Friday, January 17, 2014

Story Thoughts: Negotiation

One of the best things about writing in the Battletech universe is that there is no faction that is totally white (ie, the “good guys”) or totally Black (“the bad guys”). Every faction has good guys and bad guys, and part of the fun is finding those characters who the reader will at least respect, if not like.

But there is one faction that doesn't quite have the same balance of black and white --- the Word of Blake’s Manei Domini. They are a mix of Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Borgs, Doctor Who’s Cybermen, and the Terminator. They are fanatical and remorseless killers in service to their Master.

I took on the challenge of creating a character who was a Manei Domini who was more than a merciless killer.  From this came Precentor Gazael, the story’s main character. It took some time to work out his character, and it took advice from Herb and others to get Gazael into the right mindset. I think I did all right with him.

It’s hard to write a sympathetic character that’s a member of a group that is otherwise perceived as being evil, and viciously evil at that. The main character had to have some redeeming qualities, or else why would the reader bother to finish the story? At the same time, The Manei Domini are not too dissimilar from each other in basic attitude and beliefs. They can’t be “good guys” without major changes to their basic philosophy. So I have to create the story that would fit a Manei Domini’s basic mindset, but without making the main character be a monster. I believe the main character must have something redeeming about them, or else the character doesn't work.

Precentor Gazael is as remorseless as any Manei Domini, but he has more sympathy for a terrorist leader holding most of Arboris’ planetary government then with the part of the Arboris government that's not being held. He treats non-Manei Domini Word personnel with trust, knowing that he needs them. He also has no tolerance for those who put their lust for power above the good of the Protectorate. He seems himself as a protector of humanity — frails — and takes his responsibility seriously.

At the same time, he has no compunction about killing anyone if he has to, and do it quickly. He sees himself as superior to the rest of Humanity. He's kept a few things from some of the people under his command. He uses anything he has to in order to complete his assignment. He’s still Manei Domini, but he’s more than just a cybernetic killer.

I chose Arboris because of the history of unrest and the fact it join the Protectorate early. Holmen’s the regular Word trooper, while Franks is the problem. I wanted to give the terrorist leader Pike some depth with his reasoning, and tied it back into the underlying problem Gazael uncovers. I like the story, and I think it holds up.

This was not an easy story to write. In addition to getting Gazael's personality right, it was finding a balance between him and his aide Nancy Madoc. (More on her in another post.) It was also trying to work the background into the story, like the massacre at the demonstration and the connections it had to two characters, one who has a couple of short appearances in the story and one who is only mentioned by name.

Gazael has grown on me: I wrote another story about him that was published, Evacuation, and have stated a third story, with two more story ideas in the back of my mind. I hope to be able to bring more of Gazael’s missions to the readers.

Back to work!


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