentences in the opening paragraph have a similar symmetry, something I will discuss further in the second part of my analysis.

Protagonist, Antagonist, Hero, Villian, Antihero, and AntiVillian

Protagonist, antagonist, hero, villain, antihero, and antivillain are crucial elements of storytelling. At least some of these roles must be filled by one or more central characters or there is no story to tell. One character may fulfill several of these roles, or one role may be filled by several characters. For example, it is common for the protagonist to also be either the hero or the villain, and the antagonist to fill the opposite role.

Identifying which role particular characters play is crucial to how you define them, how you write them. When a character approaches a crucial decision, what they do is largely defined by the role they play. In Gods Among Men, I found it useful to deconstruct these elements into separate individuals.

My protagonist, Damon Roth, drives the plot, but is neither hero nor villain. He is opposed by the antagonist, Demiurge, who also is neither hero nor villain. They both are larger than life and pursue goals that cannot be labeled as good or evil. They will not hesitate to do good when it does not affect their plans, and they hesitate to do evil even when their plans demand it of them. People are pawns in a game they play, and the world’s fate depends on which one wins.

The hero role is filled first by Morel Rihtwis, a prince whose name literally means moral, right, and wise. Morel embodies nobility, and struggles with every decision to always make the morally right choice. Later his daughter Tara grows into the hero role.

My villain is Maelgar Tregadie, also called the Y’fel. He is filled with hate and a desire to see the world burn. His desire for power is inextricably tied to his lust to harm others, especially his father, Integras Tregadie. He believes Demiurge is the key to his success.

Artemis Arrowsmith is my antihero. She has been raised to be a soldier, a killer, and she is very good at it. She is driven by desires for vengeance, a bloodlust that leads her to commit atrocities against those who wronged her. But she is willing to sacrifice herself and those desires to save others. She is ruthless when she must be, but tries to walk away when she can. She aligns her fortune to Damon Roth.

The antivillain is Widukind. He is driven by honor above all else. He will not lie, nor cheat, nor steal, nor shy from danger. His word is sacrosanct and he would rather die than break it. He is deeply religious, and remains true to his faith throughout the story. He has no problem with sacking villages, killing the helpless, and committing atrocities for no reason other than he is following orders. His conscience bothers him, but not enough to make him stop. He follows Maelgar, believing him to be a prophet of his god, Demiurge.

There are many more characters in this large, complex tale, but this collection of people form a crucial core to Gods Among Men. Without them, there is no story to tell.

Naming in a Created World: Brant’s Version.

A little while back Kathryn posted Naming in a Created World, in which she discussed the ways she has for coming up with names in her world. I found this article interesting in and of itself, but also because of the differences between her approach and mine.

I developed my story in fits and starts over a very long time. Sometimes years would go by with no actual writing taking place, just random ruminations. I am a spotty note taker, and I realized after a few years I was in danger of forgetting key elements of my story. What role did certain characters play? How did they fit into the plot? Who were they in opposition to? What was their story arc? What is this place? Why is it important? What does this doo-dad actually do?

I decided to address these issues in two ways: 1) The language used when I wrote scenes for the first time, and 2) The names I choose.

With regards to the names of characters, I tried to choose names that crystallized the character for me personally. I named one central character after Artemis, the Greek goddess of hunting, forests and hills, child birth, virginity, fertility. A huntress carrying a bow and arrows. With the name Artemis I captured the image of my character and defined much of her personality.

Another character I named Morel Rihtwis. This is a joining of the medieval words for moral, right, and wise. Again, when I read the name I know this character instantly. There is no doubt about how I should write his scenes.

My biggest exception to this scheme for naming characters is my protagonist, Damon Roth. I named him because I like the sound of the name as it rolled off my tongue. It was only later that I discovered it derived from the Greek story of Damon and Pythias, a story symbolizing trust, loyalty, and true friendship. Damon as a name means constant one. I fell in love with the symbolism, at how well it dovetailed with my thoughts about the character. I began using the ideas to frame much of Damon’s character arc.

For me, names of people, places, and things became placeholders. Post-it notes within the story to remind me what I was thinking when I jotted down a quick thought. It is a technique which has served me well.