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As much as I don’t like writing prompts, I do like to write up shorts around new RPG characters concepts. They sort of serve as writing prompts in their own right. I’s a way to for me to flesh out a character beyond the numbers and rule set. Give it and the world/universe he inhabits some life, not to mention a perfect excuse to write. I’ve already posted one about my current character in our group’s Freeport campaign, and this one deals with a new char for an upcoming Marvel/Mutants & Masterminds superhero campaign (not a crossover, just using the 2E rules). This one is on the Darker and Edgier side of the scale. It is in the near-dystopian future after Marvel’s Civil War with elements from Marvel’s Ultimates universe thrown in as well (and a bit of Prototype/inFamous).

It also contains violence and adult language.

—–

Sgt. Jacob Plum Martin moved down the ruble strewn main street of Wounded Knee, South Dakota. At either side of the street, burning buildings lighted the summer night’s darkness. Most of the town’s inhabitants had fled up the hillock, to the monument that marked another massacre more than a century ago. Behind them, lay the ruins of a museum that had taken thousands of man-hours to build and millions of dollars in donations to keep open.

The stone crosses that made up the monument provided little cover from Martin’s unit eyes in the sky, several recon drones and an armed helo. He and his men walked slowly, with a shark nosed Stryker between them. Five other squads did the same, closing the circle around the hilltop. The plan was simple, once they reached their objectives at the base of the hill, direct and indirect fires would finish off the defenders. A mix of CS/White Phosphorous rounds from the battalion mortars and cannon fire from the Strykers. After that, it was a simple matter of sweeping the top of bodies, and sending them to the portable ovens.

No need to send prisoners to the detention camp in Pine Ridge so they could mix with college kids protesting the government’s “abuse of power”, and no need to worry about the “embedded” press either, they were dutifully reporting this as an attack by native extremist on federal law enforcement. Jacob had done this a dozen times before, in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and in Somalia. “Sweep and Burn” the troops called it as in “sweep the battlefield” and “Burn the bodies”. No mass graves left behind to embarrass higher ups, no abused prisoners to damage political futures.

The unit came to a halt. He swept the hillside with his enhanced night vision lenses. He could see the huddled masses of the natives taking whatever cover the terrain offered. They formed a tight oval, armed men in the outer perimeter, women and children in the center.

The bastards shouldn’t have brought kids into the fight. They should have taken the money. I mean five-grand apiece is more money that they would ever see. But no, they had to protest against the uranium mine. And their sheriff got shot when the BIE officers showed up to break up the protest. Not to mention shooting at us two days ago and setting up an IED that took out one of our Strykers. When will they ever learn that a few idiots with AKs are no matched against well trained troops with armor and air cover. If I had a dollar…

“Bravo 1 checking in!”, the voice that blared through his ear piece pulled him out of his revelry. He checked the terrain before him. The virtual map overlay synchronized  with the terrain before his eyes. A floating dot told him that they had reached their assigned map point.

He keyed in his mike, “Bravo 2 on point!”

‘Bravo 3 we are good to….”

The radio went dead. No static, no sound whatsoever, note even a click. His map overlay froze. From experience he knew that happened when it stop receiving updates from the battalion battlenet. He depressed the button, channel surfing through the assigned frequencies but nothing happened.

A bad time for the net to go tits up.

He heard the whine of twin turboprops overhead. The chopper was making a final run before pulling back to a safer orbit. Airspace deconfliction. He had to double check, lest the mortar start pumping rounds down range and end up showering the wrong targets, i.e., he and his men, with explosives. A flash of light to his left got his attention.  Something had blown off the helo’s tail and it crash-landed on top of Bravo 1 troops, exploding in a fireball that consumed men and machine alike. The turret of his own Stryker exploded, showering the men around him with shrapnel. More bolts from the sky hit the other vehicles in succession. Martin hit the deck and lifted his gaze from the hard packed soil to see Pvt. Simmons chest explode. Whatever was happening, the gunmen on the hill took it as a sign to open fire down at their tormentors. Another flash of light, this time behind him and a plume of white smoke, highlighted with what looked like bright red fireworks rose into the sky. The other mortar section began to fire, but in their confusion launched their bombs far too short. Tear gas shells and white phosphorus rounds pounded the ground around him, mixed with more bolts from the sky. The mix of gas, heated smoke and dry dust chocked his throat, forcing him into a tear soaked coughing spasm.

