I’ve inflicted plenty of bad things on my characters, but I’d rather discuss a bad thing that I wound up not inflicting.
When I decided that my character Telemachos needed a sidekick in King of Ithaka, I intended him to be a boy. The character had other ideas, though, and became a centaur. Every time I said, “No, I’m not writing fantasy!” and wrote him as a boy, he turned back into a centaur. I finally gave up and said, “Okay, you’re a centaur.” I wound up loving Brax, as he named himself, and he’s one of the favorite characters who ever wandered into my brain.
|I *think* this is the inspiration for Brax|
My daughter read the manuscript when it was about two-thirds completed and asked how it was going to end. I told her that Brax was going to die during an escape from some bad guys. She was furious. “Killing the sidekick is just like killing the dog, especially if he’s not really human,” she spat. “And killing the dog is a cheap way to get a tear. You can always tell when an author isn’t brave enough to kill a kid or do something really sad—they kill the dog and get the same reaction without having to do something that scares them to write about.”
Gulp. She was right. It was a cheap way to get a tear, and so Brax was spared.
During school visits I sometimes tell that story. The girls in the audience—who seem to share my love for Brax—wail when I tell them I almost killed him, and the boys are irritated that I didn’t!