Gladden DarkfellIt’s a pretty mixed process, but most of my characters are largely a product of the world I’ve been creating over the last 18 years or so. When I’m developing a new character, it usually starts with the cultures involved. What sort of person would the seedy, crime-ridden culture of Farad produce? Better yet, what would an elf with the righteous upbringing of Melloren be like after living in the criminal underworld of Farad, where things which are inevitable is usually described as being ‘like a Faradi vendetta.’ If he’s a bit of a coward, he’d end up being a sly, but nervous fellow filled with all the silent agonies of a guilty conscience. For other characters, I tend to draw from history and people I’ve known, at least for basic temperament and appearance, with a host of other factors thrown in. Basically, I try to give them a detailed history before the story is even begun.

The title character of the Darkfell series, Gladden Darkfell, began in a whole different way, though. It began with a pretty bad pencil sketch of a half-elf holding a bloody sword and a severed head. Under this, for reasons still unknown to me, I wrote, ‘Gladden Darkfell, friendly elf extraordinaire.’ He was at first a sour, disillusioned hero who’d given up on a life of adventure to retire on a small farm, a sort of Conan meets Charlie Brown. In the years between then and the launch of the Darkfell series, he became a darker, more serious, and to some extent messianic figure as I continued to build the world he was in and ultimately found a place for him in it. A big part of the process is really bound up in exactly what is the crux of the story, and who does the character have to become to complete his part in the tale. With Gladden, I’ve spent years writing his history in the search for who he is and who he is to be, from being raised by ogres to his days as an assassin for the Faradi Trade guild to the slow, methodical destabilization of the Border Kingdoms and his tricking a dragon into pursuing him through the cities of his enemies to accomplish destruction he couldn’t have done on his own.
Most writers put a bit of themselves into their characters, and with Gladden, at least, I’m no exception. Exactly what or how much of me he’s got in him, I’d rather not say, though in terms of character, temperament, and appearance, I did what I do with all my characters, and what most writers and artists probably do: I looked to history, mythology and the people I’ve known. This part is probably the most fun, because it’s where I get to ask myself, ‘What would so-and-so be like if he’d spent ten years living with the ogres of the Dark Fells?’ However, at this point, I have an idea of who the character is; the references, whether living, historical, or mythical, are the threads for the tapestry to be woven…