He screamed into his headset, “STOP FIRING DAMMIT! STOP FIRING! PULL BACK INTO TOWN!” but heard no reply. He ran back down Main Street, looking for some kind of cover from friendly and enemy fire. He skidded to a halt in front of the high school, a red brick affair. Then a nearby car exploded. The shock wave lifted him off his feet. He saw the world spin around him until he landed on his back, the wind knocked out of him. Martin felt his neck sting. He clutched at his throat and found a sliver of metal had pieced the skin, but done no significant damage. He pulled it out with bloody fingers. His body armor had absorbed most of the fragments. The earth shook beneath him. He turned around, saw, and armored figure approach him. He pulled out his 9mm and fired, each shot in synch with the enemy’s heavy footfalls.

One…two…three…four…five….

One hand seized Martin’s wrist, reliving him of his pistol, the other lifted him up from the ground though his armored vest. Martin tried hard not to piss himself, however or whatever this was had just wiped his battalion. The hand that disarmed him, pointed at the flag sill flying on the school’s flag post. A deep, metallic voice  filled his ears.

“I pledge allegiance to flag of these United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under the Faith of Our Fathers, Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for ALL!”

The armored figure threw Martin back to the dust, “To the Patriots, the Time has Come to set aside our Differences and Fight for the Republic. To the Citizens, The Time of Fearing One Another is Over, and to All Americans, regardless of Color, Race or Creed, it is Time to Take Our Country Back!”

With those words, the armored figured rocketed into the night sky, leaving Sgt. Jacob Plum Martin, of the 1st Internal Security Brigade ™ Incorporated, choking in the dust.

——

And now for a cool little vid, which in its own way reflects some of the themes expressed above. In Japanese.

Love is War:

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Art by somniturne. Click on the image for more of this artist work.

My cousin is once again at the helm of our gaming group and he has offered to run two different campaigns (alternating between them every few weeks). The first is a return to Scion, an urban fantasy game where the characters play demi-gods while the second is an offshoot of the 3E (D&D) Freeport campaign using the Rune Quest rules (Pirates, Guns and Cosmic Horrors lurking in the shadows). In order to get a feel for the characters, he sent us a series of questions:

Swords against Sorcery: Character Questionnaire

Character’s Name:

Nicknames, If Any:

What do you look like? Eye color, hair color, ethnicity, distinguishing marks or features, clothing, jewelry, and gear…

What are your hobbies?

Who and where is your family?Where are you from?

Do you have any secrets, and what are they? Why do you keep them?

What do you believe in ? Explain.

Do you live in Freeport? For how long?

If you don’t live in Freeport, why did you travel there?

What motivation do you have to stay in Freeport?

What was your Background event?

Did any other character tied to your Background event? How did he tied his fate to yours?

What is best in Life?

And I could not but answer in the form of a short story.

—–

From an article by Jonathan Jacob Tryst, for the newspaper The Swift

I made my way through the summer night’s haze inside the Salty Sailor, made all the more redolent by the thick smoke that clung to my clothes. Dodging wenches, sweeping tankards and puking drunkards I arrived at the back of the tavern. A cubbyhole sheltered a rickety wooden table, two simple wooden chairs and the subject of my piece. I convinced my boss that the paper needed an exciting story that didn’t come from the merchant side of the street. A peek at Freeport’s underbelly and to my surprise he agreed. I pushed aside the low hanging angler’s net.

“You’re late, mate,” said the stranger from under the hood of his cowl.

