Charles Shaffer has gone through a sort of 'restauration' as a character lately. Truth be told the entire SPIKE novel has gone through a massive restauration back in August 2014 when I decided to rebuild the whole thing from scratch. That might be one of the best decitions I've done, as now; two years later, the novel is almost terrifyingly close to completion (terrifyingly, because although I can't wait to show you all the finished novel in 2017, it'll feel sort of empty and weird to finally be done with it, you know? I suppose that's why I want to complete the graphic novel version afterward )
Anyhow.. Charles was a character who was in dire need of some serious fixing. And that's not me referring to his actions, that's more referring to the logical errors and plot holes that surrounded him and many other things in the story.. Like everything else I went back to the basic ideas I had for each character at the very beginning, and sort of re-started from there. Charles was supposed to be inconspicuous in all sorts of ways, and he was supposed to be very intelligent yet extremely sadistic. That's his core, and that's where I screwed up in the first draft. Because the only thing Charles was in those chapters, was sadistic. That was all he was. And his and Spike's living conditions had SOOOO many questonable and illogical things about them. But I am happy to say that I've fixed all of that. Charles has been re-shaped based on his 'core elements', and while he's not at all been made to be any kinder to Spike, he does appear very likeable to people who don't know him yet. Charles now has a job, and is head of his own team at the firm he's employed at (it's surprisingly hard to tell you about his 'restauration' without revealing too much ). He is both respected and liked by his co-workers and employees, even his boss thinks highly of him. As far as they know, Spike doesn't excist. This is an entirely different matter when it comes to Spike's teachers and others who are actually involved with Spike. They know about Charles, but Charles has cleverly avoided any sort of suspicion towards him and Spike.
Charles is careful to not draw any suspicion towards himself or Spike, and has perfected his ability to 'hide in plain sight'.
He's handsome, he's charming, he's intelligent, and he's dangerous.
Charles is in all ways inconspicuous.
Art and character (C) Elise Marie Syvertsen / oomizuao
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Not sure if it was necessary to make him "successful" either, as that draws away from the desperate nature that made him more pathetic in the first place. Before one could feel a weird pity for him because he was such a piece of shit, but from the looks of it you've turned him into the "cool" and "collected" villain type that no one EVER suspects. GASP!
It is a bit more fun when writers blur the lines, and make it harder to grasp where such an icky character falls on the social spectrum, but he doesn't have to be successful in his work/social life to be a successful manipulator. The outside success could even take away from the kind of relationship Charles has with Spike. But I don't know if that's a good or bad thing, or how you have adapted the characters to the change. I'm personally more drawn to the question of where he falls on the moral spectrum, and how that affects his perception of himself. Here he is presented as confident in his disguise and power/control (it's a wonderful drawing), suggesting he is sadistic with no inner guilt or conflict (sociopathic mindset), which I'm hoping is only another part of his facade. Am I making any sense? Idk. In the end though, I'm a singular and unprofessional opinion. I have to assume there is a lot more we're not seeing about the updated character, and you having created the characters, I'm certain you know best.
I didn't want to or intend for Charles to be a "sexy villain" type of guy, but I can see how I made it appear as if that was my intention with this "new version" of him. I think it'll all make more sense in the novel, especially with how there's a lot of things I couldn't reveal in the artist's comment section - it was actually really tricky to give just a brief description like that without adding too much detail but still having it make sort of sense..?
I feel the character is still the same, the essence of him anyways - the way I see it. And that 'essence' is not based on his actions, but who he is beneath all that. Charles is one of the first characters from this character cast to have a full backstory - many other characters of mine had their story portray itself slowly but surely as time passed and I got to know them better. Lillith is a good example of a 'late bloomer' in regards of backstory, as she's been hard as heck to figure out but then she handed me a pile of missing pieces to her puzzle in one go last month. Charles' backstory pieces were already there from - ok, not the start, but veeery early on - and his backstory hasn't changed much at all. The tricky part with Charles was getting into his head; figuring out how he thinks. I've figured it out more now, but it's taken a lot of time and work, and as risky as it feels to say; the way he is here and the way you describe him to appear in your comment, is very much a 'disguise', or for the lack of a better word: an armor.
I personally want to avoid people sympathizing with Charles or pitying him, but I've come to realize that I can't really write him or any other character the way I want people to see them. Instead I have to just write the characters as they are from now on, and leave it to the readers to make up their own opinion.
