I’ve been aiming a magnifying glass at the characters in the Novel over the past few weeks so I figured now it would be a good time for an insight post. It really comes down to what makes an interesting character interesting?
Previous to working on Dimanagul, I always prided myself on my quirky characters. I loved gimmicks and making characters no one could forget. But as time went on I realized it was very difficult to make a cognitive story without character depth. When you make stories about human conflict, your characters have to stand at center stage.
It’s as simple as this: If they don’t have substance, they’re weak characters.
So my little pet project was to make sure everyone in Dimanagul have clear goals, fears and expectations. I buckled down and challenged myself to make it a 90%-10% situation. Even if 10% of the character is all the reader sees, the other 90% needs to exist. It’s just that simple.
Derrek comes from a world that needs to be created. Mind you it is a form of our world, but it doesn’t actually exist. His world is shown in a single chapter and the rest takes place in the world of Pange.
Similarly to that, Derrek’s past is not as directly relevant to the story as some of the secondary characters because it is ‘their turf’. That does not excuse me from developing him as a character. He is at the core of the story, and if the core of an apple is rotten… it’s a rotten apple. Not that bad apples can be fun in their own way…
So I wanted to take the time to introduce him as a character. Not just a number:
Derrek has spent a vast majority of his life as a face in the crowd, drifting along in an atmosphere with no clear threats or urgency. Born in 2023, he lives in an era of peace. War is thing of the past. This has left him with a strong desire to create something that turns heads and invokes awe. This desire led him to wanting to become an Architect.
In his eyes, he can’t but help appreciate mankind’s advancement. As an example, worldwide shortage of raw materials has been offset by replication technology. But for him, the greatest thing man has achieved has been what he has built. It personifies pride, creativity, and stands against time defiantly. His interest, bordering on obsession, with the architecture of Ancient Greece, Rome, and structures throughout history is a testament to that. He maintains a baseline appreciation for all things though, even in the simplest of structures.
The problem is Derrek lacks creativity. He understands the fundamentals and that is why he has good grades. When it comes to the soul of architecture, its art, he is a complete failure; and he knows it.
Born raised in an urban atmosphere, Derrek has spent his life in a small downtown loft or apartment. Confidence is not his strong suit. He often fails to stand behind his choices and accept the consequences rather than take the middle of the road. He yearns to discover confidence in his instincts; and accept the choices as the right thing to do, even they end in failure.
Unfortunately Derrek has always had people that actively tore him down. His father has been the primary roadblock but there were always teachers that accomplished the same effect. One of his earliest memories involved his father criticizing a picture he drew for his parents; a house in the clouds. His father bluntly told him it would never work: Clouds are made of condensed water; you can’t walk on them let alone build on them.
Derrek took those words to heart, and was hesitant to take similar risks. Every innovation or radical idea he came up with was greeted with a placid response. He found comfort in what was tried, tested and safe.
From a very young age Derrek has felt like he has disappointed his loved ones. His father in particular was not shy about his disdain for Derrek’s choice of career. Derrek’s paternal grandparents practiced business law, and were very detail oriented and rational. It frustrates him to no end that his father is right, even his nature leans him away from creative thought and towards cold rational thought.
There lies his fear and his urge for creativity. He is afraid that he will fall into the masses and drown. He’s a pushover by nature and doesn’t find it easy to speak out against the norm, because he finds comfort in it.
He is afraid of that comfort. Derrek knows very well that he will not be happy if he lets himself settle for what he’s good at. The frequent dismissal of his radical ideas has taken its toll on him. The rational side of him batters him when it happens and causes him to shrink back further and further every time.
Derrek’s two closest friends aid him in that cause. Kirsten Berry, a neighbor and fellow student frequently challenges his boring nature. She has the unique ability to force him to have fun and drag him out in the world. Without her guidance he would likely be content to hole up in his apartment. Wilt Upton manages to provide him with distractions. Even though Wilt himself takes it to an extreme, he reminds Derrek that he needs to stop and smell the roses.
Derrek wants to be noticed. He wants to be praised. But he doesn’t relish it unless it is praise meant for him. Everyone in Derrek’s life see him as reliable. He wants people to see him as great. People gravitate to him because he is reliable in that sense. He’s calm, level headed, and can address crisis with a similar demeanor across the board. He’s pure when it comes to stereotypes as well. He avoids predispositions based on anything other than personal experience or the word of those he cares about balanced with logic.
In this light he can expertly take what people say with a grain of salt and can apply the appropriate amount of caution. In other words, he knows slanted thoughts exist, but doesn’t damn people for them. Their opinions are still valid even if they’re skewed. To him it’s just another filter to be applied to the correct answer.
Kirsten in particular sees this strength in him and frequently comes to him with problems as a result. Derrek looks upon it as a mutual agreement, they help each other. There have been drawn together because of particular moments of frustration but the both of them accept they are little more than friends.
Derrek realizes he has options though. His analytical personality would serve well for him to be a swindler. He sees it as a clear way for him to defy order and apply his talents to good use. It doesn’t help that he’s not a particularly noble person, like most people he’s selfish and petty. The only thing keeping him from turning to a life of crime is that it would be too much trouble.
However he has no reason to pursue this flight of fancy. He is not out for the thrill of theft or the satisfaction of defying order. He has amused himself with imagining the reaction of horror from his paternal grandparents if he so much as mentioned the thought. Occasionally he’ll consider how he would go committing a crime, but it’s more of a spectator interest. Some people watch and read detective stories, he imagines himself the villain.
Because he keeps wild ideas like that bottled up, Derrek can come across as overly simple. He appears to doubts everything people say. He also has a bad habit of applying cold logic to everything and has a very hard time stopping simply appreciating life.
When the opportunity arises, Derrek often asks for calm clarification and it can frustrate blunt people. He’s anything but blunt. His response to people that are highly opinionated varies between obedient tolerance and quiet protest, he very rarely meets them punch for punch in conflict even on matters he feels strongly about. In short, he’s a coward by nature. Derrek thrives in a rational atmosphere but suffers where snap choices must be made.
Above all else Derrek is very good at making calculated choices. As long as he has an abundance of data at his disposal and time to consider he rarely makes errors. This is because he takes all details into account, no matter how minute. The problem with this approach is that life doesn’t have a pause button and you don’t get to redo choices once you commit to them.
…but strange opportunities tend to arise.