“Sorry about that,” I said.

“Well, let’s get on with it, shall we.”

I slid a small money pouch across the table, covered by my interlaced hands. In Freeport, few will pass the opportunity to snatch gold or silver if they see it. The bag disappeared into the folds of the stranger’s cloak. I took out a roll of parchment with a tiny ink bottle and pen, “Right then, you work for The Swift, eh?”

“One and the same, sir,” I said.

“Your money, your questions, your time, and your drinks if you’ll pay for them,” he said with a smirk.

“Oh, yeah.” I ordered ale for me, and rum for him. “Name?”

“K, just K.”

“Kay?”

“No the letter K.”

“But my readers will want to know who you are?” I protested.

He raised an eyebrow with a tiny diagonal scar that matched the light brown hair that spilled from under his hood, “Those that know me, will know who am I. Those who don’t, don’t need too.”

“K it is. Well how would you describe what you do?”

“What is it that you think I do?”

He was playing games, perhaps trying to coax a few more drinks from me, although he only sipped his rum, his grey eyes darting to and fro no doubt looking for trouble. “You are a thief.”

“Gentleman thief and explorer, thank you very much.”

“A gentleman thief? I didn’t know there were different categories to thieving?”

“Of course they are. Just like no two pair of tits are the same, so it is with thieves. You have your cut purses, your merchants, your pirates and your thugs and then you have me.”

“And what exactly sets a gentleman thief apart from the rest?” I asked.

His smile widened, “You are a writer alright! Well, I liberate riches from those who have too much too give to those who have too little,” he said pointing at himself, “and do so while leaving them with a smile. Smiling men rarely give chase, mate.”

“And besides liberating wealth, what else do you do?”

“Gamble, travel, read, and romance the loveliest women my charms, rum and gold can buy,” he poked the parchment with a gloved finger, “and you can quote me on that, in that exact same order, if you please, sir.”

“And where are you from?”

“Form where else but here. I learned all that I needed on the streets of Freeport and at the gates of the Temple of Knowledge.”

“And do you have family in the city?”

He squinted, “Now that is an awfully personal thing to ask, mate.”

“I don’t need any names, Master K, just something to give the piece some depth.”

“Well, The Swift is nothing if not thorough, eh? Not like that rag, the Captain’s Logbook, eh? Nothing but filthy gossip in those pages, wouldn’t wipe my arse with it even if they paid me.”

“Of course not, about that family, sir?”

“Oh yes. Eight brothers and sisters, Me Mum died young, Dad remarried twice and well he tried his best to provide for all us, but I have that many cousins, aunt’s and uncles too, so, oft I went, to the streets, to the Temple and then to sea.”

That was an interesting tidbit, “So you traveled beyond the Dragon’s Teeth?”

“Of course, can’t know the ways of the world unless you traveled them.”

“And how many enemies have you made along those ways?”

“Enemies…” he rested his chin on his right hand while twisting his half-empty mug with the other, “few, maybe. A rival here, a competitor there, but enemies, no, I’m not in the business of making enemies, mate.”

“Few people are, but Freeport being what it is, it’s bound to happen.”

“Indeed, but I take care of my enemies right quick, mate. That’s why I pack powder and blade. Slash keeps my enemies at bay, Hellhound shoots them down at ten paces and Kidney’s Stone silences the rest.”

“And those are?”

“My rapier, my pistol and my dagger, names are clear enough, I think.”

“Of course. But why do you stay in Freeport?”

“No better place in the World, none by far. Sure, you got your whores, your robber barons and your killers, but you got your gold, your ladies and your odds here too. Life is a gamble from the moment you’re born, mate. Don’t you forget it,” he said with a wink and a nod.

I was getting somewhere, “Have you met anyone of interest in your travels, Master K?”

“I met sailors, pirates and escape criminals, although it’s kind of hard to tell the difference between the first two and the last was wrongly accused, or so he claimed. The lady on his arm was oh so very lovely, by the way!”

