Brainstorming the first installment

I hadn’t given the Marcher Lord Press collaborative story much thought until Jeff Gerke sent around a reminder that we’d be starting it soon, accompanied by the image he’d worked up. He asked for volunteers to kick it off and, at first, I was hesitant. There’s plenty on my writing plate as it is without taking on another project.

But that picture started the old rusty wheels grinding. As soon as I paid it close attention, the people in it came to life. Ok, not literary, but I could see them –and hear them.

Nope, I’m not going crazy. I was at a conference once at which author Ellen Hopkins said her characters talk to her. One of my library coworkers grinned at me and asked if went ditto for me.

“Nah,” I said. “I hear them talking to each other. They don’t pay much attention to me.”

More on that later…

Back to Jeff’s picture. I figured the guy at the head of the table should be the leader. Why him and not the man in armor? Something about the guy’s face—a sort of smug expression in my opinion—made him a perfect hero.

Saw the arrows under his arm—OK, so he’s got to be an archer. I wanted his name to reflect that, but calling him “Archer” was too silly. Plus, there’s a certain TV show on FX that would be, uh, an unfortunate association. After a bit of Internet digging, I came up with the surname “Broadhead” – as in, the type of arrow. I wanted an obscure first name, and I remembered how we always kid around in Sunday School with our pastor about the strange Old Testament names. So I chose Barzillai, which possibly translates as “man of iron.” That struck me as funny, since I’d just watched “Iron Man” starring Robert Downey Jr. – who sports a beard as tech billionaire Tony Stark.

The girl? Saw that knife and decided she was an assassin—pretty but surly, to counteract Barzillai’s cheeriness. For a name, I looked up the trusty 20,000 Names website and picked “Polish Female.” Tekla – done and done.

The big guy in the corner was easy – he’s a bodyguard, a big oaf who’s not very smart but awfully loyal. He just needed a name – and the word cudgel popped into my head. That made him Cludge.

Then there’s the guy in the hood. He struck me as shifty, quiet—the one who hangs back in the shadows and hears things others don’t. Profession? Thief. As for a name, I wanted to swing toward Old English or Scotch, so I picked “Raibert.” The last name was easy – “Wiley,” as in wily.

That brings us to the young man in the armor. He seemed out of place amidst an archer for hire, an assassin and her half-giant bodyguard, and a thief. And I wanted some religious element–that’s just how I do things. A priest? If so, why the armor?

Well, no spoilers.

I settled on the name Abelard St. Boniface after picking an Old English given name that means “resolute” and choosing “St. Boniface,” the name of the Apostle to the Germans. He’s the stalwart, faithful, unflinching one of the bunch.

After I had all the character names down, the first thing I did – which I’ve never actually tried before – was to write a line of dialogue for each one, just a little something to give them life in my head. Here’s what I came up with:

Barzillai Broadhead (archer) — “Thirty guards? Three-headed dragon? Not a problem.” (Grins and strokes beard.)

Tekla (assassin) —  “Weakling.”(Stabs you.)

Abelard St. Boniface (priest-mage) — “Behold the powers ordained by the Lord Most High.” (Energy wave hurls you off your feet.)

Raibert Wiley (thief) — “A pleasure to do business with you, sir. (Shakes your hand with his right, while his left picks your purse.)

Cludge (half-giant) — “No hurt Cludge friend!” (Throws you into a tree.)

And as for the story, well… I’ll follow up on that later.

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