[Originally composed February 2008, revised January 2018]
Looking Back: Characters and Transitions
To prepare for this essay, I did some looking through my oldest notes and notebook, and that's shown me that I really don't have much in the way of date demarcations for the earliest years. Many details described below could as likely apply to 1994 as to 1993.
Still, I do know that both t'DoL and Geren were interacting by the time September of 1993 came, because I have a picture of them together that I drew in my planner from my very first week of college (see this in Defender Rising). It always surprises me how much of the raw framework of the story that would become the Geren books I'd already learned by that point.
Fortunately when making my first timeline (named 'Preliminary Timetable') I actually had the wits to date it--Nov 22, 1994. Even better, I did it neatly in ink, so everything added afterward is obvious both because it's in pencil and either squished in or written off to the side (I put in a line for the place to enter the name of Heruvael's mate, as I hadn't come up with it yet). I enjoy spotting what changed in my conception since the way it was viewed in 1994. Imro and family were far more important than they wound up becoming, and none of the characters of the Separatists (though I did know of their existence) had yet emerged. (See the Oldest Words essay for what was on that timeline.)
The first hyarmi characters to appear were Heruvael, the Black Prince, Hu-Harek, and Hileko. Back in my college days, I spent a good deal of time mentally in the years when Heruvael was still alive, and Hileko felt a puppet stand-in for his father. I wanted to remedy that, so I started writing 'Reunion' (then unimaginatively called 'Return and Trial') in my senior year. That and the subsequent three hyarmi stories got me well acquainted with Hileko and Hu-Hov, and then Heruvael long kept the backstage.
Geren, of course, was my first human character. He was followed by Brann (the peerless swordsman who gave t'DoL the Mastersword) and Imro and his family as well as Geren's family. Three as-yet-unnamed characters from the Geren sequels emerged around the same time; I have a sketch of one of them. I think I deduced Trapper Arun's existence sometime in 1996 or 1997 (or at least t'DoL started shoving me toward him in 1997). Copper and Llao did not emerge until sometime after I graduated in 1997, but I know Copper with his red head and Changer-obsession was in existence by the end of 1998.
I'm afraid I will not be going into detail about the first three avarii characters here, as that would entail significant Geren book spoilers. As it is, they were followed by t'DoL's family, whom I didn't write about until 2005 (as well as the Changer himself, for that matter).
Writing about the earliest characters like this might give the misleading impression that all this world-building and tale-weaving was intended for the purpose of launching me into the Geren books and the short stories I've written throughout the years. But that was certainly not my plan back then.
No, this 'world' I was working my way into was only one in a string of fantasy places my imagination had inhabited throughout the years. I was only doing all this for the purpose of personal daydreaming, and nothing more! It wasn't until late 1994 that I started setting the first stories down on paper, and even then, I had no plan of taking them anywhere. I knew at the time that my daydreaming-tales tended to grow and change over a period of months as I revisited them over and over, but by some point, perhaps as long as three years, they would be forgotten, buried under new and more immediately-interesting fantasies. So I started writing Brann's tale, along with Geren's encounter with Imro that would become chapter 1 of my first Geren book, simply because I was fond enough of them that I didn't want to forever lose them, as I have almost everything else that spun through my mind in my high school years and earlier.
Certainly it wasn't until 1995 or 1996 that the idea of writing all of the beginning part of Geren's adventures into some huge, multi-book epic really gripped my thoughts (and made me concerned about my sanity). But I had a far bigger hurdle to overcome than just springing the idea in my mind.
In order to get anything of real length down, I had to learn how to daydream differently. Back in the 'good old days' they were more like guided dreams, full of image and color but almost no words whatsoever. Very, very different from the sound of a detached narrative voice with only brief flashes of images and action. Getting myself from image-daydreaming to narrative-daydreaming was the biggest hurdle of my college years. I still remember how odd it felt the first times I actually managed the transition...usually as I was just falling asleep and certainly wasn't in a position to write anything down! The side-effect of this was that I would have characters in my mind for months and years, and they never got names. It's only many years later that I've gotten to the point where I occasionally name a character before I 'see' him/her in my mind.
The writing I did in my college years was minuscule in terms of volume. (And I spent as much time, if not more, with the Geren book sequels than the Geren story itself). But the transitioning in my mind, the worldbuilding, the initial timeline, the mental playing with tales, (a few of which still haven't made it into text !) all that served as the foundation for everything I've accomplished since.