When I’m working on a story, it often helps my writing-brain if the drawing-brain gets in on the act too. Right now I’m plugging away at an old-fashioned buddy low fantasy adventure tale, in the vein of the pulp authors in the heyday of sword-and-sorcery (I like pulp. It’s overwrought and over-the-top and fun, never preachy (unless, “Hey, Therns, enslaving people and murdering them is not cool, so quit it” is preaching), and it’s eventful and colorful. So how do you meld a pulp sensibility with a more modern story-telling style? Will that even work? Stay tuned), and trying to nail down a design for the main characters keeps me thinking about them even when I’m not actually writing–which, let’s be honest, is 22 out of the 24 hours of the day, most days.
So here is a rough pass at Clover and Bronig*, the heroes of my work-in-progress. He’s a Viking warrior with a penchant for smashing, she’s a cleric of an unknown god, together they fight
crime monsters! (I’m hoping to submit the story to the latest Sword and Sorceress anthology, deadline soon, so everyone please send me happy story-finishy thoughts.)
I had wanted to finish this drawing and color it before today, but oh well. Maybe next week! 😀 Clover must be standing on a box here, because otherwise she would only stand as tall as his belly-button. Yes, he is huge and she is tiny; I love that kind of contrast in my main characters, and since they are both warriors, I needed to find other ways to play up their differences.
How about a snippet, while we’re here? I cut this bit because it set the wrong tone, and because it was taking too long: it’s supposed to be a short story, which means I don’t have a thousand words to spend on the characters walking up to a church.
The Sanctuary of the Queen crouched in the midst of lower buildings, at the end of a tangle of hilly streets, as though lying in wait to pounce. The long, bleak stone plaza fronting its tall red doors gave it plenty of time to overawe the approaching worshipper with its dense black height, its bristle of towers and turrets and scowling gargoyles and its row of wholly extraneous spikes along the peak of its roofline, and the blank eyes of the buildings lining the plaza glared to reinforce any approaching human’s littleness and the sanctuary’s superiority.
Clover, stepping into the plaza from the mouth of a narrow alley, raised her eyes and recoiled, her heel coming down squarely on the top Bronig’s foot.
He grunted. “Easy,” he said, and removed her.
“That church,” Clover declared, “is a bully.”
Bronig said nothing. His silence weighed nearly as much as that of the inimical building glaring them down. Clover twisted round to beam at him.
“Ineed,” she said. “Have we not faced much worse on our journeys? And shall we falter in our divine purpose now? No, indeed!” Back to the sanctuary, she raised her voice and her fist and cried, “We do not fear you!”
The shout rebounded from stone to stone, filling the space between buildings with echoes. With a a rattle of wings, a raft of large black birds launched themselves into scummy sky, screeling. Bronig patted Clover’s head.
“Well,” he said. “Now they definitely know we’re coming.”
She grinned at him, a flash of teeth like a drawn sword. “It is honorable to give one’s foes fair warning,” she said.
He shook his head–but the corner of his mouth twitched a little beneath his moustache.
Their footsteps rang loud against the cobbles–or Clover’s did, her boot heels like the clappers of bells. Bronig by rights should have clanked like a working forge with all the cutlery he had hanging about his person, but not a single dagger rattled in its sheath, and his tread was inaudible beneath all the racket Clover was making. No other humans were visible, in that stony space before the looming sanctuary and between the cramped, inward-leaning buildings, but the sense of being watched was strong. Clover’s shoulders twitched, and her hands dropped to the hilts of her twin swords. Bronig dropped back a few paces behind her, his gaze keen and alert and everywhere.
Under the sanctuary’s shadow, the peak of its roof cleaving the sky, its stained stones straining at their bonds, each eager to be the first to fall on the interlopers. Clover’s toe touched the first step up to the red doors, and she paused, craning up, and the building glared back down. Bronig, passing her, hooked his arm through hers and hauled her up, sure-footed as a mountain ram, unworried as a man traversing his own home.
“I can walk!” Clover protested.
“So do it,” was his unruffled reply.
Halfway up, the tall red doors swung silently outward; a figure stood in the opening, waiting.
*I think I’ll leave the story of the origins of these characters for another day, but I should mention that Bronig is somebody else’s creation, and I made sure to get his permission and blessing before snatching up his character and running off with him!