22 September 2010
Guestblog: Stacia Kane about Chess Putnam
I'm giving the stage to Stacia Kane now...
I mean, yeah, I invented her, but I didn’t have to do a lot of thinking. She was just there, someone I knew intimately, someone whose reactions to things I could gauge pretty easily.
And by now I imagine anyone who’s heard anything about me or the books, or who’s read anything else I’ve written on the subject, is tired of hearing me say how I wanted to write something different, something that would challenge me. Something with a character more like me, who didn’t have superpowers, who couldn’t solve all of the plot’s problems with a gun; who couldn’t even begin to solve all of her own problems, much less anyone else’s.
So I had this character, Chess, who I knew and loved and wanted to write more than anything. And yeah, she had a few…issues. Issues I knew could make her into a big huge downer really really fast.
One thing I learned from…well, I don’t know where I learned it from, but I learned it, and lucky for me that I did. Everyone has weaknesses. We all have them—some of us more than others—but we all have weaknesses, and we all have sadness, and we all have insecurities; at least, everyone I know and like does. Characters should too.
So I had to give Chess more than just problems; or rather, I had to find a way to show that she is more than her problems, a lot more. And luckily for me that was easy, because she is.
For me, I think, her most defining positive quality is her loyalty. I’m sure if you’re reading this you’ve read the first three books, but just to avoid spoiling if you haven’t I’ll say that yes, she does sort of mess that up with regards to her personal life, at least to some extent. But to me, just as it was to her, what she was doing physically wasn’t disloyal, not to anyone but herself. I think it was obvious that she made a big choice in that first book because the realization that there was another option for her terrified her. And that when she finally committed to taking that option, she committed to it, no matter how useless she thought it was.
With that loyalty comes the determination to protect the person or thing to which she’s loyal. Yes, by catching those seeking to defraud the Church (the crime, which I mentioned in one of the books, is technically called “Conspiracy to commit spectral fraud”) she’s doing the “right” thing and upholding the law. But the law comes second to Chess; I think that’s obvious from her willingness to bend it when necessary. Loyalty comes first. Doing the right thing doesn’t necessarily mean the “right” thing. The right thing to do is the thing that will help whomever Chess is in a position to help.
Someone pointed out to me a while ago something I hadn’t actually caught at all while writing the first three books. Chess is loyal to the Church which saved her, and Terrible is loyal to Bump, who saved him. Obviously I knew when writing it that Terrible saw Bump as saving him—and believe me, he did. But it didn’t occur to me how similar those stories were, or that they were both essentially saved by chance and skills they didn’t ask for. Or that although I haven’t gone into it yet in the books, the relationship between Bump and Terrible is actually closer than I think people suspect. Certainly it’s closer than the one Chess has with the Church itself (with the obvious exception of Elder Griffin). Or that both of them threw so much of their loyalty to something which had so much control over them.
And since it’s very late at night now—or very early in the morning, whichever way you want to look at it—I’m going to end it there, and open the post to questions of anyone feels like asking them (feel free not to, of course. I know this little post has been a tad dull, but it’s kind of hard to discuss characters; it feels a little like getting naked in front of strangers). So if there’s anything you want to know about Chess, or about writing her, or whatever, ask away. I won’t give spoilers but I’ll answer anything else!
Thanks, Leontine, for inviting me! And thanks everyone for reading.
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