As you all know this blog started off as “real play” solo RPG that I turned into narrative form. Each successive story has leaned less on RPG structure but I still use a character sheet and rules set because I find it helpful in resolving things/injecting randomness and I also still use some RPG random “create an X” charts because what am I going to do, come up with my own ideas?
Point being that I’m kind of in a low energy mood for the Ela-pocalypse story. The dice aren’t giving me anything that I find interesting right now and I can’t really think of anything on my own at the moment. But it’s clearly very important for me to stick to my schedule because . . . . of a reason. So let’s talk about the Martialla character.
Back in the bad old days of the D&D Ela story I decided I wanted to write more dialog so I needed a sidekick for Ela to talk to. I don’t remember my childhood teachers generally, but I do remember two of them – my gym teacher and my creative writing teacher. I remember my gym teacher because she hated me and made my life miserable because my sister was a few years ahead of me and she was a nightmare. I believe they call that misplaced revenge.
I remember my creative writing teacher because she would give me helpful feedback like “your dialog is terrible” and then I would say something to her like “oh that’s bad, how could it be better?” and she’d sneer at me at tell me to figure it out. I mean what was she going to do? Teach me something? As if. In fairness to her my dialog was terrible. I mean I was in HS.
I don’t remember how I came up with the name Martialla but I like it. Is it a real name? Maybe. I bet I only misspell it about 14% of the time. Partialla the Martialla character was meant to balance the ticket, D&D Ela couldn’t fight for shit so Martialla was a melee combatant. D&D Ela had all the social skills maxed out so Martialla was rough and tumble. D&D Ela was a leader so Martialla was a follower. D&D Ela hated magic so Martialla was a spellcaster. And so on. What they had in common was ruthlessness, a hard-scrabble background, a penchant for nonchalant quips, and a lust for revenge.
Over time D&D Martialla also became something of a morality pet/voice of reason, not that D&D Ela listened to that kind of thing much, but she (Ela) did soften somewhat over time. None of my friends read my blogs anymore but a couple of them did try and support me in those early days – their main feedback was that they couldn’t handle Ela constantly scamming everyone and stabbing them in the back. I doubt it came across but the idea was that Martialla would pull Ela back from being a totally immoral monster.
A recent comment made me think it would be funny if the “twist” at the end of this is that really Martialla was the protagonist all along, there is no Ela and Martialla is in Hell eternally being reincarnated in different scenarios and living horrible “lives” as imaginary construct Ela’s minion because in the real world she murdered the man who killed her loved one.
One concern I have with the Martialla character is making her too much of the “hyper-competent sidekick” trope. Across genres I like to keep that Martialla is Ela’s “muscle” but sometimes I think I go too far in having Martialla fill in knowledge gaps for Ela. On the other hand I have to remind myself that just because something is an archetype that doesn’t make it bad – it’s pretty hard to come up with something completely original. I used to work with a guy that had been writing a novel going on 17 years and part of his process was he wanted to make sure that everything in it was something that had never been done before. Which is insane in the membrane. Still, I make an effort to reign in it sometimes and not have Martialla know about a topic either, or have her have ideas that don’t work out just as much as Ela.
Recently I had Apocalypse Martialla get tore up from the floor up because I wanted a way to establish finally for real and true that they’re full of nanorobots. But then after I hit the reset button and made sure there was no chance of any kind of real emotional impact there I mildly regretted it. It would have been “better” writing if Martialla had died for real but then who would Ela talk to for me to practice my crappy dialog? A new character? Gasp.
I try (and mostly don’t) take my writing too seriously, but the other day I was having a laugh at an article that was talking about how male writers writing female characters make them models or actresses or hookers a ridiculous amount of the time and feeling superior and judgey, but then I realized that some of Ela’s baseline traits across all universes are being pretty and vain and catty, and a singer which is actress-adjacent and kind of “girly” occupation. So in that context, if I wanted to defend myself (against whom?) Martialla serves another purpose as well, she’s the one that can get laid, and she’s “normal” so it’s okay.
In conclusion one time I had had someone do some art for superhero Martialla and it’s great so here it is again.
I really appreciate the posts about your process. Thank you for sharing.
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It’s almost always interesting to see an author’s thoughts about their own work compared to how I see it from an outside perspective.
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While reading this post, I came to the realization that Martialla is the Geralt to Ela’s Dandelion.
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I wondered how much RPG stuff you used these days. As if by magic, there you are!
I’d say Martialla is the perfect foil to Ela. Maybe sometimes she’s a little too Miss Fix-it (though I’d be pressed to remember an instance), but it’s a stark and necessary contrast to Ela’s complete lack of ability at anything. Sure, Martialla’s always smart, brave, strong, etc, but this is a needed antidote to the hyper-toxin she adventures with. I’m always impressed at how vile you manage to make Ela. and although I’d still follow the blog, I’d probably only skim read without Martialla’s balancing influence.
You know, when I started typing, I swore to myself that I wouldn’t break out into my usual pointless bullshit. I guess there’s a little bit of Ela in all of us!
Anyway, that Martialla in Hell thing? Surely even you’re not that cruel, are you?
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