Risingshadow has an opportunity to feature a guest post by Aaron Hodges.
Aaron Hodges was born in 1989 in the small town of Whakatane, New Zealand. He studied for five years at the University of Auckland, completing a Bachelors of Science in Biology and Geography, and a Masters of Environmental Engineering. After working as an environmental consultant for two years, he grew tired of office work and decided to quit his job in 2014 and see the world. One year later, he published his first novel - Stormwielder - while in Guatemala. Since then, he has honed his skills while travelling through parts of SE Asia, India, North and South America, Turkey and Europe, and now has over a dozen works to his name. Today, his adventures continue...
Guest post by Aaron Hodges
In every story, there are three general areas that authors have to spend a lot of time planning and developing to ensure their story is something people want to read. From what I understand, these are plot, character and setting--but people are welcome to let me know if there's something else I'm missing! For today though, I thought it would be fun to do a short post about character, since for my latest book I had some trouble getting the mix of my characters right. The series begins with a mix of people from all walks of life setting off on a ship to explore an island that has mysteriously risen from the ocean. Most are aware there will be some form of danger on the island. After all, no one so far has come back. So my first question when developing my main characters was--why on earth would they want to go there in the first place!
Character motivation is certainly a difficult beast. For minor characters it can be easy to have a more generic motivation--such as the ship captain and her crew, who agreed to sail the expedition because they were paid a lot of money to do so. And since they never intended to end up on the island, this worked. For a main character though, I wanted that reasoning to be much stronger, something that would drive the plot forward even once they reached the island. After toying with a few ideas such as fleeing from the law, I settled on something truly desperate. The search for an impossible cure. Afterall, it wouldn't be the first time a dying man (Zachary) risked his life when all other options were expended. And to add a bit of variety, another of the main characters (Clayton) is there almost by accident, after sneaking aboard after his adventurous older brother (Damien).
Once I had their motivations sorted, the next question I needed to think about was the backgrounds for these characters, the stuff that really made them tick. Initially, I had Clayton as the protective older brother to the adventurous and inquisitive Damien. But I found a lot of parts didn't fit together with the wider story--especially around Damien being a less proactive character. He needed to be active to play his part with the greater plot. And there was also a second problem. Zachary was a very active, take control character. And so was Clayton as the younger brother. So despite them both being POV characters, I found their voices blending together in the first draft. There wasn't much distinction between them. And while Zachary in this first draft was involved in the criminal underworld, I had him as an accountant, a very much I've helped bad people but not done bad things myself sort of character. In terms of development, it meant whether he grew evil or good or stayed the same, there wasn't much impact for the reader.
So I changed things up.
As I've already mentioned, Clayton became the younger, more naive brother. This let him fill the role of the growth character learning his way in the world - even if all the lessons he learns aren't necessarily correct. And Zachary became the former master thief. Not only did this make his voice contrast nicely with Clayton's, it also made his character far more interesting. Will he become a better person? Or will he sink further into his dark past in order to save himself?
On a still and peaceful night, the world shook, and light split the sky asunder.
The seas parted, an island rose.
And beneath the earth, an ancient power stirred.
Zachary Sicario thought he'd finally turned his back on the underworld. For ten years he was content with his cottage in the highlands of Riogachd. But a master thief never truly retires. When Zach is struck down by a wasting illness, he is left with two options: accept his fate, or return to his criminal past in search of a cure.
It isn't a difficult decision.
With rumours of a mysterious island circulating the kingdom, Zach goes in search of old contacts. They speak of strange lights and disappearing ships, of treasure and riches promised for the first to reach its distant shores. Zach has little interest in trinkets—but there's another tale, one that whispers of the power to change a man's fate.
With a secret expedition departing in the coming days, Zach decides to roll the dice. But he's not the only one interested in magic. His competition are warriors and thieves, noblemen and assassins, all in their prime. And Zach is far from the man he once was.
Can the master thief beat the odds one last time?