This month I’ve been learning about frailty, the kind of mental and physical uncertainty that freezes you solid at the thought of moving forward, and then breaks your heart because there is no going back.
Like every life, every story, and every character has a point at which it is heart-breakingly frail, where the characters rest on a knife edge, the quest is in danger of either failing, or succeeding at a terrible cost, and the line between truth and hope, good and evil, strength and weakness looms like an unscalable cliff between you and the next act. These are a few of the thoughts that have been tumbling around in my mind and working their way through onto the pages of my book.
We are brought up in a society that values certainty above almost everything else, anything that makes us ask questions causes a discomfort that we are often reluctant to face. This is the point where, as a writer, I start questioning the truths and certainties that underpin my worlds.
There is a fine line between truth, hope, and belief, and as writers we need to be very careful to understand which we are using when we build worlds. So:
A character’s beliefs will colour all their actions whether consciously or unconsciously. Ren, one of my characters in Y’keta, has an underlying belief that she is unwanted and unworthy. This reveals itself in several conversations and in an unconscious ‘stepping back’ from any kind of intimacy.
It’s very easy to confuse belief and hope, they are shadows of each other that seem to twine backwards and forwards through your characters lives, almost indistinguishable, but there is a major difference. At their lowest point characters, like people, can lose hope. Burnt out by the awful things that the author has done to them (insert smirk here) they feel that the world is against them and for a while they sit dazed and disappointed. But to lose a belief, that takes a major internal restructuring which changes the essence of who the character is. The slow change in Iamaat from the leading mother of the village to the cold suspicious character we see in book two of the Sky Road is more typical of a change in belief. It isn’t sudden or random, but a deliberate retooling of her entire internal structure.
This is where reality steps in. What is true, is true, despite the hopes or beliefs of the characters or what they want to see happen in the world. You don’t need to believe that an arrow can kill you, it will. It doesn’t matter if you hope you’ll survive, or not. Truth is hard, cold, and in your face. The stone Siann carries, and the lightning score on her hand, proves that Siann has power, she doesn’t want it, never hoped to have it, didn’t even believe that magic was real, but the truth says that she will impact peoples lives, she can’t wish it away.
The price she pays for a power she never wanted is the underlying truth of her journey on the Sky Road.