Another evasion, but I had just enough to fill in the blanks, “And what do you think is best in life, Master K?”

“A life well lived, mate!” he raised his tankard and downed the last drops of rum.

——

And now for some music:

Modern stories, especially in the speculative fiction of the local book store avoid ambition like the plaque

OK, let me rephrase that. In modern stories ambition is seen as a flaw rather than a boon. For example, many a changeling story (you know the ones were the ordinary kid turns out to be a prince, champion or wizard) has ambition at the core of the heroes motivation, mostly the ambition to escape their current circumstances into a better (and more fascinating) world.

After all ambition, by definition, is not necessarily bad. In fact we celebrate it all the time, in celebrities and businessmen,  that is until they succumb to it and then it becomes a moral about how power and greed corrupts the human soul. Since ambition is usually tied with power it has become synonymous with greed even though it is technically not so. So much so that as in the examples above, ambition must be disguised in someway, most commonly as the opposite, that is, the hero doesn’t really want the power but has no choice but to take it, even though he tends to enjoy at least some of the perks that come with it (like Quidditch!).

If ambition, by itself, is not inherently evil, how can a hero be motivated by it in a good way? It depends on what the hero wants, how he goes about obtaining it and what does he do with it once he has it. Mostly the “it” is power, that is the ability to do something. It could be political, wealth or status. The prince might fight to gain the throne out of a sense of duty not only to his murdered father but also to his people, who need a leader. A wizard may quest for a powerful artifact to stop an ancient evil or an industrialist may search for wealth so that he can change the system from within.

Their is always a risk that the hero may be corrupted as ambition morphs into greed or arrogance. The hero is dancing at the edge of the moral abyss risking it all. He may find that what he search for is ultimately futile or useless (but not in a deux machina sort of way, that is you find the ultimate artifact of power and it loses said power the moment he uses it against the ultimate evil)  or that he, at some point, might have to walk away from power for the greater good or learn to use said power wisely.

If used right ambition can be a powerful and deep motivation for the hero.

I like to distill basic concepts to their base forms in order to understand them. A quest in search of the lowest common denominator. Nothing is more basic, more essential to literature (and its associated artistic forms) than the Hero.

So what is a Hero?

The Main Character in a narrative?

The guy with the cape, gun or title?

No.

The Hero is that someone who will do what needs to be done.

Actor + Need + Action= Hero.

Whether charging into a burning building to rescue a child or standing up to a bully each situation requires someone to do something in response. Success is not guaranteed but the price of failure is well understood. A good story builds on the tension between these three elements.

Is the actor capable of action?

Does he recognize the need for action?

Will his actions be enough?

What about the consequences of said actions?

Go back to every book or movie you have ever read and think about them using this framework. Whether the story is about mythic heroes saving the known world/galaxy/universe or a personal struggle to overcome deep seated fears each successful narrative presents a compelling actor facing a real need doing something about it.

That, in a nutshell, is what a Hero is all about.

Another RPG inspired piece for Teaser Tuesday. This is part of my current character’s background.

The Dwarfs held their positions among the ruble of the north wall. Around them, nervous militia men waited for the impending onslaught. The sound of orcish drums filtered through the morning mist. Then they heard the wild mutterings of the clerics of Iuz, summoning their dread lord’s power. The orcs marched forward at the beat of the drums, their footfalls matching the hollow beats. Closer and closer they came. In spite of the morning chill, the defenders of Algernon Tower felt their clothes dampen with sweat. Three days of continuous combat had reduced their numbers by a third. Only one thing could save them now.

Sir Aymond heard the drums in the distance. The mist would dissipate soon, but with luck he would catch the enemy unawares. His brother, Baynard, rode to his side “Do you think this is going to work?”

“It will, brother. Of course if you have a better idea, now would be the time.”

The sound of a distant horn interrupted them “Too late for that.”

