The Evolution of a Character

Some characters come to me fully formed with a story to tell. Others hang out for a while, watching and waiting, trying things on until finally they manage to introduce themselves. A few come into my life as a full person and hang around long enough to grow. These are the characters I love. They are my friends and the most likely reason that I will be mistaken for a schizophrenic (although I have it on good authority that as long as I know the characters are in my head I’m still as close to sane as I’ll ever be).

One such character is Kayla atu Felians Giance, though she rarely mentions the family name even when presenting herself to kings. Kayla is, and always has been, an independent soul who simply won’t believe that a thing is impossible. She is my inner snark and conscious. When things are right, she will be your best friend. Step off the high road and you will find yourself facing off against the most powerful and creative adversary you will ever meet.

Kayla first appeared in my mind as a role playing character for a Dungeons and Dragons(tm) game. The group I was with were developing a set of characters from a wide range of worlds to be drawn into “Hero Call” game. The Dungeon Master told us to develop not only a unique character, but a unique world and culture from which that character would be pulled. Kayla came to me then, fully formed with a world, a story and a life. The hardest part about this game was getting it all written out in an easy to reference format. From the first, I knew that Kayla was a powerful mage as well as a fighter, but her styles weren’t natural to her form. That’s part of the story she came with. She was abandoned or lost by her parents and raised by a second sentient race on her world. While Kayla is humanoid, her adoptive family are feline. Consequently, she had to learn to manipulate magic on a much deeper level (because she didn’t have the prehensile tail her teachers used to trace sigils in the air with).

The game was fun, and lasted two years until the DM graduated.

Kayla resurfaced a couple of years later as a character in a shared world story telling game. In this game, there were no DMs, no central authority, just the group decision making process and a few rules. This was back in the days of local citadel dial-up message boards. What we did, was each person wrote a chapter from their character’s point of view. You had to accept that anything previously written was true in the story, or at least make a convincing argument otherwise. This time Kayla found herself in yet another new world, this time with interesting new restrictions on her diet and magic. She was born on a copper based world, and therefor has copper based blood (green since that’s the color that copper oxidizes unlike Iron that oxidizes red to give us our red blood). The world of that story was Earth based and Kayla was the only alien in the story brought in by a magical experiment gone awry by one of the other characters. Her green copper based blood meant that she was unable to eat the meat in this new world and became a vegetarian. It also meant that the power she used for her magic is less plentiful in this world. So while she is still quite powerful, it takes her weeks rather than days to recover from using her power.

I played her, in that story, as though she had been through the adventure in the previous game already. By this point she had been several years away from her home world and was pretty well resigned to the idea that she wouldn’t be going back. This wasn’t much of an issue for her, thankfully.

After that game broke up, Kayla started to feature in short stories that I wrote to amuse myself. I never thought of them as publishable (and looking back on them now, that’s probably a good thing) they were just a way for me to let off steam. Kayla is the perfect character for that. She can be brutally honest when she has an opinion. Her favorite way to tell you that she thinks you’ve been less than honest is to teleport a fish into your pants. I still have some of those stories in which my bosses and their administrators found themselves dealing with that particular issue (see what I mean about not being salable?).

Kayla has made appearances in several more short term D&D games. She is a go-to character for when I need someone quick.

Then she started telling me that she had a story to tell. She became so insistent about it that I let her dictate my 2009 NaNo Novel (National Novel Writing Month ). What a fun story she wove then too. The words came so easily that year. I knew Kayla so well, some of that familiarity transferred to all the new characters in the story. The only problem showed up when I went back to edit the story. This was yet another new world for Kayla, only in this story she’d been there for 10 years and had established herself as the worst nightmare of everyone else’s nightmares. Well how did that happen?

“It happened in the first book.” Kayla told me.

Of course it did. Somehow, I had managed to write book 2 first.

It’s taken two years of convincing, but Kayla has finally told me the rest of the story. I will be writing it out this November (well book 1 anyway, I’ll have to wait a bit for book 3). I know that at the end of book 3 Kayla will go home at long last. In a way I kind of dread that moment. I’m half afraid that when she finally goes home, she will be gone from my mind. She’s been with me longer than my husband. At the same time I know that she will always be, is now and has always been a figment of my imagination. The same as any other character.

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