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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

GUEST POST: The Genesis of Edar Moncrief by Christopher Kellen

THE ELEMENTS OF SORCERY focuses on the tale of how Edar Moncrief, a maker of love potions and wart remover (and competent sorcerer in his own right) gets tangled up with an Arbiter, and how his life gets irrevocably screwed up from that point forward. It's swords-and-sorcery written with an urban fantasy sensibility—like if Jim Butcher (author of The Dresden Files) wrote stories based on Robert E. Howard's Conan and Solomon Kane. There will be five installments when it's finished; each is novelette- to novella-length, ranging between 14,000 and 19,000 words so far, and they've been getting steadily longer.

In September 2011, I had decided to begin work on the second installment of my flagship series The Arbiter Codex. Originally entitled PROPHECY, the novel was going pretty well up until the point when I realized it wasn't. I ended up entirely scrapping that draft (except for some key parts that made it into what became LEGACY), which amounted to throwing away something like 75,000 words. It was one of the most painful things I've ever had to do.

However, something good did come out of it. At the tail end of Chapter 3 of this failed draft, I wrote this exchange:

A figure stepped out of the shadows of the tailor's shop and into the dim candlelight. Dressed immaculately in robes of deep green with violet and gold accents, the figure was tall, broad-shouldered, with olive skin and closely-trimmed midnight hair, sporting a pointed black beard on his chin. Pale yellow eyes stared out from beneath heavy brows, but the dark lips were split in a grin, revealing shining white teeth.

"Edar Moncrief," the Arbiter growled. "Didn't I tell you I'd kill you if I ever saw you again?"

"Indeed you did, Tal," the sorcerer replied. "Indeed you did. I must ask; do you still intend to make good on that threat? Think carefully before you answer, but do not think too long. I have information which may very well save your life before this night is out."

The sorcerer grinned; a wolfish expression.

"I have been waiting for you."

Apparently, I originally modeled the character on Antonio Banderas. (D'oh.)

However, in the very next chapter, on the very next page, Moncrief changed. He was no longer suave and confident like he was in the above passage—he was nervous, skittish, and genuinely afraid for his life. He bargained for his life with the knowledge of a "vision" (which he hadn't actually seen), promising to tell the Arbiter the details for safe passage to a place far away.

I had little use for the confident, dangerous sorcerer… but this manipulative, nervous man—that was something I could work with!

Of course, when I wrote D'Arden's line of dialogue—Didn't I tell you I'd kill you if I ever saw you again?—I had no idea what he meant by that. It came to me in a fit of inspiration, a flash of inspired brilliance (if I do say so myself) which I knew that I would have to follow up on.

Later in the draft (just before I realized that it wasn't going to work and gave up on it) I started writing scenes from Moncrief's first-person perspective. Even though the draft itself had failed, the character had wormed his way into my brain. He was much smarter than he made himself appear, I discovered. He was a master manipulator, even if he was a bit cowardly. This was exactly the kind of character I had always wanted to write about.

So, when I ended up giving up on PROPHECY, I sat down and thought about that line.

Didn't I tell you I'd kill you if I ever saw you again?

At that point, I knew my Arbiter pretty well (having just done revisions on ELEGY and finished writing THE CORPSE KING). The crime would have had to be serious for a threat like that to be made, and for D'Arden to remember it with such vehemence.

With that, I wrote the first words of what became SORCERER'S CODE, and the character shone through exactly as I wanted him to. He was hapless when caught off-guard, with a tendency to say stupid things when nervous, but he was smart, sophisticated and dangerous when he was ready for what was coming.

Once I finished SORCERER'S CODE, I knew that it was only the beginning of Moncrief's story. As I celebrate the upcoming launch of the third entry in his series—knowing that there are two left to tell—I'm excited to watch him change into the character which eventually appeared as a major supporting role in LEGACY, and who will be critical to the turning of events when I complete my flagship series later this year with the publication of DESTINY.

This guy steals the show in every scene he appears in. Some authors would say that it's not their fault—they don't control what their characters do, but frankly, I'm very proud to have created a personality able to upstage my main characters in their own book!

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Christopher Kellen was indoctrinated in to the fantasy field by D&D as a child player. He however began writing only as an adult and his actual stint began by participating in NaNoWriMo in 2005. He currently works as an IT professional and is a passionate gamer as well. A proud member of the Genre Underground, his heroes of literature are those who are fearless in telling stories that truly mean something to their readers. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife and monstrous black dog.


Anonymous said...

This is why I read FBC. Would have never found out about Edar Moncrief otherwise. Although short, the first two stories show lots of potential. Awaiting the third, and hoping that the author gains recognition.

Rick Robinson said...

They sound okay, but I do grieve the apparent death of decent cover art these days.


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