Aymond wheeled his mount around. “Men of the Shield Lands, Knights in good standing, servants of Good. Our land is in peril, it’s need dire. One more time we ride for lord and country and the survival of all free people! CHARGE!”

The Dwarfs poured a relentless stream of bolts into the approaching mass, but while some fell, others took their place. The militia horn blew once more. Even the steady fire of three ranks of elite crossbowmen would not be enough to halt the enemy. At the center of the horde, a dark cleric of Iuz danced wildly, holding a burning bowl of offal while he screamed obscene chants to the Lords of the Abyss.

“Graz’zt, unholy father, gives us your strength. Gives us power to smite your Zion’s enemies. For the glory of the Abyss—“ The thunder of charging hooves drowned the cleric’s insane rant as Aymond’s cavalry smashed into the enemies flank. Momentum and determination drove them forward, their spears piercing mail and flesh as they went. Lances gave way to swords as the knights slashed their way to the hear of the orcish mass.

In mid trance, the foul priest did not hear nor see his minions scatter or the black stallion charging toward him. With one downward stroke, Aymond’s sword decapitated the priest. A fountain of blood showered his acolytes who fled at the site of their master’s death. Dwarfs and men poured from Algernon Tower to finish the fight, leaving none alive.

Aymond shouted to his men “The Day is Ours!”

“HUZZAH! HUZZAH!” they shouted back, all except Baynard.

He approached his brother and whispered as he pointed behind them “But not without loss.” A score of knights had fallen amidst the charge and as Aymond raised his visor he could see that at least one orc had scored a vicious hit on his left calf.

“Order the men to regroup. Tell the garrison to move out as soon as possible. We must move south at once.”

“Yes M’Lord.”

At nightfall the group camped for the night. Few tents went up, except for the Commander’s tent. Inside, Aymond worked feverishly to finish the last bits of paperwork before he put his plan into action. Inside the tent others waited for their commander’s instructions.

Aymond first missive concerned the fighting around Algernon’s tower:

Day 1

Encountered enemy supply trains northeast of the tower. Destroyed seven wagons and scattered the human guards. Took no prisoners. Orcish troops made a frontal attack on the tower. Repelled with the help of dwarven crossbowmen and sorcerer’s help inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy.  Orcs carried their dead from the field. The reason for this unusual behavior became clear later that night. Undead attacked the battlements, including several shadows. Brother Cristoff of the Order of the Platinum Bolt (Heironeous) assisted in the defense.  Losses few, but we lost our war wizard.

Day 2

Enemy resumed their assault with siege weapons. Managed to breach the North wall of the outer bailey. Led  knights in an assault against the siege engines and destroyed several of them. Second assault repulsed as well. Friendly losses where heavy. A score of knights fell and so did fifty of the militia. Again, the enemy resumed nightly assault with undead using war drums to keep us awake.

Day 3

Enemy continued their assault. Led charge against main body of the enemy scattering them and killing the commander. Could not hold the Tower indefinitely. Valuables have been removed and forces evacuated. Fear that this is just the tip of the spear. The east is wide open to attack. Larger bands of humanoids lead by followers of the Old One raid an pillage at will. If nothing is done, forces will capture Admuntfort and lay siege to Critwall. Forces must be shifted or be trapped in a pocket. The enemy asks and gives no quarter.

Time is off the essence.

Your Loyal Servant

Sir Aymond Marhaus, First Lance of the Order

Aymond sealed the letter with his signet ring and gave it to his fastest rider. As he left he got up to talk to the assemble leadership. He cleared the table, which had a map of the Shield Lands engraved on the tabletop. The table was supposed to be magical, but Aymond did not have the time or the inclination to divine its mysteries.

“Gentlemen, our situation is dire. The enemy  commands the field and we do not have the forces at hand to stop them. I fear that even the combined might of all the Knighthood would do nothing but yield to this evil tide. However, the enemy does have one vital flaw, lack of cavalry. My men will ride north and harass the enemy as much as we can, buying you sometime to complete your tasks. Baynard—“

“Yes brother?”

