Characters in UFW

There are two things I still need to hash out before NaNoWriMo. Well, probably more than that, but there are two on my mind just now.

One is a plot map. Normally I’m a seat of the pants writer, making things up as I go along with only a vague idea of a plot until it’s done. Editing is where I go through and tie up all the wayward plot threads. This time around I want to go in with a plan. Since NaNoWriMo is all about getting material down on the pace as fast as you can, the less time I spend wondering what to do next the more time I have to write.

Another is the story’s dramatis personae, a rundown of the characters and how they relate to one another. This is another area where I tend to make things up as is convenient. If I need somebody to have a certain connection or know something, it happens on the go. While that’s useful, it can create contradictions and plot holes that need serious reworking later.

Now, I’ve always thought plot was built more on how characters react to events than the events themselves. Some plot events can only happen because a character reacted a certain way to a previous plot point. With that in mind, I’ve decided to do the dramatis personae before the plot map.

I started with the main character for UFW. There will likely be more than one viewpoint character, but in any story there will be one person central to the plot. In our fantasy western that person will take on the role of an officer of the law – a sheriff or a marshal. Of the two, a marshal provides more opportunity. Unlike a sheriff who’s bound to one town in your classic western, a marshal has a larger territory to operate in.

Of course, I didn’t want to just nick the term Marshal. For the UFW, something new was needed. I started looking up relevant terms and came up with a laundry list – adjudicator, arbiter,  executor (not the same as executioner), adherent, warden, watcher, vigil… I did like Vigil, but ended up deciding it was too close to vigilante.

In the end I chose Arbiter, since it implies that the title holder helps resolve disputes as much as they arrest (or shoot) people. And it has the female form of Arbitress, which is just fun to say.

So there we go. The Arbiters are a group of peacekeepers and law enforcement officers who cover a given range of territory and often operate alone, though they have a larger organized group to fall back on for support. They’ve even got a nice derogatory nickname that criminals like to use – “the biters”.  I like to think it evolved as Arbiters = arse biters = biters.

Anyway, UFW’s main character is an Arbiter. Or an Arbitress, since I’m toying with the idea of throwing caution to the wind and writing a female lead – something I’ve not done before.

Other important characters will include a Spirit Talker, a “Company Man”, and for opposing viewpoint a member of the bandit gang who stole the mcguffin.

I’ll have more on the actual characters for you once I’ve fleshed them out a bit more.

2 comments

  1. Mark says:

    I like where you’ve gone with Arbiters. I tend to struggle when it comes to alternate naming, and everything sounds awful until I finally manage to hit on something that works. I haven’t written anything that involves world building until now, and I’ve found that this sort of stuff takes me a while to work out. It’s a lot of wandering around the neighbourhood or sitting at a café staring into space until the pieces click together.

    • Mark Sargent says:

      I know what you mean. I’ve never really done any focused world building ahead of time. A setting usually develops as I go, so this is a bit of a challenge for me. One idea I toyed with was writing a number of short fictions set in the universe I wanted to write. That way I could make stuff up as I went but didn’t put too much effort into it, then look at them as a whole and see what developed. I might try it later when I’m not prepping for a NaNoWriMo work.

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