A Room of Their Own: A Look at Characters and the Spaces They Inhabit

Image in the public domain. Via wikimedia commons

The last few days I’ve been thinking about some interesting aspects of the writing process, particularly in line with writing this follow-up (not really quite a sequel) to Pilgrim of the Sky. And a great deal of it has to do with space. So, in the first book, Maddie leaves her space (her apartment she shared with Alvin) and spends the rest of the book going to other places. But she most certainly doesn’t make a space of her own. As this book begins, she’s half in the process of doing that. But, as is the habit of many of my characters (when I think upon it) she doesn’t have a lot of agency when it comes to space. She appreciates decor significantly more than the average person, sure. But really, the only character in Pilgrim who’s created their own space to dwell in is Matilda. And we know how that turns out.

So, to take a step back and explain a little of what I mean, it’s important to note that Watcher of the Skies isn’t about discovering one’s godling status. Maddie’s journey was coming grips with her own demi-divinity. But in Second World the godlings there are established. Sure, they don’t trumpet their divinity to the skies (at least not the Londinium crew) but they have built lives–in some cases multiple lives–around their power. They’re comfortable, they’ve settled. Verta, the Venus analog, has an entire temple/brothel that she’s lovingly curated for over a century. And recently, aboard the Heol, I’ve been able to carve out a bit of La Roche’s space.  For those following along at home, La Roche is, of course, the predecessor to Randall in Pilgrim. He shares many of the same qualities, and even looks a bit like him. They are both from the Apollo analogue. While Randall characterized the genius aspect–always brimming with work and science and ideas–La Roche is the flashier, gaudier side of the god of the sun. And he’s very much aware of that fact. And proud of it. I mean, it is very fun to think about how a demigod might go about choosing their drapes, isn’t it?

Previously, I didn’t have time to create the spaces for my characters. The book just wasn’t written that way. But it is really important this time around. It’s a way to get into their skins, to see the world from their unusual perspective. Joss, as a character, hasn’t yet gotten to the point where he can create his own space (and his definition of space is significantly more complicated than Verta’s or La Roche’s–so far his only “space” is the roof of various buildings, since he can’t yet get the hang of sleeping inside). But for the first time in the series, the Apollo “raven” lad is able to make his own little corner. What he keeps, how he travels–all these things speak to him as a character. And I rather liked this bit. (With NaNoDraft caveats here!)

I’d never had the pleasure of seeing La Roche’s home in Londinium, but I was not surprised at the state of the cabin. As captain, or whatever official title he had on the boat, he commanded the most impressive quarters. Garish, for my liking, but not at all like the deep, sultry complexity of Verta’s brothel and temple. La Roche liked shiny things, gilded things, silver things, the sorts of things with corkscrews and curlicues on top for no purpose at all other than to draw the eye. Like a magpie in his nest.

Stepping in I had to shade my eyes from it all. There were so many things to look at that it made me dizzy. Shaking my head I was able to parse out the individual parts of the room—the elaborately carved bed, the thick, stuffed chairs with gilded embroidery, the many books and scrolls tucked away on shelves.

And in the middle of it all sat Andrew La Roche, smoking a long, narrow black pipe, one leg crossed over the other and staring at me intently. He wore a striped black silk robe lined with fur about the neck, and held at his side a bit of brandy which he swished back and forth in the glass. Brandy did make sense. It was the smell I’d gotten a whiff of most times around him.

Other things of note: I wrote a scene with a crazy Kraken who thinks she’s a fish, lit some bodies on fire, and shrunk my main character a few inches. That’ll teach him!