For today’s post, I will be focusing on the main character of Riverlurk, one of my current novels-in-progress. Before we start, here’s a short unpolished excerpt:
Sophy hurried across the deck, still in her nightwear, shivering against the chill that blew across the water. She clutched the machetblade that she carried as she walked, and it banged painfully against her left knee.
It had been unpleasant to be roused from sleep so suddenly and after such a long watch. She’d been tempted to snap at Juana then, except the girl had suddenly opened her mouth and announced that they’d caught a prisoner, and not only that, he’d asked for Sophy by name.
When Sophy demanded to know who it was, Juana had said he was some sort of houngan, with tattoos down the surface of his dark skin. She’d known at that very moment. Salomon. It could only be him. But how did he know where to find them? And why had he come in the first place?
She clambered down the steps of to the belly of the ship, stopping in front of the portside starboard hold, where they were keeping the prisoner. Nik stood sentry outside, leaning against the wall in that casual way he so preferred. The coltgun hung loosely from his side holster, which he’d taken to carrying openly now that they were on the wild frontier. He saw her approach and let out a yawn, then wiped phlegm from his bleary eyes.
Stupid man, she thought, irritated. He was acting so nonchalant, as if they hadn’t kissed just a few days ago in Bayou Evangelyne. And oh, Salomon was here, and that was going to be a problem. Nik and Salomon. The thought of the two of them on the same ship…
Sophy is a character who has given me a lot of trouble ever since I started writing this story over a year and a half ago. Riverlurk is a peculiar story that draws from elements of Cajun and Tejano culture, as well as Louisiana and Haitian Voodoo. At the start, Sophy LaRoke was named Sophie Poulet, the captain of a rescue-ship modeled after the famous Cajun Navy, which rescued so many people in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. As the story developed and became more fantastical however, I demoted her to a first mate, primarily because I needed a plausible reason to get her into more dangerous situations without doing the Star Trek thing where senior officers always beam down on dangerous away missions for no apparent reason.
In this current iteration, Sophy serves as first mate to Captain Kimah Huynh, and has a much more hands-on role in the story. Some aspects of her background are still unclear to be, and will undoubtedly get clarified between now and the next draft. But here are a few things that I know for sure:
- She belongs to an marsher ethnic group called the Akadiens, who live a semi-nomadic existence in the frontiers of the Marais. However, she left at an early age after some disagreement with her mamaw, who was the matriarch of their clan.
- On one of her adventures, she contracted a debilitating illness known as the Cauchemar, which involves insomnia and vivid nightmares, and is considered terminal. This serves as the onus for her participating in the monster hunt (the exact reason is still TBD).
- Her and Captain Huynh have history, going back to the days when they served on a different ship together. Years of working side-by-side on the Zydeco have given them a sense of trust that rivals that of the closest krewe, but also makes them painfully aware of each others’ weaknesses.
- She has access to the same beacon magic as Veve practitioners across the Marais, specifically in the form of beacons tattooed on her arms.
- She secretly belongs to a gang/revolutionary movement known as fantôme led by the infamous outlaw Anson Bass. Her presence aboard the Zydeco is a part of a grand malicious plan by fantôme, the details of which I have yet to figure out. Hijinks ensure when Nik Navarro comes aboard the ship undercover in search of Anson Bass’ whereabouts.
As you can see, a number of the ideas surrounding her character are still a bit TBD. Several others, such as her involvement with the outlaws that Nik (our other protagonist) is chasing, only came to mind during this new draft. Trying to rein in all the changes to my character’s backstories feels a bit like characters in Game of Thrones figuring out how marriage alliances will affect their family trees. Oh, how I wish that it were possible to set the story in stone the first time around, then spend each successive draft focusing specifically on prose. Unfortunately, the nature of art is that it reveals itself slowly to the artist, and I suspect that some other details will change between now and the next draft.