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I've been thinking about the characters I wrote in Blood Price. In different ways, I intended all three of them to represent how buying into the stories you're told can make you a parody of yourself. Melody, a young transwoman who's been told all her life that she's not a real woman, is probably a success in this regard. Wolf, a homeless dropout who's lost all connection to his ethnic background, is one of the biggest embarrassments of my writing career.

The idea behind Wolf is fundamentally more toxic

To establish herself as a "real" girl, Melody overcompensates using surface level stereotypes of what a young woman should be like, particularly what she's picked up from heroic anime marketed to young girls. She's cutesy, peppy, easily gulled, brave to the point of foolishness, and occasionally alarmingly sexualized for her age. She's awkward and socially isolated, but overall, she can function among other human beings.

Wolf bases his identity around surface level stereotypes of what a Native American should be like, particularly conceptions of a stereotypical "nature hero." Where there are gaps (nature heroes often aren't well-developed), he patches them with surface level stereotypes of what nature itself is like. He believes that he's innately more connected to the natural world than other people, particularly white people. As such, his instincts and gut reactions are a part of nature, and denying them, even to the extent of being polite, means denying himself. He doesn't believe he's capable of any deep understanding of science or philosophy, but he doesn't really care--he's a savage, and that's good enough for him. Wolf has spent several years living in a park, and it's unlikely he'll ever be capable of living among other human beings again.

Melody has some serious issues, and I do show how some of her negative thought processes impact her, but Wolf's on another level entirely. It would probably take me an entire book to untangle all his twisted thoughts.

The ideology Wolf follows is cold and uncaring

Melody wants to protect people to the greatest extent possible. Saving them from danger is well and good, but it would be better if they were never in danger in the first place. Freedom is a meaningless concept to her, and any level of control is acceptable so long as people are ultimately happy. A world under Melody's absolute control would be joyful but sterile, a gilded cage.

Wolf wants to protect people to the extent they can serve or assist him. If someone doesn't serve or assist him, they have no contract with him and he has no interest in protecting them. If someone can't serve or assist him, they're lying or lazy. To Wolf, all barriers to power are illusionary--anyone can have the power to serve him so long as they try hard, and since he tries the hardest, he must be the most powerful of all.

Melody would save a girl from a monster, then make sure she didn't return to any place monsters lurk. Wolf would save a girl from a monster, then expect her to have sex with him as a reward. Melody could be a hero or a villain, but Wolf isn't really suited to be anything other than a villain.

Wolf has no point of contrast within the narrative

Both Melody and Price are female, but only Melody lives by feminine stereotypes. Her friend Price has a blend of masculine and feminine traits, and she comments when she thinks Melody is being silly or impractical. Through Price, I had a window to directly comment on how feminity is stereotyped and exaggerated.

No character besides Wolf is coded as Native American. In fact, no character besides Wolf is coded as anything other than white! There are points where Wolf behaves in silly ways, but I never compare him to anyone who can be seen as a non-silly version of him. There are no explicit statements and few implicit hints within the narrative that I'm not condoning or praising his beliefs.

What I'll need if I bring them back

I already know where Melody will show up next--alongside Price, where she belongs. Each will grow and change for the better in the presence of the other, and at the time they appear again, they'll be ready to serve as mentors for a new character with his own issues.

To properly use Wolf, I need someone who contrasts him. I'm thinking of a woman, a Plains Indian, someone from one of the horse-riding tribes. Someone who embraces new technology, but still believes in old religion and old traditions. Someone who can talk and think her way out of trouble without any of the abilities or aptitudes that Wolf would consider "power." Someone he can lord over, someone he can abuse and misuse and treat like nothing, until the moment comes when she has the chance to utterly destroy him.

Wolf's story won't be pretty, because power without restraint is never pretty. But more than any other character I can think of, a woman with no power would be best-suited to destroy both Wolf and the twisted things he believes in.
feotakahari: (Default)
Bob kept telling himself that it could be worse. After all, his niece of sixteen years (who was also his ward of six, and his perpetual worry of three months) could have decided to join a cult. She could be using drugs, or robbing liquor stores. This wasn't so bad by comparison, was it?

There was a time when it would have surprised him that he was so protective of her. When Sandy and George had . . . Well, when it had happened, he’d been too overcome with shock and grief to really think about how she’d felt. She’d been in just as much pain, but the stress of suddenly having someone else in the house had weighed on his already-heightened emotions, and he’d said and done some things he still regretted.

But he couldn’t hate her forever, not even if she looked so much like the sister he still missed. She was a fine young woman, possessed of George’s eternal calm, Sandy’s keen eye for metaphor, and a skill at logic that was all her own. It was not rashly or unreasonably that she had chosen this method of filling her evening hours.

At the moment, she was standing at attention in the living room, wearing purple tights, yellow boots, and--newly added--a purple domino mask, matched perfectly to the tights, replacing her old black one. “How does it look?” she asked.

“Heroic,” he answered. This was the truth. Even in these bargain-bin clothes, bought rather than tailored “for tradition’s sake”, she could easily have stepped out of the pages of one of the comic books she often read. But comic heroes can dodge bullets, and block knives, and outrun explosions.

She could have run off to Mexico. She could have gotten pregnant by an unemployed ex-convict . . .

She canted her head leftwards, in the way she sometimes did when trying to see a problem from a new point of view. “You’re still worried about me, aren’t you?”
He’d given up trying to lie to her, as she’d given up lying to him. “I never stop worrying about you.”

“There’ve been at least six heroes on duty every month for the past five years. We’ve only seen one violent crime in that time. We’re barely more than a graffiti patrol with ambitions.”

“I know that,” he said. “But still, if anything happened to you . . .”

“For what it’s worth, I’m sorry to make you worry so much. But I have to do this. It’s for Mom and Dad, and for me as well. I just stood and watched, while they . . .” For a moment, he thought she’d finally tell him what she’d kept bottled up for six years, ever silent while policemen and therapists and even fellow students demanded to know what had really happened and how she’d survived. “I need to at least try to keep it from happening to someone else.”

He grandly gestured in the direction of the front door. “I won’t stand in your way.”

“Just so you know, I’ll be on evening patrol all week,” she warned him. “Rick’s got a new job, and Cathy’s sick, so there’s no one else who can fill in.”

She could have run off to Mexico, pregnant, in the company of an unemployed ex-convict . . .

They said their goodbyes quickly. He whispered as she left the house, to make sure she wouldn’t hear him. It was as much a prayer as a request.

Penny, be safe.

-- -- -- --

Blood Price is available from Alban Lake Publishing.
feotakahari: (Default)
Yeah, I don't have much set up at the moment. I'm not really sure what to do with it, and there hasn't been any demand yet. I'm not shy, though--if there's anything you want to ask, just message me.

My coming project is sporkable.dreamwidth.org, though it hasn't really gotten off the ground yet.

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