Some novelists find fleshing out their characters difficult, which can feel all the more frustrating because you spend most of your life surrounded by characters — how can you actually know that many people yet have trouble coming up with a handful of your own to push around for about seventy thousand words?
You can find entire books on how to develop characters, but their exercises can be dry and feel like homework. If that sounds like a slog to you, then I think I found a shortcut that isn’t too embarrassing to admit you’re familiar with nowadays: fill out an OKCupid profile for your major characters.
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My To Another Abyss tie-in story, “Oh Ghost of Mine,” was produced in audio by The Overcast last week — check it out here! I couldn’t be happier; J.S. Arquin did a great job with the comedic delivery. It’s also substantially different from the original audio recording which inspired the title, which is definitely a good thing in this case. I’m not much in to the shrieky vocals these days.
One of the most sheerly fun things I’ve read in recent years has been Hal Duncan’s series of Scruffian stories, which are a unique variation on stray child fantasies like the Lost Boys or the Borribles. They incorporate clever twists to history and mythology, a cheeky-but-probably-reliable-enough narrative voice, and a rambunctious spirit that’s as punk and D.I.Y. as any fold-over ‘zine you’ve ever rattled off on your day job’s Xerox machine.
The Scruffian stories come in the form of a Lethe Press collection (above) and a handful of chapbooks available in print, epub, and e-audio formats through the author’s Bandcamp page. There’s a new one coming out in a couple weeks, so if you’re a fan you might need some recommendations to tide you over. Or, if you like the books I’m reccing but haven’t read any Scruffians yet, that means now is a great time to get in to it!
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I’ve just gotten a short story about incorporeal solidarity published in the magazine Speculative City alongside awesome writers like dave ring, Stefani Cox, and Robin M. Eaves! It’s a great magazine from some really sharp publishers, so give it a look!
“Oh Ghost of Mine” is a story featuring Decca, one of the characters from To Another Abyss. The plot is completely separate so you don’t need to have read the novel beforehand, but you can totally pick up a copy afterwards if you want more of her snerky socialist supernatural solutions.
I think what first kicked off this story idea was a couple friends of mine who were having a discussion about where modern freelancers and the self-employed fit in to traditional Marxist class structure, and what shape a worker’s “solidarity” can take when they don’t really have co-workers or managers.
I don’t have much background in political theory so the first and most amusing answer I could come up with was “choose a line of freelance work that will grift the rich.” Which I find satisfying on a visceral level, but it isn’t really practical career advice, so I was left to explore it in fiction. I couldn’t think of any stories where someone had actually turned that old line about “the specter of communism” into a literal specter, and what’s the point in a metaphor like that if you can’t literalize it every now and then?
Moreover, ghosts are a pretty good model for activism. If you look at any story from M.R. James all the way back to Hamlet, ghosts have always known that the only way you’re going to get results if you start pestering folks who are comfortable with the status quo. Loudly. In their own bedrooms if that’s what it takes.