The story of Katra Alterian begins on the world of Eberron in the country of Cyre, just as a magical event occurs that wipes out that land. No one knows what caused the incident, just that it happened and now an entire nation no longer exists. The landscape is barren and toxic, slowly warping and killing everything that enters the borders.
Katra, of course, knows none of this. Her spirit was captured in a magical crystal when the event triggered and plucked out of Cyre for the sake of a wager between goddesses during a time of strife among the gods of the Astral Plane. But this is the event that changes the course of her life, whether she is aware or not.
She has no idea how her mind and body will be affected by the new environment in which she now awakens. Katra only knows that her body feels different and everything around her is alien to her senses. The goddess, Tymora, speaks with her from time to time and she can sense the more familiar presence of a second entity that she assumes to be Olladra, the goddess of Luck and Good Fortune on her home Plane.
Here’s a draft excerpt of Katra’s arrival on Faerun.
Katra Alterian clawed her way to consciousness one painful realization at a time. The last thing she recalled was entering a cave, wondering at the sight of the crystalline structures that surrounded her and her gaggle of Alterian siblings and cousins. She vaguely recollected turning to her cousin Dreyah to say something about the formations … then, she was here. Shivering, nude, under a blanket that smelled so foreign to her that she could not begin to describe the odor.
The air itself held that same alien quality, something much deeper than just a cookfire and food from a strange land. While the ground felt stable enough, her weight against the ground was … wrong. The air smelled wrong, and it felt different in her lungs and her body. Not quite like the difference between one house and another, it was much more … visceral than that. The sound of flowing water nearby was the only thing that seemed vaguely familiar.
How did this scene come to pass? I brainstorm a concept, in this case, Katra’s spirit is whisked away to another Plane and deposited on a similar, but very different, landscape. Then I think about what it would be like to be plunked onto a world a lot like this one, only with subtle, but distinct differences—like an ever-so-slight change in gravity and the mix of elements in the air itself. The trees will be different so a smoldering campfire will have a strange odor because the chemistry of the atmosphere will have changed. A hundred interconnected thoughts go into creating her experience.
Have I captured it? Maybe. I have only scratched the surface of her experiences, so I have a lot more to discover.
When I’m on a roll, I am so lost in the story as I write that when I finally come up for air, I almost feel like I’ve been watching a movie or reading a book. That’s when I feel like I’ve written something worth salvaging. Sometimes I think it’s my form of meditation because it keeps me calm.
I spent a lot of years ignoring my creative side. I was always the bookworm of the family and gently chided about it. I can’t speak to how old I was when I first started reading, but I don’t remember a time when I didn’t have a book in my pocket. When I learned to play D&D in the mid-80s, my imagination took off and my lonely half-elf, Meegan Redoak, was born. I wrote a portion of her story before life took me on a tangent.
During that hiatus, I completed my enlistment, graduated trade school, relocated to another state, found the love of my life, graduated university, and started a career. The last five or so years have had characters such as Meegan, her best friend Skrie, members of the Alterian family, Leo Morgan, and a few others beginning to tell me their tales. And they are getting more insistent.
I welcome the break from the stress of day-to-day living. Sometimes playing an immersive video game isn’t enough anymore. So now, when I create a character, they begin telling me their backstory. Some of those stories are fascinating. The Alterian Family story has a ton of potential. I already have a half-dozen or more ideas of the family forming in my brain, and Katra’s circumstance presented itself first.
I used the same principles to create the character I play in Eldest Kid’s (EK’s) campaign. I knew the hook into the game, so I began to visualize how she would get there, and why. Aeryn’s story begins with her chained in the hold of a slave galley bound for a notorious pirate island. Caught in a storm, the ship is smashed on a seemingly deserted island.
But how did she get there? And why? She began to tell me. Aeryn is the youngest child of a farmer and his wife, the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter. Her siblings blame her for the early death of their mother, who never fully recovered from giving birth to Aeryn, the largest of her babies. The girl was barely weaned when her mother passed away, and she was at the mercy of her twelve older siblings, many of whom are less than kind. Eleven years later, her father also perishes, and her siblings all but turn on her.
When she’s had enough abuse from her family, she takes an old pair of trews and a tunic from one of her older brothers, a locket with her mother’s hair and her father’s staff, and walks away from the farm toward the nearest village.
She intended to ask directions to the nearest temple so she could learn. What she would learn, she did not know, but she felt called. And that’s when seeming disaster struck her on the back of the head and carried her into a nightmare.
Again, a lot of the information in the last few paragraphs are not in the story, but they are vital to how and why Aeryn arrived where she did. I have a spreadsheet tab with the names and ages of her siblings as well as most of her backstory. Some of that information might eventually make it into her tale, but maybe not—it depends on how relevant the material is to the context of a scene. But for me to write about Aeryn as if I were her, I need to know where she came from and what she has experienced before I can understand where she is going.
I’ve mentioned before that I’m a people watcher. Only by watching how people are different can I create characters that don’t appear to be cardboard cutouts of each other. I try to use speech patterns, mannerisms, gaits, and other physical aspects to differentiate my characters.
Aeryn’s story is told from a third-person perspective. Because I really didn’t know what the other characters at the table were thinking, I tried to keep a tight focus on what she experienced as we played. That exercise was harder than it seemed at first. Just when I thought I had it, I’d find another passage and go through yet another edit. But such is the writer’s life.
I’ll leave you with this, a link to the beginning of Aeryn’s story.