Red Ax: Who Are Your Characters?

Sep 11 2012

This is part of an article series I’m writing about my upcoming comic book, Red Ax.

Writing has always been an act of discovery for me. I devise a scenario, populate it with characters, and add layers of plot and complication.

The characters begin as cocktail party acquaintances. I can slot them into big buckets: the strong and silent type, the quiet and broken type, the brash and greedy type. As I write, they become friends. I learn why they’re silent, broken, or greedy.

Red Ax, page 1 detail, by H. Davidson

Red Ax, page 1 detail, by H. Davidson

A great example of this is the character of Ax. He’s the hero of the story: a muscled blade-for-hire in a cutthroat world. His chosen weapon is his eponymous ax: a large, curved blade on a six-foot pole. A strange weapon for a strange man.

He’s the strong, silent type in more ways than one: he’s mute.

I don’t (yet) know why he’s mute. When the story came to me, my daemon whispered in my ear and told me that Ax had to be mute. So, he is.

That’s a significant obstacle to story clarity, but not a huge one. Because Red Ax is a comic, the reader gets to hear Ax’s thoughts. Plus, Ax carries a slate and chalk with him.

However, those conveniences create other story issues. A character with a lot of inner dialogue tends to sound like a noir detective. My mind immediately leaps to Sam Spade’s sarcasm. Which is not true to Ax.

Which brings us back to the discovery of character. I’m defining Ax partly by what he isn’t. That’s part of my journey. Ax is taking shape: serious, honorable, and straightforward, adhering firmly to a strong ethical code.

As with most ethical people, this gets him into a lot of trouble. But it’s worth the trouble.

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