Steps to a Story: Meeting Matthew

I have mentioned before in posts that my fiction is very character-driven.  I need to know my characters, at least a little bit, before I write their stories.

This means that my first step for both short story and novel will be to get to know the new people.  (Remember, the novel is a sequel – I already know a lot of the people.)  Today I decided to start with Matthew Lewis, the main character for my (as yet unnamed) short story.  Instead of working through it and then blogging about it, I’m going to use this blog to “talk out” my ideas.

Brief tangent: until I’ve got a good idea of the full scope of the story, I can’t come up with a title.  Even then, titles are a challenge for me, so for now we’ll just refer to the two stories as Butterflies 2 and Matthew’s story.

So, Matthew.  When he first appears, at the start of the story, he is a low-ranking officer in the cavalry of the Diaean army.  This tells us a bit about him already: he can ride a horse, he’s good enough at what he does to get promoted, and he has leadership capabilities.

I don’t think we’ll need to know how he got in the army, or his family history, so I am not going to try to come up with that information.   If it becomes necessary as the story develops, I’ll figure it out then.  Waiting also allows me to tailor the history to suit the story – I didn’t establish Caetlyn’s background until the need arose in Burden, and she turned out to need something completely different from what I would have created in the first place.  It didn’t change her character, or how she acted, but added a needed element at the right moment.

One personality trait that I know Matthew will have later (in the novel) is a respect for women.  I think at first this will start simply as a respect for female soldiers, so there will need to be at least one woman fighting with him.  Perhaps one of his officers during training was a woman – nothing breeds respect like than having a competent person in a position of authority.

Another couple of important things he needs right up front: he is literate, and he’s career military.  I know that’s a modern term and is not quite accurate for a fantasy story, but it conveys the right attitude.  He’s always wanted to be a soldier, he is a soldier, and has no plans of ever being anything but a soldier.  The literate piece can come in subtly throughout the story; that’s one of those character traits that doesn’t have to be broadcast, it can just be mentioned in passing.

To summarize: Matthew’s a good soldier, planning to stay in the army and hoping to rise in the ranks.  He has a respect for female fighters that he got from an officer who trained him.  He’s literate, and he has the qualities of a leader.

Sounds like a good start to me.  🙂