My Legacy Character
Part 4 of 5
Although I finished writing the first version of the original story, “Mad Shadows,” in 1977, and had no luck in placing it anywhere, I never really gave up on my character. I knew there was something different about him, but also knew there was something missing, something he needed that would, hopefully, set him apart from a lot of other fantasy characters. I just put him out to pasture for a while, hoping his retirement would be permanent. In 2007 I once again rewrote the first story, “Mad Shadows,” and submitted it to Black Gate Magazine, which in those days was still a physical magazine. Alas, it was rejected: not enough world-building, I was told, which struck me as odd because a story isn’t about the world-building, it’s about the characters and the plot. World-building is secondary. Well, whatever the reason, it wasn’t accepted, and I moved on. It’s funny to note that since about 2012 I have been a semi-regular contributor to Black Gate Magazine, which has become strictly an e-publication. I have written many articles, interviews with authors and book reviews for them. My articles have been well received, and two of my stories, plus some excerpts from my novels have shown themselves to be very popular with Black Gate’s readers and have had staying power, too. Go figure!
It wasn’t until 2008, however, that a flash of inspiration gave me the idea of using an actual dowsing rod as a tool in his investigations. I had caught another rerun of that episode of The Rifleman I mentioned in the last installment of My Legacy Character, and that was the key to revising the old Dorgo tales, and in the creation of new ones. But oddly enough, it was Alfred Hitchcock who brought it all home for me. In his films, the “McGuffin” was never what the story was about. It didn’t matter if it was wine bottles filled with uranium or stolen microfilm — the story always revolved around the characters and to what lengths they would go to get their hands on the “McGuffin.” Now films like The Maltese Falcon and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre aren’t so much concerned about a jewel-encrusted statue and a mountain of gold: the former turns out to be a fake, the latter is scattered to the winds. No, the plots, the stories are about the characters and their quest for something of value. Without characters, you really have no plot. Without plot, you really don’t have much of a story, do you?
It may seem strange to some of you that I combined so many cinematic elements with my literary influences and placed them in a sword and sorcery setting. But by doing so I hoped to create something that would be truly mine, unique in its own way, told with my voice and coming from the world I know and grew up in. It’s really not much different than using history, folklore, the Icelandic sagas, or any other source of influence and inspiration. My main goal has always been to entertain, and if I’ve succeeded in that, then I’m well rewarded. And if I manage to move you in some way, touch your heart, and make you laugh and cry, then I have achieved far more than I ever dreamed I might accomplish.
Now, with all that being said and done, I went on to construct a slightly different volume about Dorgo the Dowser and his adventures. This one would be more of a novel, a little grittier, somewhat less light-hearted, and Dorgo would be a wearier adventurer, a bit more hard-boiled and angry after his experiences in his first book. His temper would have a shorter fuse and his rage would be something he would have to fight hard to control.
I had already written three novellas for the second book of Dorgo tales, but this time I wanted something closer to a full novel and had to figure out a way to tie those three stories together with more than just using the same world, recurring characters, and of course, Dorgo himself. I also wanted to try my hand at adding more substantial themes to the book, other than that of “loss,” which is the main theme of the first book. As it turned out, my themes were already in those stories: they just crept in during the writing, without me being conscious of it at the time, which is what happened during the writing of the first book. So for my second volume of “the weird tales of Dorgo the Dowse,” I divided the book into three parts, each part being one of the three stories I had already written. And so, in my fifth and final installment of My Legacy Character, I’ll tell you a little about what takes place in Mad Shadows II: Dorgo the Dowser and the Order of the Serpent.
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