On extracting secrets from your characters.
A little while ago, I wrote a post about how to get your characters to spill their secrets.
Philas, You Liar!
My Saroyan drunk is afraid of hurting women. He’s a fuzzy love-bug wrapped in the guise of an acerbic alcoholic. And he is so, so cute. Just a lovely character. My favorite scenes featuring him are in books 6, 7, and 9, when he shouts at his peons.
What’s His Secret?
Well, Philas has a lot of secrets, but the deepest, darkest secret of all is that he loves a girl, and he’s terrified of all the other ladies in the universe finding out that he doesn’t care for them at all.
Philas, being a gentleman in his heart, erroneously believes that women are shallow, cunning beings who want more than anything in the world to be loved. He, being a kind soul, attempts to steer clear of treading upon any woman’s vanity. When he falls in love (and he does in the Eastern Slave series), he is in a terrible fix.
I Don’t Follow; This Makes No Sense
Look, let’s just get Philas in here, and he can speak for himself.
Me: Hey, Philas. Everyone wants to know who you’re in love with.
Philas: I don’t love anybody. Love is silly.
Me: Oh, now, I think your wife would have something to say about that.
Philas turns very red.
Philas: Why don’t you go talk to Delmar? Or Chad.
Me: I don’t want to talk to them. I want to talk to you. All these people are trying to understand what your problem is, and why you’re lying to Ajalia.
Wait, Philas Is Lying To Ajalia?
Well, yes, yes he is. Let’s see what he has to say about that.
Philas: Who are you talking to?
Me: Well, I have this blog, and I’m writing about the book I’m working on. Sometimes I talk about the things I’m learning.
Philas: What’s a blog?
Me: Just tell me more about how you’ve been unwilling to say what you’re really thinking to Ajalia.
Me: Why not?
Philas: Leave me alone.
Philas: Aren’t you going to threaten me, or something?
Me: No, I like you.
Philas: Don’t write any extra books about me, okay? I know you’re thinking about writing some for Ocher, and maybe Mop, and I just want you to know that I want to live quietly by myself. I don’t want you to write about me.
Me: How about you tell me what I want to know about you, and I promise to leave you alone?
Philas: Really? You won’t bother me at all?
Me: Well, people will talk about you, and you might have to interact in other books, since you’re so important.
Philas: But you won’t ever write a book, and call it after me, or anything?
Philas: What about my wife? Will you leave her alone, too?
Me: I will leave her alone even more than you.
Philas thinks about this.
Philas: Well, I guess that would be all right.
Me: Now, why won’t you be honest with Ajalia?
Philas: I don’t want to hurt her feelings.
Me: Why do you think you’re going to hurt her feelings?
Philas: Well, it’s my fault she’s never been able to feel close to Delmar, isn’t it? She’s never going to forgive me for that.
Me: I don’t think that’s very fair. Delmar is the one who’s been rude to Ajalia all the time, and pretended she didn’t count. That wasn’t you.
Philas: Yeah, but if I hadn’t formed Ajalia’s expectations for relationships, she wouldn’t have put up with so much, maybe. She wouldn’t have let Delmar be so mean.
Me: She didn’t let him be mean. And she was never in a relationship with you in the first place.
Philas: I was so! There was kissing! I said I loved her! She said she liked my beard! That was a real relationship!
Me: No it wasn’t.
Philas glares at me.
Philas: I don’t like you at all.
Me: That’s fine.
Philas: You’re mean.
Me: Okay. I’m just saying that you think you’re really important to Ajalia, and she never loved you. She said so, didn’t she?
Philas: She was just trying to make me feel better.
Me: Do you want me to bring her in here, too?
Philas: No! No, she’d just say she didn’t like me.
Me: She does too like you. She just never loved you. She loves Delmar. You said yourself that you jumped in when you saw she was in love.
Philas: There are a bunch of people here! You can’t talk like this in front of other people!
Me: I can, and I will.
Philas: Well, that isn’t fair. I don’t like this.
Me: Do you think Ajalia is a liar?
Me: Do you think she’s stupid?
Philas: No, she isn’t stupid! But your questions are dumb!
Me: So if Ajalia isn’t stupid, and she isn’t a liar, why don’t you believe her when she says that she isn’t hurt, and she doesn’t love you?
Me: Because why?
Philas: Just because, okay? She’s really nice, and no one knows how nice she is except for me, and if I don’t have a piece of her, and protect her, then maybe she won’t be okay.
Me: So you pretend to love Ajalia because you actually do love her?
Philas: I don’t love her like that!
Me: Yeah, I know.
Philas: I don’t think you do know! I don’t love her like that, and I never have! She’s better than everyone, and no one realizes how great she is, and Delmar—
Philas breaks off, and glowers.
Philas: Delmar really loves her, and he’s going to be there for her, and I feel left out, because everything exciting happens around Ajalia. I feel stupid, because nothing exciting ever happens around me. I’m a loser, I think, because otherwise someone like you would write a book about me. Ajalia got nine whole books, and I’ve had a lot of interesting things happen to me, but you aren’t writing about me!
Me: Well, you do lie and hide a lot when I try to.
Philas: Well, if you wrote about me, maybe you would find things out! You’re horrible to me!
Me: Would you like it if I did write about you?
Philas: Yes! Gosh! Why don’t you realize these things? I mean, really. Are you smiling at me? Stop laughing at me!
Me: But you just made me promise never to write any books about you.
Philas: Yeah, well, I want you to! So there!
Philas: Okay, what? What does that mean? What do you mean, okay? Does that mean that you’ll probably write something about me now?
Me: Do you want me to?
Philas utters a garbled cry of inarticulate rage, and clutches at his hair.
Philas: That’s what I just told you! Why aren’t you listening to me? No wonder I didn’t want you to write about me, since you don’t seem able to listen to anything! You are being very rude!
Me: So you do want me to write about you.
Philas: YES! YES! I feel like I’m repeating myself. I’ve been saying the same thing for hours now!
Philas: What do you mean, okay? Does that mean you’ll write about me now?
Me: Will you tell Ajalia things?
Philas: Yes, fine, yes. I swear, I’ll cooperate and do all the things, unless you start being stupid and not listening to me. Then I can’t promise anything.
Me: So you won’t cooperate.
Philas: Well, it depends on you, doesn’t it!
Me: I think it depends on you.
Philas: It is all your fault!
Philas storms away, but his bristling shoulders look rather pleased.
Philas Is Interesting
I like him, too. He’s got more layers than most of the characters I’ve gotten into. I built him out of some secret compartments in my mind, and his body is part addict, and part actor (I drew part of him from some actors I’ve worked over in the past).
In a lot of ways, Philas is still a mystery, even to me. I created a composite of energies that are real, but that I haven’t yet deconstructed completely. Philas contains seeds of self that I have yet to plumb deeply.
Why Does The Title Say I Need To Be Like Philas?
Philas is a contradiction; he wants attention, and beats it away when he gets it. The wonderful thing about him is that he is honest.
You Said He Was A Liar
Well, his lies are scrupulous. I think he is very careful not to hurt people. So he does lie, in that he does not actually tell what is real and true, and he is not upfront at first, but he attempts to live in cohesion with what he sees, at the time, as rightness. Granted, he is childish at times (and his idea of right is therefore often directly wrong), but I think he is quite lovable.
Are You Going To Write A Book About Him?
You’ve been reading a blog about writing by Victor Poole. Philas is featured as a main character in my books. May the guiding spirits of industry smile upon you this day.