A few days back, I did a post on the things from the World Spectrum series that I’m most proud of. But too much self-congratulation is never a good thing, so let’s bring some balance to the discussion. It’s time to discuss the things from the series that I most regret.
Unsurprisingly, they pretty much all have to do with my characters. This post won’t be so spoiler free as the last one, but I’ll try to keep things vague. The last regret is a complete spoiler, though.
The Leha Effect:
After writing this series, I’ve coined the phrase, “The Leha Effect.” This is where you like one character so much that you focus all your attention on them at the expense of the rest of the cast.
The World Spectrum series was basically the Leha Show, but that was never my intention. I wanted it to be more of an ensemble story. I intended book one to feature Drogin and Yarnig as much as Leha, and book two to give equal attention to Leha and Tyrom.
Didn’t work out that way. I like writing about Leha so much that I tended to just forget about everyone else. As a result, none of the other cast members got as much development as I wanted, and I think the story suffered for it.
This was compounded by the fact that I think my cast was simply too large to give every character the attention they deserved. In future, I’m going to try to either pare my casts down to a few core characters or else ensure that each part of the cast has a distinct and separate purpose. Human Again is an example of the former strategy.
Related to the above, I’ve never been happy with my portrayals of Drogin and Doga. I just never quite knew what to do with them. This is partly due to the Leha Effect, but other factors played a role, as well.
For Drogin, I had two competing ideas for him. My main goal was for him to be the likable everyman, but I also wanted him to be the resident tech genius. These two things don’t really jive with each other. He became too much a hero to really qualify as an everyman, but not enough of a hero for him to be terribly inspiring compared to the other characters.
I also intended him to be Leha’s rock and core supporter, but… that didn’t really work out. He tended to be supplanted in that role by other characters: Benefactor, Tyrom, Natoma…
I think I finally hit a nice balance and did some cool stuff with Drogin in Human Again, but I’ll always feel there were a lot of missed opportunities with him.
As for Doga, the truth is that I just never knew quite what to do with him. He never got past being the token Lost One. He was just kind of there, and he never really added much to the story nor developed much personality of his own. I tried to make him a bit more interesting by involving him in Lahune’s humanist cult, but that never really went anywhere.
I had no plan for Doga, and unfortunately, it shows. Sometimes, you write with no plan of what’s coming next, and things go unexpectedly well — Breena is an example of this — but other times, you end up with a Doga.
The spoilery regret:
Spoiler free space so you can move to another page.
I like vanilla.
My cat’s breath smalls like cat food.
How can anyone watch The Big Bang Theory? Honestly.
So… Yarnig and Natoma.
Look, I don’t do romance well. I’ll be the first to admit it. Character and emotion is my Achilles heel, and love is the most vulnerable part of said heel.
I’m not happy with how their relationship turned out. At all. The whole thing feels cheesy, cliche, and forced, and just thinking about their relationship makes me wince. Their interactions feel awkward and unrealistic to me, and I still have doubts that it really makes sense for Natoma to want to be with Yarnig.
Only after writing In Her Sister’s Pose and getting a bit more insight into Natoma’s history did it start to feel right that they would be together, and I was able to make some last minute adjustments to their scenes to reflect this new insight, but it still doesn’t feel quite right to me.
Yarnig is the character I most personally identify with in the series, so I could never escape the concern that I was simply turning him into a Mary Sue — the real definition, not the “any character I dislike” definition people give it these days.
Plus, I destroyed the dreams of any potential future Yarnig/Erik shippers.
If I could have, I would have expunged the plot from my books altogether. But it was a crucial part of Yarnig’s arc. If he doesn’t fall for Natoma, then he isn’t willing to try absolutely anything to save her, so he doesn’t discover his talent with magic, and his plot just fizzles out.
So his falling for Natoma was necessary. If I’d had the guts, maybe I’d have had Natoma reject him in the end and keep him in the friend zone. That’s probably what I should have done. But what can I say? I’m a sucker for a happy ending.
At least I have some cool ideas for their daughter…
Still, Yarnig and Natoma’s relationship remains one of my biggest regrets from the World Spectrum series, and I’ve done my very best to avoid romance arcs — at least as a central story element — ever since. I haven’t been entirely successful, but at least later attempts haven’t felt quite so cheesy. Though I’m sure they aren’t as good as something written by someone who understands the emotion you humans call “love.”
And now I’m planning an epic love story as an underpinning element for a future series. *Smacks self in head.* What the Hell is wrong with you, Tyler?