Characterization As Series Fuel

I start any series by creating a cast of characters. I might have an idea of what I want the basic plots to be, what themes I want to tackle and what the larger world looks like that I am setting the stories in, but ultimately, characterization is king in my work. That is because whereas the setting and themes may not change much, characters are constantly changing and growing as they interact and face different challenges. This makes them a constant source of new stories.

The best example I have of this in my own work is likely Catherine Farrows, the criminal analyst protagonist of the Black Mask series. Catherine starts out the series in a state of burnout, having had so much trouble coping with the corruption in the justice system back in her home state that she’s on hiatus in a new state across the country trying to deal with her feelings. She ends up having a tryst with Thomas, her neighbor, not knowing he’s actually the vigilante the police are hunting. As the clues start to pile up, she is thrust into the police investigation of this vigilante. But she, along with many members of law enforcement, feels the same helpless anger, and they actually end up rooting for the Black Mask more often than not, because he’s doing what they want to be doing. As she learns more about this vigilante, she finds herself agreeing with him, and realizes that she’s about to leave her past by-the-book treatment of law enforcement behind. By the time she discovers that her lover Thomas is the Black Mask, she has already chosen to help the vigilante, even though it puts her own life at risk.

As the series progresses, she experiences a lot of growth. She becomes a vigilante herself. She has to face herself and Thomas being captured, injured and threatened. She endures a lot of personal loss, and is forced to rethink her morals at several points, especially when it comes to the use of force—most especially lethal force. Her view of reality is also tested, as she experiences things which could be interpreted as mystical at certain points. She also has to deal with certain realities of being in love with a masked vigilante, such as what happens when he can’t leave his work behind when the mask comes off.

Each new challenge that she faced in the stories taught me more about her, and that gave me fuel for more stories. Whereas Thomas’s story arc was largely pinned to his revenge on Ganymede and his father, Catherine’s is just as focused on winning a life for them past the battle with Ganymede. She comments in the story that for her, defeating Ganymede is as much about giving Thomas closure and making the world safer for their future children as it is about any larger ideas of justice or revenge.

At the end of the fifth story, there is still enough potential left to start a second story arc, because the characters have never stopped growing on me. Who the Big Bad will be now that Ganymede is destroyed, I don’t yet know. But Catherine and her friends will definitely be up for the challenge.

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