Filed under Writing Journal on August 12, 2008
Tagged: Chronicles of Jord, fantasy fiction, Logan Shadowhand, protagonists, Shattered Amulet
Logan Shadowhand presented some challenges for me as he evolved from a roleplaying game character into a fantasy fiction protagonist. I had no literary aspirations for the character until I recreated him as a non-player character for one of my Dungeons & Dragons campaigns. He and his elf partner (who was also destined to become a character in Shattered Amulet) were the leaders of an organization that hunted dragons. As is the case with most fledgling Dungeon Masters, I had way more material on Logan’s background and personality than I would ever use in a game, so I started toying with the idea of writing stories about him.
The plot for Shattered Amulet–and its sequels in the Chronicles of Jord–were actually developed separate and apart from Logan. That is, to say, they were originally a D&D campaign idea that eventually transformed into a fantasy fiction concept. As the plot fell into place, I saw an opportunity for Logan as the protagonist.
The challenge came in aligning the concepts behind Logan with the needs of the story. His purpose and image, to borrow from Ravyn’s three foundations of character building, were largely informed by various video game incarnations (the aforementioned Bard’s Tale, Icewind Dale, Neverwinter Nights, and even City of Heroes). What he lacked were the motivations and personal conflicts that would make him sympathetic to the reader.
Unfortunately, I found myself abandoning the purpose and image I’d developed of Logan–the shadowy thief and charismatic rogue–in order to justify the motivations and conflicts I perceived as necessary for the story. The result was disastrous. Comments on the draft of a chapter I submitted to my college workshop ranged from “comedic” to “bumbling” when describing their impression of Logan.
He found nothing funny about that.
I don’t subscribe to the writing philosophy of characters “taking on a life of their own” and dictating the direction of a story, but I can certainly attest to the struggle of trying to cram a character into a role they weren’t meant to play. The concept of Logan I had nurtured over the years warred with how I was trying to portray him in Shattered Amulet. I questioned every scene, not because it was poorly written (if I do say so, myself), but because it didn’t feel like Logan.
In the end, I realized that the conflicts and motivations I wanted to assign Logan didn’t require a change in concept. I just needed to present them differently.
That presentation included changing the way I introduced Logan. A significant rewrite of the opening chapters of Shattered Amulet was required. It was a difficult decision, as I had been making good forward progress and dreaded falling back into the pit of tinkering with the existing material instead if advancing the story.
I knew it was the right decision as soon as I wrote the first scene. Fortunately, I was able to keep a lot of the basic plot elements from the previous version of the chapters and just rearrange some of the details. Best of all, the Logan I knew and loved sat on a moonlit rooftop, preparing to relieve a certain merchant of a recently acquired piece of art.