I think Charles is someone who you could sympathize with and even feel sorry for if you got to know him and know all about him - from the start, from how his life was and what he's learned from his own experiences and problems. I think that if you hypothetically put twenty characters through the same type of challenge/problem, you'd still end up with twenty different outcomes. Despite having been faced with the exact same challenge, they would all have dealt with it in their own, unique way. Some of them might look like they coped somewhat similarily, like there was a pattern, but there would still be individual variations. This is, I think, because there are so many factors that come into play, so many things that matter in that big equation, and to predict or try figure out the outcome before it happens, you'd have to know all those little details. To me this is another thing that makes it so challenging to write my characters in a way that is uniquely theirs and not influenced by what I want, what I feel or how I think they should act or speak. I've already interfered like that far too much and still do to some degree - but I am working on removing myself from that equation, metaphorically speaking.
I didn't alter Charles appearance like this because it felt cool or 'hot' or anything (although I can see why it may appear that I did), these changes happened partly because I interfered a little due to not seeing any logic in parts of how things were in the story, but mostly because it felt like it was supposed to be like that. Like it was one of those idea-paths that resisted the least. I'm still not 100% settled on the details surrounding his career, I do feel there is some resistance there, so I might tone some of it down until it feels like the pieces of the puzzle fits nicely again instead of feeling like I tried forcing the wrong piece into place with a hammer
I've focused the most on getting to know the characters themselves over the past two-ish years (after my hiatus I felt like re-starting the story, going back to the 'roots' and starting from scratch), and one of the little thought-experiments I did was to present them with a problem and see how they solve it; canon or non-canon, simply just to get to know them. The characters all feel much more like individuals now, and I've gotten to know them so well now that I can even remind myself before they do that "no way, they wouldn't say/do that..!" and then scrap that idea/piece instead of forcing the character to fit a situation just because I want things to go the way I want them to, you know? Like I see that the piece doesn't fit before I've layed it down, and then try it somewhere else instead of hammering it down (I do like metaphors, sorry..)
With Charles I had so many unanswered questions from the first 16 chapters that I posted here on DeviantART, and so most of his recent developement began with me deciding to work on finding the answers to those questions instead of just pretending I knew or that it wasn't important and stuff.. I knew my story was full of holes, and I've been working on fixing those and making sure every detail is as it should be. Some of the questions with Charles wasn't about him as a character as much as they were about his surroundings and trivial stuff - because the character was pretty much in place already, I just had to take the time to get to know him better. But his surroundings messed with that a lot.
There were too many 'what','how' and 'why's with the 'current lives' of Spike and Charles. Pretty much all I knew were that they lived in a close-to-dilapidated little house in the middle of the forest, far away from anyone. Spike went to school, Charles was at home getting drunk. Spike walked through the woods for over an hour every day to get to school, as there were no roads nearby and he'd have to walk really far anyways to get to the bus stop - which Charles wouldn't give him bus fare for. No one other than Sam knew that Spike lived with his uncle, and no one else even wondered about anything. He showed all sorts of signs of neglect and no one even raised an eyebrow - and to be fair, very few people would in real life too, sadly, but it made even less sense in this story because not even Saunders seemed to care..! And out of all the characters who would've cared about a kid's well being to ask scrutinizing questions to make sure he was taken good care of, Saunders would definitely have been that character. If 8-year old Spike had shown up at their door on the coldest of winter days not wearing winter clothes, Saunders would not only have asked questions but taken action. Either he'd tell Spike's uncle to make sure the kid was properly dressed for such weather, and/or offered to provide Spike with proper, warm clothing himself. He would definitely not just shrug it off and sent the poor icicle of a kid back out again later in the evening when he had to go home. No way; he'd offer to give him a ride home, or let him stay with Sam until morning when the sun was up again, insist that his uncle came to pick him up, or if none of the above; he'd make damn sure to pack him into some exaggeratedly warm clothes before letting him anywhere near a single snowflake, having made sure he'd gotten plenty of warm food and drink before that.
Saunders would have been the first to word his suspicion. He'd insist on contacting Spike's parents at the first sign of neglect, or in a kinder sense; to get to know them or invite them over too some day. He'd figure out Spike's actual living situation early on, and so Saunders and Charles would be bound to have conversed on at least one occation, most likely much more frequent. Charles would obviously want to avoid any suspicion or involvement with anyone of authority, and would have made some effort to make sure there weren't any suspicion. And I'm not saying Charles is super-intelligent, I'm just saying he's not stupid; he would've known or at least figuring out how to make sure he could let Spike leave the house without anyone getting suspicious of what went on inside the house. They could've come off as lower-class or even poor, and people would accept that as long as it didn't appear Spike was in any sort of danger - though some people woudn't have cared about that either - at least not bothered actually doing anything. I'd say it's Spike's friendship with Sam that ensures Spike's living conditions are improving, 'cause Saunders would definitely be one to ask questions.
