After spending Monday’s post making up for forgetting my tenth anniversary with the Earthers, I figure I better not overlook my first anniversary with Alex, Stephanie and Strong. Though they might be the most understanding characters I’ve written since The Destiny Equation, I can still imagine at least one of them being slightly wounded by me failing to point out that Whitecoat launched on October 23, 2012.
This past year has gone by in a rush –– but don’t they always? Alex and Stephanie have learned a great deal about themselves, and their world, while Mike Strong has seen his life revitalized by his assignment to guard them. And yet, even after a year, we’re only scratching the surface of what is to come.
We know already that the Champions story will continue to 1946, and broadly speaking, I could tell you everything that’s bound to happen along the way. The details of how we get there, though, are far from clear, and it’s impossible to say who exactly will be with us when we arrive.
Already we’ve lost a main character I had originally figured would make it to the end, and gained another recurring character I hadn’t counted on. I won’t spoil the casualty for anyone still catching up on Dragons, but I will say that Elspeth Cornish has been an unexpected addition to the cast. When Elspeth was first outlined, the eponymous character was meant to be an arrogant and self-possessed young Lady, whose hedonistic tendencies would contrast Alex’s character rather spectacularly.
But like Andra Ursla before her, Elspeth refused to play that part –– it ultimately was adopted by Lord Duncan. Now she’s a common-raised Champion with a unique past, a huge amount of potential, and perhaps even a bright future. Time will tell. There are many more characters with destinies yet to be decided; Douglas Bader, Percy Todd, Santiago Abel, Anneke Winter, and Sheldon Travis to name a few. The adventures of 1941 have set the stage for all of these people, and they may help shape where Alex, Stephanie and Strong venture in the years ahead.
Or they might not.
What I’ve learned about writing a series of highly serialized stories is that the first year is almost inevitably about covering ground –– you take your leads as many different places as you can, and set them against all sorts of different challenges, so that you can learn more about who they are. Along the way, you run into all manner of different people, some of whom may be important, others who might fade away.
This structure held up in Defense Command: we spent The Rogue Commodore, The Almost Coup, The Hawke Mission and The Independent Squadron crossing the Empire at high speed, from the belt to Earth and back. Characters like Andrea Kiley and Mik Mikaelsen proved they were secondary to no one, and thus were positioned to assume roles of great importance in the years that followed. So too with Champions.
When we move into 1942 stories next year, we’ll do so with a different focus; instead of covering ground, we’ll be solidifying characters. The Belt Squadron did this by flying to Jupiter; the Champions will do it differently, in the context of a world at war. At least a few important new characters will turn up, just as Daragh Ryan did in the second year of Defense Command, and one of these will be a particularly attractive lady who’s bigger, stronger, and better in the water than Alex. I won’t spoil who she is, but we have done an informal photo shoot for the character, so I’ve included one image as a tease.
Most importantly, though, we’ll run into surprises. I think I know what’s going to happen in these next five novellas, but as we’ve established, these characters are smarter than me, and call their own shots. I’m past the point (I hope) where being surprised by a recalcitrant character in mid-draft scares me… I’m at peace with the madness of listening to the voices in my head. We’ll just see whether anyone does, or if we’re indeed on a good course to get us to 1943 and beyond.
Either way, Alex, Stephanie and Strong have now been out for just one year –– they have many more ahead, and this long journey continues to promise to be a fun one. Happy anniversary, ladies (and Strong)… let’s see how the world looks by this time next year.