This is the third in my character building posts. This is also the character that I have the most fun writing for because he is so obnoxious.
Keldirk, like Craven and Azareth before him started life as a player character in the game. He was played in such a way that you instantly disliked him the moment he walked into the room. Every word out of his mouth set your teeth on edge and his response to even the most mundane events in the game was inexplicable at best.
In short he was a complete arsehole.
I have desired to keep that aspect of his personality in the novel. I think it’s important that there is a point of difference between each character that helps give readers a way to tell the main characters apart. If they all reacted in the same way or had the same world view then the story would be a confusing slurry with no real depth of character.
Before I begin to describe Keldirk, and get to know why he is like he is, I want to mention this picture. It was drawn in 2000 by Kevin Yancey, and used on for Keldirk in the assassins web series. I always liked the illustrations he did, particularly Keldirk, and thought I’d share this one with you here.
The Advanced D&D game had an assassin class (which has recently been brought back in 4th edition) and Keldirk was the only player character in the game that actually was that class. As the game evolved and we progressed through the various editions Keldirk’s character had to change classes because in 2nd edition there was no such thing as a separate assassin class. So from 2nd edition on Keldirk was remade as a thief.
So Keldirk is an 18 year old human, male. Trained as an assassin with a speciality in stealth rather than combat. I mentioned that, in the game his personality was quite bitter. Bitter to the point of outright rudeness and this I am carrying through to the novel.
The question I need to answer is why?
Any child who behaved that way to their authority figures would have been severely disciplined. Such discipline may not always result in changes in behaviour (it may even reinforce it) so for him to still be around his ability must be first rate. The only reason anyone would keep such a difficult person around is because they do excellent work. Thus Keldirk must be something of a prodigy among his peers – with a serious character flaw.
How then did he come to be so bitter? What happened to him to show him that the world isn’t fair and that playing by the rules doesn’t mean good things will happen. To answer that I give you Goran Zidar – Keldirk – The Price of Poverty.
In this short piece you see a young boy who was sold by his parents to a complete stranger. Now, it turns out that the stranger was a recruiter for The Family. A man sent out into the world to find candidates to be brought to the island and trained. The story answers two key background questions, why is Keldirk angry at the world, and how did he get to be an assassin.
To my mind, being sold like that made him realise that he held no priviliged position in the world. That the only person who is focussed on looking out for him is him. To everyone else he is property. He uses his personality is an emotional shield he uses to keep people at a distance.
I also think that he would be extremely suspicious/jealous of anyone he believes hasn’t had to work for what they have. Members of the nobility or other wealthy people who never suffered a day in their lives would be viewed as a personal affront to him.
Smilarly, he doesn’t respect strength, or intelligence in and of themselves. He knows there are people out there stronger and smarter than him. Strength and intelligence alone are gifts, having them is one thing, using them well is what is important. He will only show respect to those who can demonstrate that. And, because such an attitude is uncommon to him, his version of respect is difficult to distinguish from his normal behaviour.
So, that’s Keldirk. I hope I can successfully translate this onto the page. I want to make him seem like a real person. The danger is that he ends up as a caricature of the person I am trying to create.