It has been five years since Anne E. Johnson unleashed Ganpril Webrid on unsuspecting Earthlings. Webrid is a true everyperson: my own sense of him is that he’s what Wookies are really like when they’re not brandishing crossbows or tinkering with starship circuitry. And when he transcends himself despite fears, doubts and shortcomings, it makes him a bona fide hero.
So a happy birthday among devoted friends, Webrid! And may we hear more of your adventures from Anne’s transmissions.
How to Develop a Character Who Just Wants to Sit on the Couch
By Anne E. Johnson
The Webrid Chronicles is my first published series. All kinds of interesting challenges and decisions popped up as I moved from Webrid’s delivery of a green light to a blue diamond, and most recently to fifty red spawn.
Which characters should return from previous books? Which venues should be revisited? Were there any habits of expression that could be carried over, sort of as catch phrases?
But my toughest conundrum was staring down – and daring to challenge – a basic tenet of novel writing: character development. I wanted Webrid to be Webrid in each installment, so traditional development made me nervous. In the course of a stand-alone novel, the main character goes on some sort of journey, be it intellectual, spiritual, or emotional. That’s in addition to any physical journey he or she might take, and goodness knows old Webrid gets around.
Character development does not mean that the character has to figure out and solve all his problems and flaws. That would make for dreadful literature (okay, we’ll give Ebenezer Scrooge a pass). I can imagine nothing duller than a big, hairy Yeril who’s given up womanizing and drinking and is now filled with ambition and altruism, not to mention a complex vocabulary. That’s not character growth; that’s expelling the character through his spaceship’s trash chute, watching him incinerate in thruster fire, and then recreating him from the charred flakes of his personality.
Instead of forcing on Webrid lessons in self-improvement and morality, I let him learn small things, the way we do in real life. And sometimes forget what he’s learned, which is also quite realistic.
Without resorting to spoilers, I can say that, as Webrid moves through the second and third adventures, he is surprised to figure out some basic truths about his relationship with fellow protagonists Stravin, Zatell, and even furry little Azhanda. Most fun to write were the emotional treks Webrid starts on and then backs away from. Stops and starts are part of development for most of us, I dare say, as we try to change but then decide –sometimes quietly, sometimes defiantly—that the new path is not for us. Sentient beings are, to a species, creatures of habit.
So, fear not. Ganpril Webrid, carter of the city of Bargival, involuntary savior of the Raralt Planetary Circle, neither remains static nor changes beyond recognition as he travels (or is hurled) through the galaxy. He finishes Red Spawn Delivery with as many foibles and hang-ups as he started with in Green Light Delivery. But maybe he (grudgingly) discovers a few secrets about life, the universe, and every freakin’ thing.
Checkout counter of Webrid’s deliveries: