If you’ve read my other blogs on the subject, you know that my camping trip didn’t help out my word count at all. Hell, each day of towing literally killed it. But this wasn’t my only challenge. In fact, it wasn’t even my strongest one. I know you’re all dying from anticipation. Read ahead, but keep in mind that I love a good challenge.
So my wife’s friend from college donated into the charity for the story. She did so to the point of wanting the character to live at the end. Wounded was okay, but she had to live. She also sent me a character description. The name is taken from hers, but is not her name. Challenge came when I read the description. A nomadic, Nordic woman who was a unicorn herder (but only if someone paid to have rabid unicorns be the monsters). If not a unicorn herder, then some other form of herder.
Let’s address them one at a time, and then I’ll reveal the final character after giving you the bits.
Seriously, we have migratory workers in this country, but the closest thing we have to nomads are retired people who go from place to place in their RVs taking odd jobs when they need a little extra cash. And yes, I do have a pair of friends who do this. (Hi Leslie and Bill!) So I had to address having a nomad in present day Wisconsin. Present day Wisconsin with monsters, but still.
The fix? Her family were all nomadic Norwegians with her parents being the first to travel to America. She grew up going from ranch to ranch helping others raise animals until her father passed away. Once all of her family was gone she purchased a ranch of her own to raise horses. In other words, the first in a family of nomads to settle down. The ranch is just north of Madison.
So nobody asked for rabid unicorns. Apparently nobody enjoyed that scene from Cabin in the Woods like I did. (And thank you for not making me write killer unicorns.) So that left out her being a unicorn herder. It also freed me from having to explain why there was a unicorn farm north of Madison, Wisconsin.
The fix, as you can read above, was to make her a horse breeder. Most of the horses she has aren’t “champions” but each called out to her in some way. While she’s settled down, she is still using that nomadic gut instinct in her decisions.
Why is she in the book?
Yeah, so I have a Nordic nomad who settled down in the area. She’s breeding horses. But what does this have to do with the spreading of Bath Salt Zombies in the state? I could stage an attack there, but she has to live. And let’s face it, if one of them bites you it’s just as fatal as the Romero zombies. Faster acting, too.
My solution was to use the character. The herd of horses she’s breeding are special. In times of need they are imbued with a bit of the power of the lost Norse gods. They fly. They also bond with heroes. In the case of this character, she becomes a Chooser of the Dead. Sort of like a Valkyrie, but instead of choosing fallen heroes for Valhalla, she simply chooses who the dead are. She will also have the ability to put the dead to ground again. This should minimize the chance of me getting her mauled and infected. It also helps me to deal with a bit of a corner I wrote myself into. (To explain it would mean spoiling parts of the story.)
So what’s the problem?
I know, it sounds pretty solid, right? Sounds like I know what I’m doing? The problem is that I didn’t have an opening or scene in mind to introduce this character other than *POOF* “I’m here!” (For the record, I’m not a fan of the *POOF* Gambit.)
The real issue was that this scene was dragging down my speed. I wasn’t really into it and I wasn’t getting a voice. And, as she was a sponsored character, I couldn’t just write her out of the story. I stuttered three starts at the scene. This morning was my last attempt.
What pulled me through it.
The playlist. You know, Dukes playlist from yesterday? I wasn’t picturing her as a country western fan specifically, but the themes of the songs gave me some insight to what she was thinking. And although she has no real vocal religion in the scene, “I Can’t Pray” gave me her voice, a catalyst and a motivation. It also started to make me feel bad for my character. And when you write in public, its best not to get yourself choked up over your writing.
Trust me, I’m not a fan of the wonderful white fitted jackets that help you give yourself a big hug.
For those keeping score, the scene is written and the character will have an outcome integral to the story. She is a settled down nomad with a penchant for training horses – a Horse Whisperer if you will. As she enters the story, the land and power of the Norse pantheon will be reaching out to her, binding her to a horse and naming her the Chooser of the Dead. She will ride her flying horse into battle against the undead. Now I can’t fully promise she lives, which may give you a bit of stress as you read about her in the book. Although the lady did pay for her to live, so in all purposes, consider her to be like a third protagonist that is only in a small section of the book.
This is one of a couple sponsored bits that took a larger role in the big picture than I initially anticipated, but I am really happy with the outcome.
Scoresheet for Dukes Playlist
- I Can’t Pray – backdrop for protagonist, parallel for valkyrie side character, came damn close to getting me an observation appointment at the local hospital, made my wife cry at least once
- A Man Comes Around – inspired a duel of wits between Big Bad™ and Dukes, fleshed out my valkyrie, gave me a backdrop for the danger in the story
- This Cowboy’s Hat – gave me an accessory to focus on with Dukes, gave me an aspect to his guitar case I hadn’t planned on, had a single line that altered the character’s destiny (not necessarily in this book)
- A Country Boy Can Survive – gave a bit of country personality to Dukes tenacity in the story
- You’ve Got To Stand For Something – was the starting theme of my story, but went to really loosely stringing it all together now
- The Lord Knew Me First – give a parallel between Dukes and the detective, added a bit of snark to the character to temper the country charm
- Down in Flames – this will totally be the theme song to the final act of the story, I can totally see it
- number of times this playlist saved my ass: too many to count