When I first started writing Abscondita, I had a great deal of work to do beforehand. The story I wanted to tell would take ten books and a minimum of 2,000 pages. I started by plotting out the Three Act Structure on a giant whiteboard and showing the progression of the main characters. As the protagonist (Amanda) moved along her story arc, I wanted to also give you a glimpse into the lives of the side characters.
In The Serpent and the Light, there are four main points of view characters that are given their own chapters. I planned to provide the reader with a glimpse into the motivations and lives of the other elements of the story. So many times we read great literature, and sometimes we want to know what motivates the side characters. In the magnificent books by J. R. R. Tolkien, it would have been fascinating to have a Sauron chapter, where we might understand his goals and passions.
In the Abscondita Est Magicae series, I leave it up to the reader to decide who the villains are, except for one. Richard Enfield is the foil to Amanda and are two sides of a coin. Enfield is vicious, power hungry and isn’t afraid to take a risk. One of his greatest assets is his former mentor, the ghost of Samuel Howard. The two are bound together in service to Cthulhu, and Samuel acts as a mastermind.
The idea of Samuel came from a long time friend named John Rey. John has played Dungeons and Dragons with me for over ten years and has mastered the art of villainy. His most famous character, Cyrin, was the main villain character for my first book The Keswick Player’s Handbook published under Pathfinder. During a 2003 campaign that lasted for over a year, he crafted Cyrin into a Demi-Lich that began at level 1. Every action he took had a long game in mind, and he never took chances that were not calculated first. During that campaign, he adventured with aggressively lawful and good party members who refused to allow him to be “evil.” By the end of the first year, he had become a Lich, and the party began to value his immense power.
Through slow immersion into the motivations of Cyrin, the party started tilting to his point of view. After all, a powerful undead creature, that requires no sleep, works endlessly and has little moral boundaries can overcome many obstacles. By the end of the campaign, he had their characters sacrificing innocent creatures in return for powerful magical items. Through careful manipulation, character development and positive results, he not only swayed the party to his point of view but arguably made them into his minions.
I modeled Samuel Howard from that example. The ghost plays the long game and invites the reader to sympathize with him, even when he is at his worst. The real monsters of the story aren’t the ones that scare you but make you scare yourself when you start finding their story sympathetically.