Smurf Slayer

After reading my manuscript Steph (my developmental editor) had a few things to say. The one that hit me hardest was this:

“I actually like your bad guy (Ragnar Sarnak in the published version) more than I do Will (the protagonist).”

Asperger Syndrome is on the spectrum

Ouch. 

When I started the novel, I wanted Billy/Will to be a lead with ASD – Autism Spectrum Disorder, specifically the subset of ASD known as Asperger Syndrome. My vision was of a character in the SPARK environment who would behave logically, but in ways that violated some social norms. He would see the Quests from a completely different perspective. That would then lead him to unanticipated solutions and success and the reader would grow to know and love Will while gaining some insight into ASD. 

I did it poorly and ended up with a character who wasn’t as likeable as my evil assassin. 

When I rewrote Will, the first thing I had to change was the original encounter with the Cyanites. At the time, I was calling the Cyanites “Smurfs” because they were small and blue. Made perfect sense to me, but the Publisher was a little worried about copyright issues and how I dealt with someone else’s characters. 

I picture Cyanites as blue-furred versions of this guy.

In that version, the Kwans don’t encounter the Cyanite/Smurfs until they’re in the cave hiding from the T-Rex. The little blue primates begin wailing. They just escaped being eaten by the Rex and now their sanctuary has been invaded by big stinky humans. Unfortunately, the noise is attracting the Rex. Billy’s logic is to eliminate the noise at its source. Hey, they’re just non-playing characters (NPCs), right? Here’s the original scene as viewed from Quest Control:

Billy pulled his blaster and shot the Smurfs. Kathy was rummaging through her inventory looking for virtual fruit to offer them. Yul and Kathy froze as small wisps of smoke rose from the bodies.

Fair game?

The techs played it again in slo-mo. From that perspective they could clearly see Billy line up his aiming reticle and pull the trigger. He capped Mama Smurf with a head shot. The room was silent.

“Jesus,” whispered one of the techs. Then everyone was talking at once.

“Damn. That kid is cold!”

“Did you see how quick he acted? Awesome!”

“Can he do that?”

“Aren’t the Smurfs friendly?”

TK Crossing’s lead referee spoke up. “Actually, they’re Greys. People always assume they’re friendly because of the blue tint we gave them. So, it’s a legal shot. Still,” he continued, “In the,” he checked the day counter on the front wall, “368 days we’ve been open, no one has ever shot the Smurfs.” 

A second referee chimed in, “We don’t really want them to. The Smurfs become allies and help guide questing parties.”

“Then why did we leave them grey?” asked a voice from those clustered around the screen.

“We wanted them to have to interact with the Smurfs and learn how to make allies. There’s also an Easter Egg.”

“Ah, got it.”           

In this version, the Egg in KT-Crossing was ill-defined and involved opening another branch of the Quest. However, it read like players were getting rewarded for killing a poor, defenseless, non-existent, highly-improbable, fictional species. Turns out, readers quickly become attached to NPCs. Cuteness shouldn’t be a factor in how we deal with a perceived threat – but it is to most people.

Between this issue and my poorly written ASD character, Will got a significant makeover. Stephanie, and I hope, all of you, like him better now.

In the upcoming book, I put some baby Orcs at risk. Are readers going to be as sympathetic to them? 

We’ll see.

One thought on “Smurf Slayer

  1. I’m so glad you changed Will and had him save the cyanites and not kill them! He seems really hard to connect with in this version of him. Have you ever watched the show “Atypical”? The main character is special needs and is hard to connect with emotionally as a viewer- but I also notice the main draw (for me) of the show is him OVERCOMING that and being able to learn through his differences with other people.

    Like

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