I had the good fortune to meet Anne at Headhouse Books in Philadelphia, where she gave a spectacular reading from Green Light Delivery back in May of this year. She’s a fabulous and versatile writer, and I do mean versatile. She writes short stories and novels for practically all age groups, including children, young people, and adults. In this guest post, she shows us the fine art of keeping her trio of Webrid Chronicles main characters distinct. ~~Mo
The Webrid Chronicles are about Webrid, obviously. But he can’t save the world alone. Part of my job as an author is to make sure the reader can distinguish Webrid from his fellow main characters, and to keep those distinctions consistent throughout each novel and the series as a whole.
These Three Musketeers in Space could not be less like each other. Most obviously, each of them has unique physical traits. Let’s say, they would never be mistaken for siblings (except for the way they argue). It’s equally important that these three characters be distinguishable by their speech mannerisms. As is true with every human I know, these aliens speak in a way defined by their upbringing and self-image.
Webrid is huge, bulky, and hairy, with claws and sharp teeth. He couldn’t care less what he’s wearing, and he doesn’t think or speak in complete sentences. He’s clumsy and often hungover, as we find him the morning after a night of partying in chapter 1:
From his vantage point on the floor, he could see his pants from yesterday, poking out from under an overturned chair. They were good as new once he shook the glass dust out of them. He had the claws of one foot caught in the first pant leg when someone knocked on his door.
“Crap,” he said to the universe. “Yeah, comin’!” he called to his visitor. He bumped his head on a wall lamp while hopping down the hallway. “Who is it?” The question was followed by a musical rrrrrip as his claws sliced through the cloth. “Aw, freakin’ hell.”
Stravin, Webrid’s drinking buddy, is slender and neat. He decorates his downy white feathers with expensive, fashionable clothes. He’s an engineering genius and clearly educated at the finest schools. Like Webrid, Stravin appreciates pleasure, but as a delicacy, not a smorgasbord:
“Come in, come in,” urged the slender, feather-coated man. He wagged a long, downy-white finger at the cart. “My dearest Webrid, I thought you’d forsworn this carting nonsense.” Before Webrid could reply, Stravin motioned into the foyer. “Ah, well. Just roll it into the front hallway. Nothing else to be done, I suppose, since I know you won’t leave it outside.” Quietly, but just loud enough for Webrid to hear, he added, “And this way my neighbors won’t see it.”
Once the cart was parked, Stravin dragged Webrid toward a velvet-covered ramp. “Burrow those giant cloppers into the sweet softness, my dear.”
“Your feet, you brute. Into the footholds.”
Webrid didn’t see any footholds, but he stepped onto the ramp as he’d been ordered. The velvet swallowed his toes and heels. “Hey!”
“Don’t struggle so, darling. Think of it like sex. Just let it happen naturally.”
And then there’s Zatell. She and Stravin go way back. She has an illegal interplanetary rocket taxi service, and keeps her very own rocket in her back yard. (Never mind that she’s a truly awful pilot.) But the most remarkable thing about her is her shape. Zatell has about thirty little hand-feet encircling her round body-head. She walks by rolling or cartwheeling. And she talks like somebody whose defense mechanisms are always on full-blast:
“You stinky hoongofl!” she cried as she rolled toward the passenger side of Stravin’s car. “I haven’t seen you in ages. What sewer have you been hiding in? Is there even a sewer wide enough to hold your ugly butt?”
Talking to Zatell was like talking to the working girls at Joolo’s Skinny Dip Club. Webrid knew better than to be offended at the trash that spewed out of their mouths. Laughing warmly, he bent way down and gave Zatell’s puckered face a nuzzle. “Hey, sweetheart. Lookin’ good!”
As with all inseparable friends, these three sometimes need to be pulled apart before they blacken each other’s eyes. But they’d also lay down their lives for each other without a moment’s pause.
Thanks for dropping by, Anne! I can hardly wait to dig into the latest escapades of Webrid, Stravin, and Zatell!
You can learn more about Anne E. Johnson at her website.
Don’t miss the rest of Anne’s blog tour stops, which include author AND character interviews, more terrific articles, a giveaway, and a space music countdown!