My first Marty Stu!
Name: Keren. I was very insistent about it being pronounced Cur-ANN. I didn't know then that it was a real female name, since I'd lifted it off the male bard in a Forgotten Realms book, but I think I suspected. And it's very close to my real first name- too much for comfort.
Actual Titles: By the end of the trilogy, Councilman of Arcadia and Wolf-friend. His emotions are really too violent for him to be trusted with government, though.
Titles that he 'should' have had: Lord of Deerfriend. He had the strongest magic in his family- of course- but his evil father kept him from inheriting, as did his evil foster brother.
Looks: Silver hair (just like drunkard father's). Gold-flecked black eyes (again, just like his father's). The silver hair isn't all that unusual among his people, who almost all have hair colors that could only come out of a dye bottle for humans, but the eyes sure as hell are. That was a plot point, too, due for much angsting.
He also has a tan that never seems to fade, and a lot of scars from various torture sessions. Now, thinking about how those would actually look, I don't think he could get married.
Personality: Oh, fiery, of course! Instead of cowering before his abusive parents like a normal child, he fought back. And got confined in his room for years, since his people live for millennia. And attacked slave caravans, killing the slavers and freeing the slaves, despite all the political havoc that this could cause (it has proved a useful source of political havoc for subsequent novels). He always won every confrontation with his evil foster brother, except for two of them, since he could come up with the perfect comeback and just leave Sodiest there quivering in fury. Very quick temper, irritating sense of self-righteousness, and seeing the world in black-and-white and very personal terms. The only solace I have is that this is a pretty normal way for a teenager to act, judging by the experience I've gathered over the ten years since I've written him. It just isn't a good way for an Elwen who was supposed to be over two thousand years old at the end of the story to act.
Birth Family: His family is the highest of all the 'high blood' lines in Rowan, his native city. Of course. His grandmother invented starflight, and his several times great-grandfather discovered the secret of creating life. And Keren is really the true heir to that glory, if his family would just see it! *sob*
His father is an abusive drunkard, loathed by other characters for Keren's sake. (This has even gotten into other stories, so I suppose that characterization of Alicalor Deerfriend is here to stay. I really should write a story explaining how he got that way...) His mother hits him too, and then abruptly sacrifices herself for Keren at the end of the first story. He has one sister, Lomona, who loathes him, thanks to the efforts of his evil foster brother.
Ah, Sodiest Lafoxbane!
Sodiest obeys the Laws about controlling emotion in the city. Of course, this makes him Evil. And he's jealous of Keren, so he kills his best friend, gets him exiled from Rowan, spies on him, and kidnaps Keren's son and best friend in the last book of the trilogy, so that Keren has to come to him and be tortured and made evil for a while, too. He was a stupid villain- stupid, stupid. And I want to kick myself the more for it, because I actually gave him a background that had potential. His family was killed by the very creatures, Lafoxbanes, that they had earned their name by killing. He came to live with Keren's family because no one else was generous enough to take him. There's plenty of reason for genuine angst there, and even reason that he and Keren could have been friends.
Keren's middle sister, Kalupa, is probably the coolest character in the book. She takes no part in the family conflict on either side, and blames her parents for their abuse and her brother for his reckless actions about equally. I should have done more with her.
Family He Marries Into: Keren meets and falls in love with a human woman named Esme. Of course, she happens to be the one human woman in the world who has survived a lightning strike from a magestorm, giving her magic (which humans don't have in Arcadia, otherwise) and extending her lifespan as long as an Elwen's. So of course she's an outcast among her people, and Keren pities her, and loves her, and angsts about it, and then they get married and have four children, two daughters and two sons.
I portrayed Esme as gentle, patient, and kind. I don't really think, now, that she would settle for someone like Keren.
Friends: Oh, god. This is the part I'm most ashamed of. I was getting bashed over the head in school every day with the "Racism is Wrong!" message, so of course that got into the story. Keren makes friends with a black unicorn, even though his people keep unicorns as slaves, and of course that makes him an abolitionist. And he has that best friend whom Sodiest kills, Cuthri Rabbitsong, whom he mourns for the rest of his life. Cuthri was, like Esme, very gentle and patient, and I don't think he would have put up with Keren for a moment in "real life." Later, Keren makes friends of the wolf Elwens, and even winds up representing them in the Council of Arcadia.
But the crowning glory to this part has to be Echelli Durillo, the mostly-curalli (another breed of Elwen, whom Keren's people have a genetic hatred for) boy whom Keren makes friends with in the middle of a battle against the curalli. And Echelli befriends him back, even using his magic to insure that Keren won't succumb to his blood-hatred again. That in latter stories, with Echelli as a viewpoint character, Keren loses this magic because he betrayed Echelli is small comfort.
Of course, the "Racism is Wrong!" message can be conveyed by fantasy- but it takes a subtle touch, with far more grace, to do it than I had. I still think it takes a more subtle touch than I have. And given the many, many racial hatreds and antagonisms I've set up in that world now, it isn't realistic that Keren could just knock down the barriers with his Shiny Sparkly Personality.
Powers: *snort* What couldn't he do?
He had earth magic, which is normal for his people, but far more powerfully than most Elwens. Ditto for his emotional magic. And he could resist torture far more effectively than most Elwens, go into death and come back, commune with his weapons, fight extremely well, become the focus of a random prophecy out of nowhere, and, as I've mentioned, react completely stupidly and have everyone approve.
But I did learn a lot of things.
There are reasons I'm grateful I wrote this trilogy.
1. It established a lot of groundwork, which had to be established. I ended the story knowing a lot about the history of Rowan, the Deerfriends, and land Elwens themselves. It needed reworking, but there are some basics that still haven't changed.
2. It got me used to writing a set amount, every day. That discipline has been completely and utterly invaluable, despite the times I've slacked off. I know many people who want to be "writers" but write only a few pages a year. Not the way to cut it. I've known a few others whose short stories I've read and loved, and who have assured me they're working on novels. Years later, those novels are still not complete. It hurts to think of the great stories they could, maybe, write and I could, maybe, read one day. But if they never finish at least one complete draft, I think it's doomed. I forget who said it- it was in a writing book somewhere- but I still think it's true: "One complete manuscript, no matter how much you hate it, is better than a dozen brilliant beginnings."
3. It purged me of some crap. Not all of it, of course.
4. It did cure me of the tendency to write my own experiences into the story in unaltered form. My characters started doing things I had never done, and had to research or create realistic alternatives for. Having Keren sprain his ankle because I sprained mine is not interesting compared to having to realize that I don't know anything about slaying a dragon and had better come up with some way to do it, quick.
5. It taught me things about the first-person voice, though it was years before I attempted it again except in poems.
6. It gave me other characters to write about. My next five books were about Echelli. And the long, long series after that included bits of history that had shown up during Keren's books as campfire tales. I think it was my nineteenth novel before I had come up with a plot that didn't have its roots in Keren's story, ultimately.
7. It gave me an enormous sense of accomplishment, at an age where I had a few close friends but shared almost none of the 'common' interests, such as television shows, basketball, and boyfriends. (I was lucky that my friends were interested in fantasy literature, too, the ruling passion in my life then). If I didn't go on dates or look pretty or didn't know anything about the X-Files, at least I could think, "I've done this. I've written these books."
Phew. That was rambly.