So I've posted a third story draft involving my character Space Hunter X-37 and the Big Galaxy setting over on my Patreon, and once again I'm going to share some behind the scenes stuff.
I won't get into story details for the next few paragraphs, so if you want to click the link and read it unspoiled, please feel free to do that before coming back here. As usual, viewing the content over there does not require you to support me on Patreon.
Like the previous snippet, this is more in the way of being chapters of a larger story than the first X-37 story I posted, which can work on its own as a short. The larger story that it connects to (The Outlaw Matthew Varda) originated as a short story draft that was the first X-37 story I wrote, back when I was getting a handle on the character.
The first draft of "Outlaw" was a self-contained short story, and it featured a darker version of the main character than I ultimately went with, someone who is even more ruthlessly practical and entirely self-serving. I saw more potential in the story than was possible with that version of the character, so I decided to "zoom out" and flesh out her motivations.
I knew I would need some way of putting the character into a bind where she would face something that doesn’t come easily for such a character: a true dilemma, a pull in two directions.
When she’s free to act, X knows what she wants and she figures out what she needs to do to accomplish it. For a short like “Bluffing On A Strong Hand” that is just there to establish her and give her some cred, that’s fine, but if you follow a character like that for long enough it becomes predictable and boring. No challenge, no hard decisions, no reason for you the reader to care.
In the original draft of "The Outlaw Matthew Varda", X outsmarts him in a game of ship-to-ship cat-and-mouse, infiltrates the Sea Star, and dispatches him in a very matter-of-fact fashion so she can claim his ship as salvage because the cost of the chase puts her in the hole for the job otherwise. Version zero of the character has no sympathy for Varda and nothing factors into her calculations beyond profit/loss.
When I started to imagine a more complex version of the character, I started with the question: if she cares about nothing else, why would she care about the money? Operating at a profit allows her to keep operating, but what even is the value for her in operating?
That's the question that started my journey from version 0 of the character to the one I'm actually writing and sharing with the world. The answers I came up with helped me create relationships between X and other people/entities in the story that make both her and the world of the story more real.
It's been interesting watching The Mandalorian on Disney+ these past few weeks, as it's a show about a bounty hunter that explores a similar question by introducing a character as a seemingly emotionless and relentless bounty hunter and then asking "But what DO they care about?"
My first draft of "Outlaw" wasn't a bad story and I could see myself sharing it as another sort of behind-the-scenes thing, but it would have been hard to keep telling stories about that version of the character in a way that remained interesting. There's not much reason for the audience to care about a character who doesn't care about anything. There's not really any way to introduce stakes if the character isn't afraid of losing anything.
The idea of Destyles blackmailing X into doing this specific job for him on his terms is older than any of the material that you’ve read. The first version of his conversation with her was actually the first thing I wrote after the original story draft. I've expanded it a bit to incorporate things that I wrote later, but the basic idea hasn't changed much. The thing he holds over X's head is the same. The reason she relents is the same.
With this post, I've run out of bits of story that fit together sequentially, though once X lands on Paradiso I've got a few different stories I'm working on that can fit the more standalone/anthology-style mold. November may be almost over, but I'm not planning to stop writing any time soon.
Thank you for reading!
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