My editor and I are tearing through chapter six. One of the things I really like about my editor is that she is very good at asking about anything that doesn’t make sense or she doesn’t recognize or understand. The reason I like this so much is because she challenges me to explain my reasoning and indeed provide believable scenarios, personalities, plots, and environments—just to name a few. This is all great help, and drives me to peer deeper into my characters, their plots, and even into the history of the whole planet.
As an example, in one such inquiry, my editor asked, “So he doesn’t think much of them, but wants to help them anyway? Does this indicate a White Man’s Burden mindset?” That wasn’t at all what it was, but to explain it to her would require something more than a simple “No, that’s not it at all.” This is what I ended up saying to her after some serious thought:
No, this character is a complicated mon, and quite frankly a complicated character to write. There are many facets to his personality, and very good reasons for each of them. I don’t want to reveal too much, but for the sake of answering your question, I’ll choose one branch.
On the one hand, the Tawl-Korian’s dislike of him, their disrespect, their loathing, even their fear cast at him behind his back and from the shadows makes them look like cowards in his eyes. On the other hand, you can’t teach a sheep to be become a bear. So whether or not you like sheep, because they may be your food, your income, or your lawnmower, you will still watch over them knowing they cannot do it for themselves. It would immoral and unethical to do otherwise.
Now, let’s take this a step further. Imagine you hate sheep. You have never owned one, nor do you have any desire to. Then one evening, seven of them come bleating through the field behind your home, leap the fence, and trample your garden on their way up to your porch where they knock over your potted plants and chairs.
Are you pissed off? Maybe just a little or a whole bunch? As you get to the sliding glass door to get a better look at the damage, you realize three of them are lambs, and they are quite young.
Still, you don’t have the ability to care for them, you can’t hope to keep them fed, and you don’t have the facilities to keep them dry and protected until they are ready to leave. They got to go back over the fence, that’s the only way this’ll end, right?
So, you go get your shoes on, grab a light jacket, and slip through the back door. Once shut, you begin to try to usher them back to the fence, but they just run away from you. If you weren’t mad before, chances are they are trying your patience now! And then it happens–
Then again, and after ten or fifteen more minutes, your nose is getting stuffy. If it wasn’t bad enough already, you now realize you are allergic to them, or maybe to their coat, even something they have rubbed up against somewhere earlier. Whatever the case, it’s hard to tell for sure, but that doesn’t help your allergy to it or them, nor does it make you like them anymore.
Finally, you manage to get the four adults back over the fence. You’re about to drop one of the lambs over when the adults start acting very nervous and start trying to push back through the fence.
As you look out at the field, a set of pointed ears pops up from the weeds and grass. A bushy tail follows them; then another, and then another, and before long, you’ve counted at least twelve pairs. They all slow as they get nearer. Soon, one by one, they pop their heads into view through the weeds. Wolves!
Now what? Are you going to leave them all on the other side of the fence to their obvious fate? Are you going to grab the adults and lift them back over the fence? Maybe you have a shotgun near the back door for just such a case. Maybe a cougar wandered on to your property last year and that rattled you enough to purchase one for self preservation.
You could run to the house, slam the door behind you, and close the drapes, but you know what will happen next, and if you don’t see it, it’s likely you’ll hear it. Once done, you’re stuck with that memory.
You could just get to the door and grab the gun and the box of shells beside it, load it, and return to the fence, but having not used it much, how sure are you of hitting every one of them? What if all the wolves charge at once?
Or, you could walk backwards toward the garden where you have a rake leaning up against the fence, and then slowly make for the house still walking backwards knowing the adult sheep will leap back over the fence out of fear, which in hindsight, you suspect is what caused them to do it the first time.
We will assume that you decide on the last option. Things happen much the way you anticipated, but by the time you make it to the middle of the yard, the wolves start growling and suddenly leap from the brush and race toward you.
Your adrenaline kicks in, and your feet burst into overdrive with the bleating sheep nearly tripping you they are so close. Leaping up to the deck past three steps, you glance back as you reach the door. The wolves are bounding over the fence! Shoving the door open, you try to run through, but the sheep are scrambling into your house leaving no room in the doorway for yourself. As the last two squeeze in, you verily fly inside, slamming the door behind you and locking it.
You and the sheep are safe. Your hands and legs shake and your heart pounds. The wolves investigate the yard, then climb up on your porch. Quickly, you shut the drapes and back away from the door still breathing heavily. The sheep have lain down near your couch, their ears turning this way and that, their noses quivering, and their eyes wide and jittery.
You sneeze again.
So what now? Are you going to send them back over that fence tomorrow? Maybe the following weekend? Would you want them to send you back to field?
Perhaps, you could manage to keep them long enough to find them a safe place to go. You could put some ads in the paper and make some phone calls in the morning. Tomorrow, it wouldn’t take much to empty your tool shed and throw a few bales of hay on the floor for them. You probably could get a bale or two of alfalfa from the local feed store. You might even give some thought to a hot wire strung a foot higher than the fence all the way around the back yard, after all, if the wolves jumped it once, they could easily do it again, even without any sheep in the yard. Next time, it might just be you, your husband, or your children.
But it is very likely there will be no further consideration to putting those sheep back over that fence because whatever else you think of them, it would be unethical and immoral to do so—just like this character.
He will not under any circumstance, regardless of his personal feelings, put those people out for the Darkfeeders to hunt until there is a better choice, or all the Darkfeeders are dead. Like you, he will do his duty and follow his conscience.