I don’t like having pictures of my characters.
Okay, that’s not exactly true. If someone turned up with fanart of one of my characters, I would be absolutely tickled. But not because I want to see representations of these people—because it was real enough and clear enough to make someone want to recreate it. I loved hearing someone tell me that Nestrix, for them, was totally Rousseau from Lost, or that Tennora looked like the woman on the cover of Renegade Wizards. That’s all fantastic. Do that, please.
But while I’m writing? No. Not good. Most of the time, I find it just messes me up. Makes me want to describe the picture and not think about the best words, the best phrases to evoke a character’s appearance through the viewpoint character’s eyes. If I get out of the text, I get tripped up.
This, dear readers, is the story of a picture that tripped me up something fierce.
If you haven’t read Brimstone Angels yet—and I’ll assume it’s because you’re currently incapacitated, possibly by a large boulder—there’s a character there named Lorcan. Lorcan is a cambion, a character who prompted me to learn the word deuteragonist. He’s not the villain, but he’s sure as hell villainous. If you want a peek, check out this sample where he shows up. I’ll wait.
So if you read that sample, you may have found it’s a bit racy. Not too much, mind, but it’s definitely the sort of scene that when my friends and writing group read it, they were a little unsure of how to approach the fact that . . . it’s a little hot. And it has to be, or else nothing that the main character does makes sense.
I cannot tell you how many rewrites this took. And it’s not because it’s hard to write sexy or it’s fun to rewrite sexy—no. The problem, dear readers, is this:
This, as of the time I was writing, was the only image of a cambion in the sourcebooks. I wasn’t looking for a Lorcan—remember, I don’t like to do that—but I did want to clear up some basics of the monster’s stats. Cambions, for example, are fire-resistant as well as poison resistant. So without meaning to, I was faced with that guy.I mean no disrespect to the artist when I say this, but that guy . . . that guy is a tool.
If you’ve read the prologue—and if you haven’t, I’ll assume it’s because you’re currently undergoing eye surgery, bless your heart—I think a few problems are fairly apparent. In order to side with a main character—like Farideh—you have to sympathize with their motivations. You need to like them and at least understand how they can come to make a decision. Especially if that decision isn’t one you yourself would make. So in this case, where a teenaged girl agrees to a pact with a devil—a decision I think most of us would at least be a little circumspect about—it’s going to work better from a structural standpoint if she’s got some motives you can sympathize with.
And while I think it’s probably the case that most of us can sympathize with going along with something a little too long because we’re distracted by our libido, that doesn’t usually happen with a dude in a mesh shirt making that face.
At least, not so far as I could imagine. Initial drafts of this scene were terrible. Why would she do this? I wouldn’t. You wouldn’t. Not with this douchelord making the offers.
This art might be perfect for its intended purpose, but it kicked my legs out from under me right from the start. It’s not sexy. Not even a little. Time for problem solving. Time to find a proper Lorcan.
Fortunately, the internet makes it easy to find pictures of men making sexy faces, and—with a little bit of searching—sexy and slightly threatening faces. Behold:
Okay. He looks a little like he’s going to forcibly sell you cologne. But it is far, far more probable a seventeen-year-old girl who’s wary as they come is going to get swept up in what this guy says. Except he’s not quite…
Okay, no–he’s not perfect. And because he’s actually a male model named Gabriel Aubry, I couldn’t show this to the artist who did the gorgeous cover. But he’s enough to break my habit of mentally referencing mesh shirt guy–and in the end that’s the most important thing, finding the tools to get past your roadblocks and get writing. So
if when you read Brimstone Angels, forget about the cambion in the Monster Manual. That guy’s there for your PCs to kick halfway to Avernus and back. This guy’s the one you sell your soul to.