Revisiting ‘The Sun Singer’

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The most recent edition of my hero’s journey mountain adventure novel The Sun Singer came out in March 2010 in paperback and Kindle formats. I have been revisiting the novel during the last few months to make sure my Sarabande sequel is consistent with the large cast of characters and mysterious plot.

Many of my favorite characters from The Sun Singer are returning in Sarabande. I must be careful not to accidentally change the color of anyone’s hair, mix up who did what, or forget who the traitors and heroes were in the original story.

I Need a Sun Singer Encyclopedia!

I’m using the search feature in Microsoft Word a lot these days. When Gem or Dohver or Robert show up in Sarabande, I search for them in The Sun Singer. I’ve done the same thing for every character because I’m just not organized enough to have a “master notebook” with an alphabetized list of characters, traits, nastiness level, date of birth and eye color.

Searching for such details in The Sun Singer reminds me of bits and pieces of the story that I haven’t thought about for a long time. It’s been fun–as well as distracting. Here’s a scene I came across tonight in which young Robert Adams (aka Sonny Trout) meets Gem and her daughter Cinnabar on a mountain trail:

Gem and Cinnabar

Voices. Voices ahead of him on the trail, as yet indistinct. He crouched down and waited. If it were a search party, he’d just have to hang his head, like Arnold’s puppy when it was caught on the couch, and admit that he was wrong to hike alone and stay out so late. Yet, if he did step through a door into another world, what then? He hid his pack in the underbrush and crawled forward.

He found every dry twig in the forest, and every one of them cracked in two as though he were chopping firewood in front of a microphone. Where was brother owl’s hoooo hoo-oooo, hoo hoo and the wind and the rain when he needed some covering noise? The earth was cold to the touch.

An arm wrapped around his neck, choked him, and pulled him over onto his back. That dream! He knew what was next. The boot slammed into his stomach and the dirty rag shoved in his mouth blocked his weak protest. His hands and feet were bound with a heavy rope.

“Over here. Gem.” A woman’s voice—the word in his dream notebook was a name?—and obviously no one from the hotel out to rescue him.

“Gem, I’ve caught us a lousy spy.”

Sonny saw nothing. His captor had the eyes of a cat. Or, with the ability to operate so efficiently in the darkness, was a cat.

The night moved in front of him and four hands pulled him up on his feet, then hoisted him into a mid-air prone position. They carried him down the trail in the direction he had been heading. After taking a few steps, they were breathing heavily.

A spy? Spies were always stabbed at night or shot at dawn. Robert Adams said he heard a blue dove calling through a doorway. Yeah, for the hapless Sonny Trout.

In ten minutes, the night gave way to a small campfire. They set him down roughly, several feet away from it, and the heat felt good. The light transformed his captors from gasping apparitions into flesh and blood women. One wore a brown, leather dress. Her hair was black and twisted into long braids. The other was shorter, younger, and wore dark green trousers and a flannel shirt. She perspired heavily. Her shoulder-length hair was fiery red, tangled and matted to the sides of her face. She paced in front of the fire, catching her breath. Finally, she stooped down in front of Sonny, turning up her nose in disgust as though she were looking at a helpless bug lying on its back. Then she laughed.

“In the Guardian’s name. Gem, we’ve robbed the cradle with this one. He’s a mere child. Justine must be desperate.”

“Quiet, Cinnabar,” rasped Gem, “the forest can hear. There may be others.”

“If there are others,” said Cinnabar, “they’ll meet the same fate as this one.” She leered at Sonny. “There are numerous ways to die, little boy.”

Okay, I Better Get Back to Work

In the manuscript for my sequel, Robert Adams is talking to Sarabande some 1,600 miles away from the Lake Josephine Valley in Glacier National Park where this scene from The Sun Singer occurred. I found myself reading it to remind myself what Robert’s firrst reaction to a stressful situation was like. He’s in one right this minute in Sarabande, and I better get back to it before I forget the details I just read.


Malcolm R. Campbell is also the author of “Garden of Heaven” and “Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire.”

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4 responses

    • I’m very picky when it comes to getting (or trying to get) the details correct and all lined up between the books. “Sarabande” also has to be consistent with “Garden of Heaven” since there is a little overlap between the characters and events in those two books as well.

      It’s fun, though (most of the time).

      Malcolm

  1. I’m enjoying your blog.
    I have trouble remembering everything about my characters too. And for one rewrite, I needed to find out who and what exactly a character was before I could make the chapter say what I wanted it to.

    A writer friend of mine sent me this character template. It helps keep things straight.

    I have it in a format that lets you type the information right onto an organized template. If you send me an e-mail address, I can send it as an attachment.

    [Character Name]

    Character Type (Check all that Apply)
    Protagonist Antagonist Hero Mentor Ally Guardian
    Herald Shapeshift Shadow Minor
     Protagonist: The leading character, hero, or heroine, who moves the story action forward
     Antagonist: the adversary opposes, struggles against, or competes with the hero/protagonist
     Hero: Someone willing to sacrifice his own needs on behalf of others
     Mentor: A positive figure who aids or trains the hero
     Ally: Hero’s cohort: companion; sparring partner; conscience, comic relief
     Threshold Guardian: Lieutenants of the villain; lesser thugs or mercenaries guarding the villain’s domain(s)
     Herald: Characters who issue challenges or announce the coming of significant change, usually at the story’s beginning
     Shapeshifter: A character whose characteristics change when examined more closely. They change appearance or mood, making them difficult for both hero and audience to pin down.
     Shadow: May be an ally of the villain or the hero, who disagrees with the hero’s tactics.
     Minor: Incidentally character to further some cause, function or plot point.

