I start any series by creating a cast of characters. I might have an idea of what I wantÂ the basic plots to be, what themes I want to tackle and what the larger world looks likeÂ that I am setting the stories in, but ultimately, characterization is king in my work. That isÂ because whereas the setting and themes may not change much, characters areÂ constantly changing and growing as they interact and face different challenges. ThisÂ makes them a constant source of new stories.
The best example I have of this in my own work is likely Catherine Farrows, the criminalÂ analyst protagonist of the Black Mask series. Catherine starts out the series in a state ofÂ burnout, having had so much trouble coping with the corruption in the justice systemÂ back in her home state that sheâ€™s on hiatus in a new state across the country trying toÂ deal with her feelings. She ends up having a tryst with Thomas, her neighbor, notÂ knowing heâ€™s actually the vigilante the police are hunting. As the clues start to pile up,Â she is thrust into the police investigation of this vigilante. But she, along with manyÂ members of law enforcement, feels the same helpless anger, and they actually end upÂ rooting for the Black Mask more often than not, because heâ€™s doing what they want toÂ be doing. As she learns more about this vigilante, she finds herself agreeing with him,Â and realizes that sheâ€™s about to leave her past by-the-book treatment of lawÂ enforcement behind. By the time she discovers that her lover Thomas is the BlackÂ Mask, she has already chosen to help the vigilante, even though it puts her own life atÂ risk.
As the series progresses, she experiences a lot of growth. She becomes a vigilanteÂ herself. She has to face herself and Thomas being captured, injured and threatened.Â She endures a lot of personal loss, and is forced to rethink her morals at several points,Â especially when it comes to the use of forceâ€”most especially lethal force. Her view ofÂ reality is also tested, as she experiences things which could be interpreted as mysticalÂ at certain points. She also has to deal with certain realities of being in love with aÂ masked vigilante, such as what happens when he canâ€™t leave his work behind when theÂ mask comes off.
Each new challenge that she faced in the stories taught me more about her, and thatÂ gave me fuel for more stories. Whereas Thomasâ€™s story arc was largely pinned to hisÂ revenge on Ganymede and his father, Catherineâ€™s is just as focused on winning a life forÂ them past the battle with Ganymede. She comments in the story that for her, defeatingÂ Ganymede is as much about giving Thomas closure and making the world safer for theirÂ future children as it is about any larger ideas of justice or revenge.
At the end of the fifth story, there is still enough potential left to start a second story arc,Â because the characters have never stopped growing on me. Who the Big Bad will beÂ now that Ganymede is destroyed, I donâ€™t yet know. But Catherine and her friends willÂ definitely be up for the challenge.