Book 9 “Stenibelle”: Out of the Darkness
March 11, 2015
It doesn’t happen too often, especially in my case, but on select occasions your own characters can jump up off the page and surprise the heck out of you.
Such was the case with Stenibelle, a character I dreamed up on a lark.
OUT FROM THE DARKNESS:
I was working on The Shadow tech Goddess, a tale dealing with alternate universes and Extra-Planar Entities. Our hero, Paymaster Stenstrom, Lord of Belmont-South Tyrol, had been informed that there are many Wvulgroms. alternate versions of himself running around, all somewhat similar to himself but undeniably different–such is the basis of the entire Shadow tech Goddess storyline. It’s not an unfamiliar concept, we’ve seen it before in various media: fiction, TV, comics, films (the Star Trek episode “Mirror, Mirror” immediately comes to mind). In many cases, these “alternate entities” are a study in opposites: good vs evil, chaste vs immoral, that sort of thing. In my case I wanted these Wvulgroms (qv=alternate entities) to be merely a product of their circumstance. They can be very different from the character we’ve come to know, or, they might be very similar, it all depends.
In the case of the Shadow tech Goddess saga, eight different versions of Paymaster Stenstrom are involved. They all have similar experiences: they all served as paymaster aboard the Fleet ship Seeker for Captain Davage, and they all bought the captain’s chair of the Seeker later on. They all had various levels of failure/success in the Seeker Affair, as it was known. Some had no trouble at all securing the Seeker’s chair, some had a bit of rough sledding, others failed spectacularly. One was imprisoned, one was enslaved in a sex pit, and one was killed.
At the end of Book 8, all of these various alternate versions are brought together in the smothering darkness of the Shrine of Boraster on the Planet Eng and sorted out, each sent on their merry way.
As I wrote the final scene, each Wvulgrom was brought forth and presented to the central version of Paymaster Stenstrom–all of them tall and handsome.
And then the 3rd version was presented. As I wrote, my fingers worked the keys all by themselves. The third version presented was a small, comely woman. I had established earlier in the story that the Wvulgroms of Paymaster Stenstrom didn’t all have to be as is, they could be of differing race, of differing species, and, of differing gender. Such was the case here–the 3rd version was a woman named Stenibelle.
Lord A-Ram told him: “In another universe, you are a woman, and you would be most proud of her.”
So, that’s all I had, just an odd revelation that he, somewhere out in the universes, was a she.
Shortly after I finished the first draft of the Shadow tech Goddess, I developed the idea of writing a series of smaller, shorter books detailing the activities of the alternate Stenstroms’ as pertaining to the main story. I started writing them all at once, but the one that stood out most in my head was Stenibelle, the female. I began writing a quaint story dealing with Stenibelle’s quest to discover the way to long lost Cammara, an abandoned home-world of the League lost for over 200,000 years. At first, Stenibelle had all of the “It Man” abilities the male versions of Paymaster Stenstrom have: super strength, invulnerability, flight via mind power, and so on. The only thing she couldn’t so was fire the NTH pistols, which require a male-hand to shoot. I wrote her as a demure, considerate woman doing her best for her House under bizarre circumstances.
I quickly got bored with her. Where was the growth? Where was the potential? I really didn’t see it. I put her down for a long time and moved onto other stories. I considered deleting her altogether.
Then, it occurred to me that I’d been doing Stenibelle a great disservice. There was no depth to her, no agency, no room for personal growth. I’d been treating her with kid gloves, and she, though she had a great deal of power, was essentially helpless, like a princess in a tower.
Time for the gloves to come off. Time for Stenibelle to face the world. I was going to lay her bare and watch her grow into something new–not a perfect person, mind you, not invincible, not a cold, gritty tent-pole character, but a human one, full of successes and failures, remorse and joy, frailty and determination, and the capacity to better herself and her House.
First, I removed all of Stenstrom’s It Man powers. She still possessed all of her skills in Tyrol Sorcery, the vanishing, the lock picking, all of that, but no more super strength, no more flying and TK’ing. I took away all of the vast sums of money Stenstrom has available to him and made her a pauper. I also stuck her in prison. I made her angry and unsure of herself. I put her under the sway of powerful people and I addicted her to personality-altering Bolabungs.
Through all of that, Stenibelle had to make do, had to overcome poverty and addiction, had to learn to stand up for herself in the face of powerful people, had to learn to trust and seek help when it was needed, and to come to terms with her own heart. The character that grew before me was quite a welcome surprise, becoming more whole and complete than I has first thought possible.
I put her through a lot, and the person she became is something anybody can relate to and cheer for.
That’s what I was hoping for all along.
League of Elder Book 9: Stenibelle will be available summer 2015 from Loconeal Publishing.
copyright 2015: Ren Garcia, Carol Phillips, Fantasio, and Eve Ventrue