#2058

On Character Development, or: It’s (Apparently) Okay to Kill Assholes

I did a bad thing, folks… See, our DM and I contrived to have my current DnD character, Dhashi the bubbly magical girl of just sixteen years, die during the party’s quest to save the world from an evil god. She’s going to come back at some point, I promise! … but in the meantime, the other PCs are mourning her loss pretty hard and my wife (who plays one of them) will barely talk to me. All of this is technically fine – our DM loves torturing us and I love killing my characters, so we were both super stoked to launch this surprise on our friends. Over a 24-hour DnD slumber party extravaganza Dhashi died, her party members scrambled to resurrect her, and instead they got a totally different person (my psychopathic character Mage) back in her body. My wife was PIIIIIIISSED and it was great fun. 100% would do again.

But.

Here’s what’s weird. I, like… feel bad? For Dhashi? True, it was absolutely evil of me to contrive to have the other PCs slowly come to love Dhashi and think of her as a daughter before we killed her, but that’s not what I feel bad about (sorry, guys). I… feel bad that I killed Dhashi. I feel bad that I’m making her suffer, that she has to watch from the underworld while her friends try to complete the quest without her. I feel bad that when she’s finally resurrected she’ll be at least a little messed up and never again her unfailingly positive self who believes in the essential good of every living thing. I feel bad that she’s going to forever after be burdened with the ability to predict the deaths of anyone she meets.

Admittedly, I don’t feel bad enough to retcon any of this – but the feeling is still there and I don’t know what to do with it. I never feel guilty about killing my characters. Never. I love killing my characters. Tanim and Daren have died so many times that I literally couldn’t count them all. Even Mage dies from time to time. It’s just what I do. I love causing pain. So why do I feel so sad about Dhashi? She was just supposed to be the silly magical girl character I used to irritate my friends’ characters for a single DnD campaign, not an entirely new character fleshed out with a backstory, complex experiences, and an uncertain future. That wasn’t the deal! She’s a cliche, a paper doll, she shouldn’t have the ability to give me such FEELS. But here we are.

I think what this partly comes down to is the fact that Dhashi is pure good. There isn’t a mean, selfish, vain, jealous, angry, or lazy bone in her body. She is the epitome of Lawful Good and always does whatever is in her power to help those in need. My other characters? Not so much. My other characters are assholes. Tanim is an asshole; Daren is an asshole; Mage is an asshole. I write assholes, and I guess on some level I feel like that makes it okay to kill them or otherwise cause them to suffer horribly. Not that they necessarily deserve every bad thing that happens to them, of course. They just… deserve it more than Dhashi does.

I knew from the beginning that Dhashi would learn some harsh lessons during the campaign; anyone as naive, hopeful, and trusting as her would, especially in a world where survival of the fittest seems the only law. She needs to learn those lessons, though, to face the ugly truth in her world, just like every anime magical girl must face the darkness of her own. I just didn’t realize that by having a character who was so good, so innocent, so ready to save the world despite all its sorrow and brutality, it would hurt like fuck to watch her learn those lessons the hard way. She’ll come out stronger for it, because that’s what magical girls do, but she won’t come out the same.

And I feel BAD about that.
Wtf.

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Meet My Characters

Featured

 Or: I Don’t Always Write Assholes (But Mostly I Do)

Thought I’d give new folks the TL;DR overview of the characters I sporadically write about. More in their respective tags, of course.

Remr: Tiefling scientist with poor impulse control. Huge fucking nerd. Has no social skills but somehow managed to help save the world. Just so gay and nerdy. Find her in the DnD tag.

Dhashi: Lolita aasimar magical girl who believes good always triumphs over evil. Leaves a trail of glitter everywhere she goes. Died but came back. Very cute. Very positive. Very annoying. Find her in the DnD tag.

Mage: Asshole pirate queen with too much time on her hands. Always trying to destroy the good guys. Enjoys arson and petty vandalism. Kinda half-monster maybe? Find her in the Mage tag.

Tanim: Rich asshole who loves drugs, alcohol, and sex with strangers. Falls in love with Daren. High class angst with a side of sadomasochism. Find him in the Tanim and Daren tag.

Daren: Mentally unstable asshole. Falls in love with Tanim. Less angst, more monotone sarcasm and completely serious threats of violence. Really really likes knives. Find him in the Tanim and Daren tag.

#2034

The city doesn’t make sense. The streets are empty, the windows dark, the roads go on and on. Time stands still, runs backwards, or perhaps it doesn’t exist at all. Does anything exist? Is this a real place or just a stage set with the bare minimum needed to tell the story? I fear if I go too far down the wrong street, if I peer through the wrong window, I’ll glimpse the raw fabric from which the universe constructs this place. There is no entrance or exit, beginning or end. Is this Purgatory? Is this Hell? I cannot imagine it to be Heaven, unless Heaven is just a Hell of our own devising. No brimstone or lakes of fire here, though, just the repetition of memories so familiar they become all that ever happened or ever will. Is this place incomplete because all those other details – other people, other needs and demands, all the mundane realities of a fully fledged world – were simply not worth remembering?

