Historically, primitive societies are male-dominated; I want my primary female characters to be strong females, not stay-at-home moms, and the net result gives me several usable plot conflicts. In The Dragon Core we meet a strong woman character, Lukanah, who comes from a relatively female-dominated society; in One and One Make One JD and Mya visit her and we learn more about her society.
In many stories, the villains are evil because they are evil. That’s not much of a motivation. In Rumiko Takahashi’s InuYasha the main villain, Naraku, becomes evil when he is badly injured and being cared for by the priestess Kikyo. He falls in love with her but is unable to speak or move. He gives himself up to demons to heal him so he may profess his love. Once he is possessed he learns she loves InuYasha and becomes jealous. His motivation becomes the desire for revenge on Kikyo and InuYasha. By the time Kagome arrives, Naraku is just an evil, cruel, and power-hungry demon; any other motivation has been lost.
In Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court Hank Morgan is the only character; everyone else is meant to reflect something of Hank’s personality. Hank is therefore both hero and villain. Remember, Twain wrote “Yankee” as satire, and each aspect of Hank’s personality reflects some aspect of society Twain satirizes.
I like the concept of the antagonist having real motivations; that is, from the villain’s point of view he or she is the real hero and the audience’s hero is the villain. This gives the antagonist some depth, some realistic motivations: they are only trying to do what they think is best.
In The Dragon Core this is a situation that’s not clear-cut for a long time. Ruko begins as JD’s friend, only slowly turning into a villain. Without giving away plot points I can’t explain how this happens.
Here are my characters in rough order of appearance. In some cases I’ve paired people because they are paired characters in Do-Over. Minor, one-shot, or rarely-seen characters are not listed even though a couple of them have names.
- JD. Enough said about him already.
- Mya, the daughter of JD’s adoptive village head man, a smart, strong-willed, capable woman of 17. She has turned down politically-motivated and other proposals of marriage because she wants to be treated as more than a cook and mother. Mya is literate, a rarity in the society and even more rare for a woman.
- Kebo and Mira, Mya’s parents. Kebo is the head of Central Village and nominal head of Ajad Province, the last refuge of a once-large empire. Mira is the same type of person as Mya but has given in somewhat to the male-dominated society. She wants more for Mya than she has.
- Fight Masters Loobe (weaponless combat) and Jobo (swordsmanship). Loobe is very similar to Mr Miyagi in “The Karate Kid”; Jobo is loosely based on R. Lee Ermey’s Sergeant character.
- Farm Master Kobe, in charge of farming and livestock. He’s loosely based on Daniel Whitney’s Larry the Cable Guy character.
- Ruko, a miner, at first one of JD’s friends. Over time he becomes the villain, although it’s not his fault.
- Howroo and Yowl, wolf demons. Howroo is an alternate love interest for JD but is betrothed to another wolf demon; she’s a relative teenager while Yowl is the sober, more mature older brother who tries to keep Howroo on the right (wolf demon) path.
- Edo and Kaba, demon hunters. Although they have their own growth curve, they serve to mirror JD’s personality and internal conflicts. Rather than have JD tell us directly we learn about his internal struggles by watching how he interacts with this couple. Both are orphans and have been together since Edo was eleven years old. Both are 18 in the beginning, but Kaba is older and turns 19 before the end of The Dragon Core.
- Herndo the Lore Master. The first Herndo invented writing. He and each subsequent Herndo take on an apprentice who, when the current lore master retires or dies, takes over the name and position. His purpose, of course, is explaining the lore of the land.
- Lukahah, a warrior from another country. For those familiar with manga conventions she is visually “fan service”, an attractive person who wears revealing clothes. As a character she is a dominant personality, well-versed in combat and weapons use. She comes from a society that’s female-dominated; she disdains most men as less competent than she is.
- Johanah, Lukanah’s niece. Like Mya she is a bit of a misfit in her own culture. Compared to Ajadi women Johanah is a strong personality somewhat similar to Mya; in her own culture she is considered weak because she is not a fighter. Johanah appears mid-way through One and One Make One.
- Alden, the antagonist of Last Man Standing. He’s a cross between Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan.
- Other important characters, such as certain town folk and the other head men of villages, appear when necessary for story purposes. These characters will have names and a backstory which may or may not be presented. I haven’t listed them because doing so gives away vital plot points.
And of course, there’s the main villain of The Dragon Core: the Red Dragon. Above I wrote “an interesting villain is a hero from their own world view and the story’s hero is their villain.” In The Dragon Core we discover the legend of the Red Dragon eating the creations of the other dragons. He does this to stay alive as his Core energy slowly fades. Much like humans need to eat or starve, the Red Dragon has to eat Core energy to avoid starvation. And, much like humans, if that means some far lesser creatures must die, so be it. He tells JD,
We dragons created the universe, therefore we created you, therefore I am above you. Just as you are above a worm I am above your kind. You would not hesitate to kill a worm to survive…
It’s the same argument we might make to a head of lettuce before making it into a salad.
By the way, if that sounds like the Marvel Comics character Galactus you’d be right (another case of borrowing a concept). The Red Dragon is not modeled after Galactus, but his logic is the same as Galactus’. From the Red Dragon’s point of view, destroying relatively insignificant life forms so that he may continue to exist is regrettable but necessary for his own survival.
The next essay, the last in the series, describes some background and details of the story not covered elsewhere.