Handing him a sealed letter and a small leader bound book Aymond said “Take this to Chateau Marhaus. Evacuate the family and get them to Critwall, from there sail to Greyhawk and safety. We have a modest home there, one that I hope to use as part of a future business venture, but alas.”

“Leave you here! But you need us! We need to regroup and defend our lands against the humanoid scum! We must fight!”

Sergeant Walpole and Leftenant Wilkins nodded, but Duarte, long time family friend (three generations past and counting) knew better “And where lad, do ye think we will hold them? The tower was the last fortification before the walls of Admuntfort. There is nothing but their greed to slow them down, and nothing will stop them.”

“Indeed my old friend. And that is why you have to take this.” Aymond handed him a ram’s horn. “This is Algernon’s horn, take your stalwarts and march to the coast post haste. Take the horn to a safe place away from these abominations. It must not fall in their hands.”

“Aye, that we can do.”

“Sergeant, you and your men will accompany Baynard south to Critwall. From there you will take this.” He handed him a large pouch and a letter “Do not open it, what is inside is not meant for your eyes. Your men will stay in Critwall with Baynard while you go to the College of Wizards in the city of Greyhawk. Ask for Aspertas of Kent, he will know what to do with it. As for you Leftenant, prepare the men, we ride north as soon as we are able.”

“Understood.”

All left except Baynard “Brother this is madness. Divide our forces now, in the face of the enemy? There must be another way.”

“What forces you speak off? Fifty militia men, about the same number of dwarvern bowmen and our riders. The infantry will slow us down and if we are caught in the open we will perish.”

“We will take as many of the bastards with us as we can!”

“And then, who will protect our families. Death will come for all us soon enough. I’ll keep the priest with us. We will surely come in handy. Besides unlike you he has more courage than sense. At least I think he does” he said with a sad smile.

“Send another if word if what you need them to have. I will stay with you” Baynard pleaded.

Aymond stood tall looking at down as his brother who was a half head shorter than him “Baynard, what is the calling of a warrior?”

“To Fight so Others don’t Have to, and to Die so Others may Live.”

“Then if that is the case, others need of our service, one more time. Rachel and the boys need their uncle now more than ever. At least make sure that they board a reliable ship South. If battle you want, I am sure the enemy will be breathing down your neck soon enough.”

“May St. Cuthbert protect you” said Bynard as he hugged his brother goodbye.

“May Pelor’s blessing shine upon you brother”.

Aymond opened the tent flat and yelled to his charges “We Ride!”

Battle would be joined one last time.

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Dwarfs, Elves,  Vampires, oh my! On a recent post (and many more after that) on the NaNo forums the subject of “cuddly” vampires (a la Twilight) came up. The poster said that he didn’t like the recent fad of turning vampires from monstrous blood suckers to tortured goth heroes. I responded that the vampires in my NaNo project were anything but “cuddly”.  If anything they are conniving, manipulative, psychopaths driven by a demonic urge to rape, murder and destroy.  As far from the romantic (in the modern sense of the word,  one which would cause the likes of  Lord Byron, Tennyson or Blake to spit if they heard what passes for romantic these days) vision of the tortured yet irresistibly attractive vampire heroically fighting the urge to drink virgin blood while dating the only virgin left in town as you can get.

This got me thinking about the endless parade of writers that from the beginning of time felt compelled to take familiar character types (the stoic Dwarf, the ethereal Elf or the Vampiric blood sucking terrors of the night) and change them in some way. Of course these archetypes are variations on earlier forms defined by modern writers such as Stoker and Tolkien. The idea behind the manipulation is to take the familiar and turn into something new (if not unique). Problem is that you can only make so many changes before you end up with something unrecognizable and lose whatever advantage the use of the original gave you in the first place.

