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Reoccuring Characters

Many of the stories in my new anthology, Tales From Ocherva Volume One, feature the same cast of characters. This is intentional. When I started writing short stories a few years ago, I decided that I would concentrate on one particular planet and a handful of characters. I was not completely sure about all of the characters, but as I wrote the stories they emerged.

Principle characters like Devon Ardel, my Ranger captain and her android, Thirty-seven were already known to me because of an early draft of a novel. But new characters like the android Eighty-eight and Cole the programmer emerged as their stories came to life. I wanted to explore the lives of the Rangers and tell many stories about their bravery. They were partly based on the Texas Rangers with some 1940’s pop SF mixed in for good measure.

While I was in Moscow, Idaho on a book signing for the Barren Worlds anthology, I talked with a customer who had read my story, Ocherva. He mentioned that he enjoyed the connection between a physical place and the people who lived there. It got me thinking more about the planet of Ocherva and what made it special to the humans and androids in my stories. Many of my stories have explored that connection between the barren moon and those who live there.

When you write a novel you have more time to develop the main characters than you do with a short story. But short stories can paint a much more detailed picture of your characters if you feature them in many different kinds of stories with various points of view. For instance some of my stories about Devon are from her POV and some of them are from her android’s perspective and a few are from her friend’s viewpoint. That kind of range is not possible in the novel format. But a series of related short stories gives you that freedom.

Over time, you can build up a perception of your characters in the reader’s mind that grows into a complete picture of them. This is only possible with a series of novels or perhaps a television series. Since my medium of choice is narrative fiction, I like episodic short story collections for exploring these particular characters and this particular planet. There will be more volumes to the Tales From Ocherva series. As I complete a dozen or so stories, I will release a new volume. The release schedule for these anthologies will continue to be early summer.

I will begin writing he next novel in the Starstrikers universe this summer. Starforgers will focus on some of the main characters in the Tales From Ocherva stories. But that novel takes place after all the stories in the Ocherva series. So I have to be careful what I have her do and say in writing this particular novel. It helps to have already written about much of her life as a Ranger as I begin telling what happens to her at the start of the Great War. Starforgers tells how the naive Federation is transformed by the events that led to war with the Votainion Empire. It features Devon, her mother and father and her trusty android, among many other new characters. Again, if you have read Tales From Ocherva, you will already have background information for the next novel. Again, I’m building characters and telling a larger story than what is possible with just a single novel.

2 thoughts on “Reoccuring Characters”

  1. All the veteran SF writers of the past created a universe and filled it with many stories and novels. Once you go to all the trouble of creating a believable and interesting universe, you don’t want to have to do it all again for every book or story you write. At least not this former coder and proponent of code reuse.

    I just took the idea a step further with my short stories and novels. Another series that I plan on getting around to writing is centered on Joules Rouse, the main character of the short story, The Renoke. In fact, there’s even a novella planned that ties into the Starstrikers characters from that novel. It will be a long time before I’ve exhausted the universe first seen in Starstrikers.

  2. That’s an interesting perspective on short stories, Ken.

    I hadn’t thought about deliberately writing a series of short stories to further develop a particular character or two or three. I’d seen the short story as a way to have fun with a character repeatedly because I like that character.

    I don’t know if that will cause me to look at what shorts I write any differently, but it does introduce some interesting possibilities, both in technique and character development. As you say, a short story doesn’t give you much time to develop the character, you almost have to focus on the storytelling to the exclusion of the characters at times. Even though I knew and realized that creating a series of short stories around a particular character or consistent group of characters would allow you to develop those characters much more fully, I never really saw it as a technique in and of itself. I just considered it incidental, something that would naturally happen just as you meet a new friend and develop that friendship.

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