And Charles would have to deal with that. Like improving things in Spike's life just to shut Saunders the hell up; proving that there was no reason to worry about Spike. "Spike showed up at our house with a black eye today.. Mind telling me how he got that?" A question like this would ensure that the next time Charles hit Spike, he'd be careful to not hit him anywhere visible. Any punishment that left marks would have been inflicted in areas on his body that could be covered up. He'd be even stricter with forcing Spike not to tell anyone, anything to make sure there would be no more questions.
The way Charles looks here might not be how he was when Spike was little; it might be the way he eventually became after many years of practicing being inconspicuous.
(omg I've rambled on for too long now; I'm running late for a meeting sorry for babbling, but thanks for your comment! I really appreciate it, as it made me think and made me aware and helps me keep in mind not to let him fall into any cliché category; sort of like a guideline on what not to do seriously; thanks )
In response to Charle's essence remaining the same, with his actions not, I totally get that. At the same time I'd caution to ask you if that is always applicable. This may be a bit much, but from an existentialist point of view, "existence precedes essence". Existentialism essentially states that man is not given a predetermined nature (or essence), and is instead free to choose/invent himself. Basically, a person's actions and choices create them. Cowards aren't born cowards, no matter what the environment they were abandoned into at birth. It is their actions that make them cowards. (This is all just my way of playing devils advocate).
There is simply no way a writer, as a person with their own set of bias, can write something that will appeal to everyone, or be absolutely free of any "errors" (Also, who would want that anyways?). An existentialist would also say that there is no one right answer to anything. Because humans are free to choose, with no "essence" to escape this burden that is freedom, humans must decide what they believe is the right thing to do. Of course this means that they do what they think anyone else would do in their shoes. Which from the sounds of it you have delved into to get the feel of the characters and to know their responses as individuals.
I personally see a lot of truth in existentialism, but honestly that's going a bit off the edge there. Overall you have sound characters, all of whom you know quite well by now, so I understand that you're just cleaning up the details around them.
I'm going to quote Toni Morrison (she writes some pretty cool stuff, and also really likes metaphors) here and say, "If there is a book you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it". Cliches aren't a horrible thing, but sometimes they can take away from what YOU have to say as a writer, and your own voice/experience. So basically, glad you're keeping the characters true to the story, and making things fit together. Anyone can see that you've really challenged yourself, by being honest in getting your story to where you know it should be. Very happy for you and the progress you've made as an artist.
Curious question, how are you planning on publishing the novel next year, is it going to be available as an actual paper copy book (hardcover please ) or are you gonna self publish it as an ebook, which I believe miht be the easier option but I think you would get more recognition as a paper copy sitting amongst the shelves of a bookstore.
Also, the plan is to have finished writing all of it by November 2017, the publishing-part comes afterwards. I want to send it to publishers first to try my best to give it the option of taking up some space in a bookstore-shelf And because I personally preferr physical books over e-books but if that doesn't work, then ebooks and self-publishings are Plan B options, yes I just want to give Plan A my best shot first Also I know a handful of people in the publishing industry that I will most likely ask for advice before I sending the script anywhere to see if there's anything I can do to improve my chances (like tips on where I should send it first, whether I should send it to several publishers at once, or just whatever advice I might need ).
So unfortunately there are next to zero chances of it being published next year, but the script will have been completed by November next year, and that in itself it a huge step in the right direction. So from there on it's more hard work and fingers crossed to do what I can to see it published
I love how his eyes still give the same feeling and the clothe fit him very well.
i also like the watch, watches give people something more serious.
Cannot wait for the finished novel! I wish I was an advance reader, or an editor, or something!
But from what I've seen lately, you have gotten a lot better as an artist! (not that you weren't incredible before)
I've followed your progress since I was 17 y old^^' (24 now)
And i can't wait until I can read the finished product...
The changes you've made to Charles makes him sound like an even more interesting character. (Just because he does what he does, doesn't mean I can't find him interesting as a character ; D )
And I can't wait to see how your other characters have been developed as well!
*Cheers you on*