Princess Rebecca Maxia is a complex character for me to develop. But, it’s mostly my fault that this is the case.
If you read the original draft that would eventually become this book, you would realize that a 13-year-old is not very insightful when it comes to courtship and marriage. This 13-year-old would reveal in his writing a disdain for girls, and the obstacles they place before more worthwhile activities, like developing skills in the Illustrative Arts, and preparing a solid case for driving privileges. At best, in the original draft, she was a prop; Richard was so old he was supposed to have a wife. However, it was clear that 13-year-old wasn’t sure what to do with her, since he seemed to think she had to make her presence known in the most annoying ways. She spoke, she hung off Richard, she seemed to insert herself into his life in just the most obstructionist ways. She was in the way of the story! (… Ugh, why is she here?)
Which is sad. That 13-year-old showed a lack of appreciation for the contribution of women, both in his life, and in this story. The last time I read that short as an adult, I shook my head in disappointment in that little boy. Not long after, the composition book was lost to a water event in my basement. It was not a major loss.
By the time I started writing this novel, I had … matured, we’ll just say. But, one thing hadn’t changed: like that little boy, I had no desire to marry. Ever.
So: How do you write a novel about a married couple, when you have no desire to marry?
You … improvise. Consider that the nature of this marriage presented the only likely way I would consider marriage (at the time). Which is by edict. Against my will. Because I had to. An arranged marriage was the only way marriage made sense to me. (Why would you do this voluntarily?)
In the initial iterations of the story, interactions between Richard and Rebecca were limited. She only came into the story as a foil, or when I needed an extra character to do some talking. She was still a prop. Even with her unique abilities, it basically made her more useful, but she only appeared when her powers were needed, then she disappeared again.
By the 21st century, my views of women had changed to such a degree that I when I read the book after a long hiatus (see Lost and Found), I realized how neglected Rebecca was as a character. When I started reworking and fixing the problems in the book, one thing I sought to change was her. And really, every other woman in the book. While few of my characters had the depth they needed, I realized I had done the women a particularly egregious injustice in my approach.
The first thing I did to fix her character was simply think about what would be going on in her life to make her who she is. I asked myself questions: What was Thorvus-Maxia, her home world, like? Who would be her role models, her teachers? What would be the ‘personality’ of her people? etc. I started to realize she has depth, even if the answers to these questions were never in the book. I dove deeper, looking at potential events (good and bad) in her childhood and onward, and how these would shape her as a person.
I invested so much into her as a character, I realized I needed to do the same for the other women (yes, and the men) in the book. I wrote a lot of women into the book, espically among the ‘Earthlings,’ if you will, for a reason I’ll explain later. But since there were now more characters, I decided to develop each of their life stories more. Most of the characters you’re not going to know them like I do (sorry, I thought 125k word count was a good stopping point). But their stories helped me understand each of them better, and how they would likely respond to the various things they face in the book.
What influences surround our Princess?
We will examine some events that our princess lives through, before her marriage to Richard. In this excerpt, Richard is discussing some of her past with his friend Joe, after he attempts to get aquianted with his new wife:
Joe sips some of his float. “Then she may not want to talk. It could be an extremely difficult thing to venture into space again since her last experience was so traumatic and it happened at such a young age.” He takes a long sip. “How old do you think she was?” Richard thinks about it a moment.
“Well, it was about fifteen years ago. I guess she was about five or six.” He looks at Joe. “Why do you ask?”
Joe sips more of the float. “From what I recall of your people’s history,” he says, wiping his mouth with a nearby napkin, “most of her family was on that ship when it blew up.” He grabs a spoon, pointing it at Richard. “So think about it: You’re six years old. In the span of a few minutes, everyone you knew, your parents, your grandparents,” he counts them off with his free hand, pointing to each finger with the spoon, “your closest aunts, uncles, cousins, and all your closest friends suddenly were gone forever. Everyone you ever knew was gone in the blink of an eye.” Joe pauses for a moment, letting it sink in. “How do you recover? Where do you start? She’s too young to let someone know how she truly feels, and maybe people assume they know.”
