With Rain, Steam and Speed becoming a series and the title characters now recurring in several stories I have to consider the quality of my character writing and start planning ahead to avoid some of the popular pitfalls of speculative fiction.

The first is the Wesley; named after the much hated Star trek TNG character. The difficulty for the writer is that he or she will not actually know if or when they are creating a Wesley. It is something that the audience will decide.

I say audience rather than fans because at the moment I am only aware of one person I can justifiably call a fan of my work and I don’t want to sound grandiose or deluded.

However, I can say (with hand on heart) that should I find one of my secondary characters universally hated I will either try to make them a better character, or write them out of the story.

If people hate my primary characters, they probably aren’t going to like much about my writing anyway…

In the mean time I will try and avoid recurring secondary characters. Which is a lot harder than it sounds. Take Rain, Steam and Speed, for example; I have the three main characters, but there are some people are inevitably hanging around. The Professor has an old house keeper, who will no doubt be annoying and comedic in equal measure. I have decided to tackle this by writing it dead straight. Another example is PC Perkins, Speed’s side kick. His role is very limited. Speed can’t be in two places at once, but Perkins allows him a bit of leeway. The trick here is to keep the input as minimal as possible. Perkins gets the odd line when Speed is there or needs to send a message. He doesn’t get adventures of his own.

This neatly brings us to the phenomenon known as Mary Sue. This is trope from early fan fiction where the writer personifies themselves as a character and that character (previously unknown and of low standing) then does everything! By tackling an original story line I think I have avoided most of this, a fact that is helped by having the lead shared by three characters. In this way there should not be a single character doing everything, but a shared effort mixing different qualities and knowledge. In the first episode this worked out quite well. Speed was an instigator, in that it was his job to get to the bottom of the spate of crimes in London, but he couldn’t solve it all by himself. Miss Rain could apply psychological profiling and take the investigation forward on the information available, but it was Professor Steam’s connections and background knowledge that brought it all together. So far, no Mary Sue.

But the Mary Sue phenomenon is very much about the writer projecting him or her self into the narrative and there are two more important recurring characters, which I must confess do draw my self into the stories. They are almost diametrically opposed, but they both have aspects of my consciousness built into them. One is Arkwright and the other is Dorian the Anarchist. Both cast long shadows on the plot lines, but I don’t want them to be Mary Sues. I don’t want them to be Wesleys either. So with both of these characters I must exercise restraint. Their appearances will be occasional and with only limited action. So far Arkwright’s biggest appearance was in Tales from the Asylum where he ends his days on this earth. Dorian has appeared in a single short story, but has already had enough action to relegate him to just talking for at least his next two outings.

In both cases I hope that I am controlling the character and giving precedence to the narrative. The only draw back to this approach is that it comes dangerously close to creating a Deus Ex Machina. And that is a trope I will try and tackle next time.