Of course. Of course they weren’t. If you lived a hundred thousand lives, of course you’d want – need – to remember only the most important details. Of course all you’d remember are the moments made brightest by pain and love. What else has there been for you? So maybe this city isn’t some construction of Heaven or Hell at all. Maybe it’s just your minds, as intertwined as your lives, your hearts, your souls, a honeycomb network of isolated memories stripped of every nonessential detail. Maybe that’s why there’s so much you won’t tell me; maybe that’s why the city is so limited, why I can’t figure out how you got from A to C, X to Z. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t need to make sense because the memories themselves, clear as broken glass, are all that matter.

#2018

Characters, Alter Egos, Or Unknowable Nameless Gods?

When someone asks me what I write about, I usually say something like, I have a couple characters I write about and then nothing more. At least, that’s how I answer if I want to sound like a not-crazy person. But if I want to be truthful, I have to say something more like:

I thought I had three characters I wrote about, but it turns out two of them are probably incredibly ancient gods (or ghosts? or angels? or something even older than the very concept of either?) and the other one is an alter ego who has somehow taken on way more agency than I thought possible and may sometimes be used as a mask by dark somethings I am too afraid to face.

Let’s take a closer look at that second one. See, when I was a wee eighth grader I simultaneously discovered Lord of the Rings and DeviantArt. Being obsessed with elves, I made my DA screenname “Darkelvenmage” and quickly developed the moniker into a character who was everything I wanted to be. The Darkelvenmage was tall and willowy, pale as snow with long hair as dark as ravens’ wings, eyes as green as emeralds, and sharp features that highlighted her royalty and mystery. She wore all black and rarely spoke, but heaven help you if you pissed her off; she was heir to ancient magic, a skilled warrior, and had nothing to lose. She had been stripped of her home and her name (hence the brilliant title “dark elven mage”) and therefore wandered the world alone, neither a force of good nor evil. For my chubby, geeky thirteen year old self, Mage became a mask I could put on when I needed to feel like a badass, an alter ego who was always calm and logical, who never let her emotions get the better of her or made a fool of herself. I carried her with me through high school like a sword held between myself and all the bad things I encountered, standing just a little taller and smiling just a little more coldly. She made me feel fierce and untouchable.

In college I had a falling out with a group of online friends I’d made in high school, friends who knew me best through Mage and the story I’d given her to fit into their fantasy world. Feeling hurt and vengeful, I decided to rebel and Mage became the ally turned enemy intent on destroying the world the “good guys” had built. I loved the shock it caused, the drama, and the sudden understanding that nothing bound me to act in a particular way. Why not be the villain? Wasn’t that more fun anyway? Certainly playing Mage as the Big Bad brought me a selfish kind of joy, a way to enact a little revenge for my slighted self. Eventually, of course, some of those friends and I parted ways for good, and others of us reconciled and grew closer. But Mage stayed the villain, one with flair, dark humor, and just a dash of madness. This version of her is different from the silent, haughty one of my high school years, yet they are both true to her form. She is still my alter ego, my champion, the mask I wear on days when I wake up feeling too small and scared.

Sometimes, though, it’s like I look at Mage in my mind’s eye and… it’s not her. Something else watches out her eyes. Something that is not me, nor anything I placed there. Sometimes she feels like I’m not the one in control, like she’s not an alter anything anymore. I feel Lovecraftian presences squirming beneath her skin and taste sour names like Charybdis, Morrigan, Kali at the back of my mouth. I wonder sometimes if I have crafted Mage too well, if I am not the only one who can wear her mask. She is still a character in the strictest sense – I write her story, she does not tell me what to write (as Tanim and Daren do) – but there are times when I meet her eyes and it’s not the better, cooler version of myself staring back. I don’t know what it is, but it feels timeless and very powerful.

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This sketch of Mage is by my bestest frienemy – check out her patreon for more!

#2011

All the bullets you’ve fired remain yet within me. Perhaps this is why my body aches and works so poorly; their slow corrosion poisons me from the inside out, much like my love for you. I feel their locations as I move, little twinges of pain in my heart, my stomach, my lungs, but most especially in my right temple. I will continue to bear them all for you the way one might wear hard-earned scars. Each contains a story worth the telling, if the listener has the stomach for my tales. I will not censor the truth to make it palatable to a greater audience – but for those who will listen, for those who will understand, I have so many stories to tell. Come gaze on my scars.

#1912

I don’t try to get published. I know it would be useless – we aren’t publishable. No one would pay for the scripture of dead gods, or the hymns of phantoms, or the gospel of the insane. No one would read the poetry of a madwoman, would it cost them even a nickel. You have too few beginnings for biography and too many endings for non-fiction. I dedicate too many words to the sound of blood in your lungs for either horror or erotica; they will say it makes readers uncomfortable. We’re just not presentable and I can’t make us so, not when it’s blasphemy to edit or omit. I could not tell lies for money. I could not cut chunks of flesh from my side to earn their weight in coin. If they never believed Cassandra, why should they believe me? Publishers aren’t interested in crazy unless it’s marketable.