Obviously, space travel is not ubiquitous on Earth today, but I’m sure we can picture being the sole survior of a catastrophe, one that claims the lives of your family. I think we can start to place ourselves in her world, see her world view.
We may even draw a conclusion like the one Richard has:
“I do not want to come across insensitive,” Richard responds, “but I would think she would be finished grieving her parents by today. And while space travel can be ominous, I find it surprising she could continue to have such a strong apprehension now since she has had ample time to work through her feelings.”
Depending on your own background, you can see how even the characters can draw conclusions about the other characters and their motivations, right or wrong. You can decide for yourself how you would view the matter, whether you agree or disagree with Richard (feel free to comment below). But this is not all our princess is dealing with. After all, this was “fifteen years ago.” What is she dealing with now?
“Well, consider this,” Joe then continues. “How would you describe the present state of affairs on Thorvus-Maxia?”
For most of us, we are unlikely to be the cornerstone of the government of where we live (I’m not expecting to have that expansive a reader base; trying to be realistic here), so the government will function in our absence, or even the absence of our family. But this is a little different for Rebecca.
I was trying to decide what type of government most closely resembled Thorvian rule, and it is likely a constitutional monarchy in practice, but an absolute monarchy in reality. The difference is obviously in the details, and while these two systems of governance vary greatly, I understand that describing her rule as one or the other wouldn’t be appropriate. You will see that Richard has commented regarding her role in the governance of Thorvus-Maxia, along with others involved. As a result of her families’ death, describing their government gets even more complex.
Consider the picture painted here of Thorvus-Maxia:
“Well, from what I have heard, their government seemed to be destabilizing for some time, even more since the death of her family.” He takes his head and places it on the crown his now bridged fingers. “Her presence is likely the only thing holding her people together.”
“I see,” Joe stares off into space. “So she’s spent most of her life without any reliable guidance, without something, or someone, secure she can look up to.” Joe pauses. “And even you know, from your own experience, being of royalty, you have a special set of problems that come with being a member of a monarchy.” Richard groans. “But your family is there to help you work through these problems.” Joe looks at his drink. “What if you had to face that alone?”
Richard shakes his head. “That is too much to ask of one person.”
There is more to consider regarding her role as a monarch and the responsibilities she has, but it would be better for you to read them in the book.
One final matter I wish to touch on regarding Rebecca is her emotional state. There is a reason she behaves like she does, and there will be times her behaviour will not make complete sense.
An example: Here, she has allowed Richard to join her, shortly after his debate with Joe:
I must apologize,” She admits. “I did not wish to be mean to you.”
“It is all right. I can accept you might want to be alone.” She raises her head, looking into Richard’s eyes.
“But that is not why…” She looks up to Richard. “I do not want to be alone. I wanted to be with you but…but…” Tears start to stream down her face. She tries to wipe some of them away. “I do not want to be alone anymore.” She sighs. “I have been alone all my life. This time, our time together, has been all I could look forward to for a long time.”
Richard frowns. “How can that be?”
She lays her head back on his shoulder. “All my life, I have been groomed for marriage to you.” She looks down at the pillow in her arms. “I knew it could free me from my loneliness …” She pauses.
“From the loss of your family,” he adds.
“Yes …” Her voice trails off. “When you mentioned coming to my world, it made me think about when they first told me you were coming, not long after I lost everyone.” She squeezes the pillow tighter. “I was only seven, but it scared me so bad, the thought of losing you too, I refused to allow it!”
Richard looks down at her. “You did not wish for me to visit?”
She shakes her head. “No, I really wanted to meet you, but …” She stops, wiping her eyes. “I could not afford to lose you! I was scared of losing you!” She looks around, her voice shaken. “Even now, being out here, I am always afraid. I fear something could happen, and I will be alone again!” She starts sobbing. “I could not live with that!”
If you like, you can comment below regarding what you’ve learned thus far about Rebecca. I will tell you this is only part one. Part two, we have to discuss ‘Becky,’ and how an encounter in the book helps to draw out our princess even more, leading to changes I think you will notice in the excerpts shared. Plus, I will show why her explanation of the Clouds of Thought are especially revealing. See you then.
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