Following on from my post yesterday, in which I answered Emma Kerry’s question about my writing process regarding The Guns of Retribution, today I’m going to discuss my characters and what they mean to me, as posed by Doc O’Donnell – characters and what they mean to me.
I’ve already written a post over on the Write Anything blog about creating characters, but I have to admit, I didn’t purposefully set out to create any of the characters that appear in The Guns of Retribution. My principal characters are Grey O’Donnell (protagonist and bounty hunter) and Jasper Roberts (antagonist and sheriff). There are other characters, such as Grey’s sidekicks Billy and Mahko, my femme fatale Madeline Beaufontaine, and Jasper’s evil righthand man Jesse, but each of them cropped up during the writing process with little conscious thought on my part. It’s almost as if they were standing offstage, just waiting for their turn to come on and shine.
I’ve already talked a little about Grey and his part in the writing process in my post yesterday, and he truly is a pleasure to work with. He’s tough when he needs to be, but the rest of the time he’s well-mannered and polite. He and Jasper share a past, although Jasper’s violent and murderous tendencies are what drove Grey to leave Retribution six years before the events of the book. He took up bounty hunting as he’s a good shot, he can ride, and it allows him to fulfil his sense of justice and fair play. Grey also managed to freak me out during a ouija board session during one of my paranormal investigations when he came through to thank me for giving him life. Not something many authors can lay claim to! He’s not perfect, and he doesn’t claim to be, but he tries his best to do what he thinks is right.
Jasper’s a bastard. In the novel, I depict him as being short and easily riled, prone to histrionic screaming fits and not-so-subtle threats. I don’t really like writing Jasper as he leaves a bad taste in my mouth, but I guess there is something of the pantomime villain about him. He might be little in stature, but he’s larger than life! Besides which, his performances allow Grey to be a bit sarcastic and it’s nice to see that edge to Grey, since he’s normally so easygoing. I didn’t want Jasper to be the kind of villain you love to hate, or the kind of villain who is so cool in his own right that you prefer him to the hero (like Captain Barbossa or Darth Vader) – I wanted Jasper to be outright odious. I didn’t want him to come across as being the somewhat stereotypical “short man with a big mouth”, so I brainstormed his backstory to find out what could have possibly turned Jasper from being a bit wild, to full-on evil. I came up with quite a lot of backstory for him, but not much makes it into the book – and that’s because it doesn’t need to. Readers only need a hint of backstory, and they can fill in the rest. This is a novella, not a psychological case study.
Besides, this isn’t just a Western, it’s a pulp Western. It needn’t be too complicated – it’s not trying to be Ulysses. My characters need realistic motivations but I’d rather they were entertaining than lifted from life. Because ultimately, that’s what I was trying to do with The Guns of Retribution. I wanted it to be historically accurate, but I want to entertain. I want people to read my book instead of numbing their brain in front of the TV.