I don’t frown on the practice as I have done a bit of archetype twisting in my day (about a month or so back). Yet it pains me when I see author after author fail so miserably at it. While the author might think that his improvements are “cool” the end results are trite, cosmetic and downright disappointing. The reader is left wondering why the author engaged in the exercise in the first place. So I came up with a few tips that will (hopefully) help my fellow nascent writers to avoid the obstacles on the road from the familiar to the memorable.

First a few questions. Honest answers to these questions will yield the best results:

  1. Why did you choose a particular archetype?
  2. Do you know/understand the history behind the archetype?
  3. Are you changing the archetype for purely arbitrary reasons,  that is, you think it would be cool to have rhinos on submarines?
  4. Or have you always hated the archetype in question and think you can do better?
  5. Is there more to the these changes than simply creating a anti-archetype? Are you doing this because you’re in a contrarian  mood?
  6. What is the role of the archetype in the story; accidental, background, or central to the narrative?
  7. Would your narrative goals be better served by abandoning the archetype all together?

Like I said before, familiarity is what drives many an author to choose a given archetype. This is especially true of modern fantasy and science fiction books, in all their variations. Both the author and the reader know the archetype and feel comfortable with it.  No need to create an entire elven language (unless you’re Tolkien) or describe how a vampire’s gaze overwhelms it’s victims senses. Just drop the dwarfs down the nearest mine shaft and concentrate on writing that exciting battle scene where the stalwart defenders of the underground realm battle the incoming goblinoid hordes. But we already read Lord of the Rings (OK, I saw the movies, tried reading the Hobbit and fell asleep on the their page)  so we want something more than the fall of  Moria. So the author introduces a few changes into the dwarf archetype. His dwarfs are not the dour hammer swingers of Tolkien’s lore but singing sensations to rival he likes of Elvis (Costello or Crespo). The attacking goblins go from an unorganized rabble to a disciplined army that fights for duty and honor.

But in order for these changes to stick an understanding of the archetypes in question is a must. You don’t need an encyclopedic knowledge of western European mythology, but understanding the history behind the myth will help you preserve enough of the archetype so that it remains recognizable to the reader.

Questions 3-5 deal with the particular reasons for the changes in a given archetype. Many a writer makes cosmetic changes based on what their DMs allowed on the gaming table while playing D&D. They go for what they think would be “cool”.  But just reversing the archetype role or characteristics is not good enough. Doing things just to be contrarian or different is  a waste of time. Might as well slap a goatee on the character’s chin and call it a day.

Which brings us to question #6, the role of the archetype in your story. Cosmetic changes are great, if you are coding a video game. A player will notice something out of the ordinary, gawk at it for a second or two and be on his way to kill the boss monster. Same thing in your book if its something that lies at the bottom of page 267 where a secondary character explains why the main character should never go to beyond the Impassable Peaks of Doom (which we know that the MC will, in fact pass with some difficulty). Things change as the archetype(s) inch their way to center stage. Without a solid explanation the reader is apt to question why is the handsome yet ravenous vampire zipping from frozen packets of goat’s blood instead of dinning on warm blood of his seventeen year old date with the body of a SI swimsuit edition cover girl. Solid answers to questions 1-5 will (hopefully) prevent the local bookstore from shipping back boxes of your latest offering to the publisher.  You need reasons why the character does not fit the mold, answers that go beyond “Well I think vampires are seriously misunderstood creatures”. These reasons should have a direct connection to the story so that it lends depth to the character and through him to the narrative.

Last but not least, could you do better without relying on the archetype? Creating a new alien race that does not read like a Vulcan on steroids is hard, yet if the changes are drastic enough as to erase the fundamentals of an archetype, I suggest you abandon it all together. Go with something else. Something that fits your vision and the needs of the story. A knight that uses a gun is not really a knight, he is a gunfighter. Go with that instead.

I hope that the above helps you in some way. I can’t wait to read how the goblins barely won the battle against the singing dwarfs yet earned their respect by their honorable behavior in battle.

Until then….