If you’ve read my recent blog you’ll know that I’ve re-launched my book Bleak – The story of a shapeshifter. From the feedback I’ve had, verbally, via e-mail and reviews, those who’ve read the book have really enjoyed it. Also, many of the comments have centred around the main character, Bleak, who seems to intrigue readers. Both the re-launch and the feedback has set me thinking about future stories involving Bleak.
As I’m sure any author will tell you, as your story unfolds on the page (or the screen) the characters, their personalities, their strengths and weaknesses develop. Overtime they change from a two dimensional outline to a three dimensional, rounded (if somewhat strange) person. It’s a bit like meeting someone for the first time, who, as you get to know them, becomes a good friend. After all, as a writer you’ll spend hours every day with that character. So as I return to thinking about Bleak, it’s like calling a friend I haven’t spoken to for a while.
I know the idea of a shapeshifter is hardly new in science fiction. However, I believe I have come at it from a different angle. For one thing I have tried to look at it from Bleak’s point of view. Without giving too much away Bleak was developed from a discarded human clone. He is given the abilities to take the form of another human being, within limits. His brain also has the ability to assume that other person’s memories and personality while not forgetting who he really is. Why? Because it occurred to me that if you were trying to develop the ultimate spy, then this would be him.
However, having invented this character and in trying to see their worlds from their point of view several issues arose. First was how do you ensure the loyalty of such a creation. Well, I reasoned that if you can manipulate a human to that extent then you can include in them programing that will keep them believing in the cause they are supposed to represent. In this case the “Prime Directive”. For Bleak this means that he never doubts what he’s doing. That if he causes the death of ten lives then he is saving a hundred. If a hundred die then he is saving a thousand. The interesting progression for me as the author and creator of Bleak was what happens if you remove this “Prime Directive”. You have then removed the very thing that underpins how he views himself and his life. How does Bleak then try to fill this gaping hole? How does he live with the questions and uncertainty that this will provoke.
The other area I found that haunts Bleak is the question of what it is to be human. The book opens with Bleak on the run after the rebellion has been quashed. He is seen as an abomination. Those that had him created view him, as less than human and they want him destroyed. Even his body is not his, in that it originally been destined to become someone else. I felt this had to create dilemmas within the character. He thinks and feels as a human, but even he must question what kind of a human he is, or if he is human at all. Looking back, although I hadn’t planned it at the time of writing, I think Bleak’s overriding motivations throughout the story is the need to prove to himself and to others that he is human and has a right to life.
One of the joys to me as a writer is seeing how my characters develop. And as I outline above Bleak provided many interesting challenges. Like all writers I am influenced by what I see going on around me and even though I write science fiction I can’t help but reflect that in my work. However, perhaps one of the reasons I love writing science fiction, is that it provides me with access to extreme characters that in some ways can amplify the issues we face as individuals today.
If you are intrigued by Bleak you can find him in,
Bleak – The story of a shapeshifter, on Amazon. Now available for just £0.99 / $0.99, just follow the link.
You can also sample Bleak in the 10,000 word prequel to the novel, Bleak – The first mission which can be download for free from this site.
As always comments are welcome.