This past weekend, Nancy and I threw our annual Australian Christmas party. Every year we invite over a bunch of people (dozens upon dozens — it’s a big party) for an evening of food and wine and laughter. Christmas is a summer holiday in Australia (where we lived for a year) and so we have a fire in the fireplace and allow the crowd of people in the house to raise the ambient temperature until it’s pretty hot. Some years (without the heat on) we get the temperature in the house up to about 78 or 80 degrees. People come dressed in shorts and sun dresses, we eat shrimp and Thai chicken, kiwi (Yeah, I know — that’s from New Zealand; but we went there, too) and Tim Tams and Mint Slices (Australian cookies — sweet biscuits — that are to die for), and we drink a lot of plonk (cheap wine). Great night.
The best part of the evening for me is watching our friends interact. We live in a small town, but still some friends we know through Nancy’s work at the university, and other folks we know through our kids and their school, and still others we know through stuff we do in the community. On this one night, we get to bring together people from different parts of our lives and watch them get to know one another.
This is something I like to do with my writing, too. When I’m working on a book or series, I’ll often have a couple of plot threads going at once. At some point, as the story progresses, I’ll begin to weave those threads together by bringing characters from one story line together with characters from another. Those are some of my favorite scenes to write — I feel that they allow me to put to use all the work I do on character development. Often I’m taking at least one of the characters in question — maybe all of them — out of their “comfort zones” and forcing them to cope with new and strange situations.
This is also something I recommend as a writing exercise, particularly if you’re having trouble with a certain character. Take her out of the fictional context in which she was created — her natural habitat, as it were — and force her to cope with a new social situation. This may help you develop a clearer voice for her, or it may enable you to learn things about her that you hadn’t known before.
But that’s not the point of this post. I was thinking this morning how fun it would be to throw a party for the all the characters represented in the books on my shelves. There are characters from different books, different worlds, different authors, who I’d love to see interact. Can’t you imagine Will Hawthorne from A.J.’s books Act of Will and Will Power, hitting on Jane Yellowrock, the heroine from Faith’s Skinwalker series? I can. She’d toy with him for a while, amused by his clumsily transparent attempts to come off as charming and worldly, and then she’d blow him off and saunter over to McAvery, the roguish pirate from Misty’s Mad Kestrel, who’s sipping single malt in the corner, watching her.
I’d love to introduce Paul Atreides from Frank Herbert’s Dune saga to Ender Wiggin from Orson Scott Card’s masterpiece, Ender’s Game. Both geniuses, both wunderkinds, both destined to shape the history of their worlds. They’d have so much to talk about — the burdens heaped upon them at such a tender age, the difficulty of seeing and understanding what others couldn’t possibly grasp. Fascinating.
Or I could eavesdrop on Gandalf (The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings) and Ged — Sparrowhawk — from Ursula K. LeGuin’s Wizard of Earthsea cycle, as they discuss the efficacy and limitations of magic. They would each have an ale in hand, and they would be alternating between laughter and serious debate. But all the while they would be keeping a wary eye on another conversation taking place in the middle of the room. Sauron (of Lord of the Rings infamy) and Rakoth Magrim (the big evil in Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry) are sitting together, heads close, trying to figure out how two (count ’em!) gods managed to be beaten by loose alliances of men, dwarves, and elves. It makes no sense — or at least that’s how it seems to them as they polish off yet another bottle of Zinfandel.
Most of the guys at the party will be watching Joanne Baldwin (from Rachel Caine’s Weather Warden series), Belinda Primrose (from C.E. Murphy’s Inheritor Cycle) and Door (from Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere). And who can blame them? I mean these women are gorgeous, brilliant, and powerful, and they’re standing out on the balcony drinking shots of tequila and laughing hysterically as they use magic on the unsuspecting people down on the street.
And then there’s Thomas Covenant (Stephen Donaldson’s anti-hero). He’s sitting alone.
What about my books, you might ask? Who would I want to bring together from my various projects? I would love for Orris, the gruff, abrasive mage from my LonTobyn books to meet Tavis, the spoiled, prickly prince from the Forelands series. If they didn’t kill each other they might actually become friends. And I think that Besh, from the Blood of the Southlands trilogy, would get along famously with Ethan Kaille, the hero of my Thieftaker books.
How about you? Are there characters you’d like to introduce to each other, either from your library or from your own work?