    Physiology
    Gender: Height: Weight:
    Color Eyes: Color Hair: Age:
    Skin: Posture:
    Appearance
    Most Striking Feature
    Ethnicity
    Mannerisms/gestures
    Defects
    Heredity
    Distinguishing Marks
    Distinctive Attire
    Grooming
    Sound of voice
    Home/Abode
    Medical conditions

    Sociology
    Class: upper/ middle/ lower
    Income: sources/amount
    Occupation/Role
    Significant past occupations
    Education
    Home Life
    Religion
    Race/Nationality
    Place in Community
    Political Affiliations
    Reputation
    Degree of religious practice
    Marital status
    Children: Names/Description
    Criminal history
    Pals around with whom?
    Memberships
    Interactions with Others
    Most Important Friend(s)
    Lifetime Achievement
    Aspirations

    Psychology
    Sex Life/Morality
    Character’s formative events
    Character’s goals, regrets, mistakes, romantic attachments
    Character’s vulnerability(s)
    Personal Premise/Ambition
    Frustrations/Chief Disappointments
    Frightened by
    Angered by
    Finds this humorous
    Temperament
    Introvert/Extrovert/Ambivert
    Abilities (language, talents)
    Intelligence Level
    Self-Image
    Core Beliefs
    Dominant Attitudes
    Opinions
    Amusements/Hobbies/Habits
    Character Strengths
    Character Weaknesses/Flaws
    Idiosyncrasies/Mannerisms/ Eccentricities
    Obsessions
    Motivations
    Leisure Habits/Pass Times
    Early Significant Memories
    Religious Attitudes
    Score the following traits on a scale of 1 to 10
    Cautious 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Impulsive
    Aloof 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Gregarious
    Analytical 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Emotional
    Anxious 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Easygoing
    Charming 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Abrasive
    Cocky 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Self-effacing
    Fastidious 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Sloppy
    Honest 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Deceitful
    Optimistic 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Pessimistic
    Lethargic 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Energetic
    Practical 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Dreamy
    Sensitive 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Thick-skinned
    Stubborn 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Accommodating
    Vain 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Modest

    Character Arc (Point-of-view characters only)
    What beginning beliefs, values, dominant attitudes and opinions exist to form the character’s self image?

    What incidents over the course of the story to shake those views?

    What event or disturbance ultimately forces those views to change?

    What epiphany does the character have as a result of that disturbance?

    What actions demonstrate the character’s changed views by the story’s end?

    Emotional Mini-Biography
    What three or four things does this person value most in life–longings? (success, money, family, God, love, integrity, power, peace and quiet)
    1.
    2.
    3.
    What three things does this character most fear?
    1.
    2.
    3.
    What is this person’s basic underlying attitude about life, e.g., “Things will usually turn out all right,” or They’re all out for themselves,” or “It’s best to expect nothing because then you won’t be disappointed.”

    What does this person need to know about another person in order to accept other as “all right” or trustworthy?

    What would cause this person more pain than anything else possible?

    What would this person consider the most wonderful thing that could ever happen to him/her?

    What three words would this person use to describe himself/herself, accurate or not?

    How accurate is this self-description?

    What organization embodies this person’s values, e.g., Mensa, Daughters of the American Revolution, his or her church, Aryan Pride, etc.?

    Does he/she belong to the group listed above? If not, why not?

    Word that summarizes how you would sum up this character’s attitude toward the world: interested, optimistic, defeated, exploitive, compassionate, dissatisfied, power-mad, controlling, happy, etc.

    Raising the Emotional Stakes
    What kind of situation/thing/event would make this character suffer?

    What can happen to this character to make him/her make a sacrifice?

    How can/will this character be placed in jeopardy?

    What sort of sexual tension will exist with this character?

    Are there signs or portents to connect this character to the greater world? What is fate doing to him/her?

    Character Theme
    Thesis: [What is it that this character is trying to accomplish in the story?]

    Antithesis: [What’s happening in the story to prevent achieving that accomplishment?]

    Synthesis: [How will the Thesis and Antithesis conflict be resolved?]

    Lexicon
    Favorite Word(s)
    Favorite Phrase(s)
    Speech Idiosyncrasies
    Example of this Character’s Dialogue

    Pre-story History/Background

    Timeline:
     Describe what the character was doing at various stages of his/her life. What was going on in the world at these times? What ideas, events, and people have been the greatest influences on this character? Be specific about the character’s needs, desires, goals, wounds, fantasies, wishes, flaws, quirks, regrets, defenses, weaknesses, and neuroses. What single characteristic could lead to this character’s downfall? What single characteristic could save him/her? Does this character have both an inner and outer problem? Universal need? How is that need traditionally met? Make a list of all the points of backstory and exposition that the audience needs to know to get the story started. How can those be revealed indirectly, visually, on the run, or through conflict?

    Story Role Synopsis

    • That’s an interesting template. If I used it, it would come after a novel is written because my characters evolve as I write. I might think they’re one thing or another and the beginning, and then expediently change it (or make it up) later when it becomes necessary to mention it.

      Handy, though. Thanks for thinking of it.

      Malcolm