Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Since when do my characters have free time?

So now everyone seems to be engaged in guessing Rae’s and Trevor’s hobbies, I guess I’ll have to work them out. Out loud. On the blog. Fasten your seatbelts.

I’ll start with Trevor. When I write him, I keep his physicality in mind as much as his personality. Trevor is happiest when he’s moving, and he has a gift for movement that borders on the preternatural. He can quickly pick up any move he sees, and although he can’t always execute it effectively if he hasn’t conditioned for it, he’s in good enough shape that he can do a lot, and likes pushing himself to try it all. He’s an excellent runner—both fast in a sprint and able to run steadily for long periods without tiring—because of his roofrunning experience in Chicago. So whenever I write downtime scenes for Trevor in Masks, he is in motion. He runs to clear his head and does kata to take his mind off stressful situations. I suspect he’d be a hell of a dancer if he ever decided to take it up, and maybe his relationship with Rae will motivate him.

Trevor’s also very good with his hands, and considering how quickly he can rewire a stolen PDA into a tracking device or anything else he needs, I can see him enjoying any kind of futzing around with computers. He is an excellent hacker and works to keep his skills sharp, but I don’t see him tackling security systems for fun or organizing botnets recreationally. He also does a fair amount of studying to keep up with his chosen profession—he’s the guy you’d expect to be up on everything from obscure martial arts to the latest forensic journals. And he is a bit of a compulsive autodidact; even though he’s been out of school for several years, he will be able to re-enter at Rae’s level as if he’d never left, mostly because he worked hard to study on his own during his travels.

Because Trevor was raised to be a mask, and because he genuinely likes it, he’s not much of a hobby guy. Part of his journey in Masks will involve discovering how normal people … well, people more normal than he is … spend their time. He’ll get dragged to movies and concerts and fed junk food (for the record, he’s going to hate Twinkies, but the character who shows him where to get a Maxwell Street Polish hot dog, Chicago style, in Los Angeles is going to be a friend for life).

Trevor’s a workaholic, but he’s the purest kind—he genuinely loves what he’s doing. And if he’s not moving, you know something’s wrong—he’s dead, he’s severely depressed, or he’s concussed yet again. (Trevor gets knocked in the head a lot; one disadvantage of being small and light and throwing yourself into fights is that you will fairly often get thrown right back out—and into a wall.)

Rae is the other end of the spectrum, really. While she does tend to go walking when she needs to sort out her thoughts (in Griffith Park … at night … which is completely illegal and quite likely to get her eaten by a mountain lion), she is also a voracious reader. While Trevor studies subjects he considers meaningful to his profession, Rae studies everything. That’s a big part of how she manages to maintain honor-roll grades even though she loses a lot of sleep and cuts class regularly—she already knows the material on the tests. The bookcases in the Black Mask’s hideout are mostly home to the dead hero’s reference library, but Rae has cleared out a nice little space for her own eclectic collection. It was her interest in books that led her to befriend the used-book dealer who turned out to be Peregrine, and who left his costume and identity to her when he vanished.

Rae is also strongly drawn to pretty much anything in the natural sciences. As a bookish little girl, she found herself taken under the wing of the neighborhood tomboy—a girl whose brash personality would later inspire Rae’s Peregrine persona—and spent her afternoons learning the habits of every cat, dog, and bird in the neighborhood. Rae is still keenly aware of local plant and animal life, and can often be seen watching the skies, the hills, or the nearest brush. So if it seems like she notices the coyote a lot when no one else sees it, remember that it’s possible she’s the only one looking.

Rae tinkers a bit with the Black Mask’s old motorcycle, but it’s mostly so she can keep it running in good condition. She’s not much of a gearhead. But all the reading and all the observing she does feeds into her talent. Her ability to assume a wide range of identities sometimes manifests itself in a tendency to play with disguises and con games. It wouldn’t surprise me to see her spend an evening in the villain bar, the Flying Tortoise, just people-watching and playing a role as much as gathering information. (Even though she’s only 16, she never gets carded. She’s that good. And before you call shenanigans, I’ll point out that someone tried to register me to vote when I was 12 years old. It happens. Except Rae does it on purpose, which makes her a bit scary, to my mind.)

A big part of Rae’s journey in Masks will be figuring out who, in the midst of all these identities, she wants to be. She’s built elaborate personae for herself, both in her mask life and in her secret identity, but having another person standing in her most private space will force her to think about who she is in that space. Rae doesn’t have time for a completely frivolous hobby, but turning all these little fragments of herself into a person—and figuring out how that person will deal with the rest of the human race—is a full-time job.

And now, because my characters are teenagers, I have to answer the inevitable TV question. What do they watch? Well, Rae is a movie buff, especially the old stuff—a lot of which will turn out to be connected to the history of the Los Angeles mask community, not that she knows that now. She loves the Marx Brothers, as well as anything of a swashbuckling nature—Robin Hood, Zorro, etc. She also likes sci-fi and fantasy and she knows her classics, as evidenced by her first meeting with Cobalt, when she immediately starts calling him “Darth Magnum.” Trevor, having lived overseas for several years, has a somewhat scattershot taste in entertainment, but he has a secret anime addiction left over from a stint in Japan that he doesn’t like to talk about. He’s also a kung fu movie buff, for obvious reasons, and is fascinated by wuxia films, especially Zhang Yimou’s recent work. He knows he can’t pull those stunts off without wires, but it doesn’t stop him from staring. Neither one of them watches a lot of American TV, except in repeats and on DVD—they both have other places to be when Lost is on. But we can be reasonably sure Rae’s seen most of Joss Whedon’s major works, or she wouldn’t talk the way she does.

How’s that, guys?

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