Under my probably annoying cry of “NEEDS MOAR OSIAS,” Betsy Dornbusch, author of Exile, agreed to write this wonderful and illuminating guest post about what inspired the character of Osias in the first place.
This is kind of an embarrassing question, even though I’m sure Ria didn’t mean it that way, because Osias started life as the worst kind of trope, and he still sort of is. Osias is an MMA, a Mystical Magical Advisor.
Yeah, that guy. Gandalf. Zeddicus Zu’l Zorander. Merlin.
Because of that, I’ve been bemused to find he’s a reader favorite. If I’m diffident about anything in Exile, Osias is it. Escaping that archetype was a struggle, a difficult trope to twist, from the start. I knew he was going to have to change. I’d never sell a book with a recycled Gandalf in it.
So the first answer to the question What inspired Osias? Insecurity.
That insecurity drove me to make Osias what he is, which I suppose is a reasonably effective, well-rounded character for an MMA. I can’t describe everything about him without giving away a lot of spoilers, but he is a necromancer sworn to the death god Korde and he helps guard a bad-ghost jail behind a great mountain range in Akrasia called Eidola.
But he certainly didn’t start out life that way. At first he was young, handsome, with pale long hair and… All right, yeah. He was an elf with wizard powers.
During the writing of Exile and my pondering how to get Osias to be anything but a young, elvish Gandalf—this was years and years ago—I was watching a guy dance to one of my favorite local bands. Older guy, long, thick grey hair to his shoulder blades. Long hair isn’t unusual where I live, which is Boulder, Colorado, but this was pretty silver hair. Osias still had that white elvish hair but when I saw this guy I started wondering if he actually had long silver hair.
Except, ugh. A silver-haired MMA? Now he wasn’t even a bad mash-up. Might as well just put a beard on Osias and a crumpled hat and a friggin’ staff. He was looking more and more like Gandalf every day. It wasn’t a plot hole, but a character hole, and it needed filling, quick.
Time to seriously rethink.
About this time I bought an antique dresser from a friend with a gorgeous old mirror. I’ve long had a fascination with old mirrors. I like to think about all the people who have looked at themselves in them. I also was mulling over another book (still unpublished) with a silver world. With seven silvery moons and moonwrought, a white metal local to Exile’s world, and me drinking so much Coors Light… Heh, that’s facetious. Okay, not so much. Anyway, it occurred when I looked at this guy’s silver hair, under the odd lights of the show with a Coors Light in my hand, what if Osias was silver all over?
Kind of like that mirror in my antique dresser.
And just like that, I got ideas for all kinds of cool magic, like reflective magic and necromancy. His glamour was sharpened. He got in deeper with the god Korde and his responsibilities increased. His knowing about Draken, because he does know things about him, suddenly made sense. He had a real role to play, his own secrets, everything. He even got a familiar, Setia.
Which really goes to show the best ideas are elegantly simple and brimming with potential, and in Osias’ case, come from an old mirror and a can of beer.
Betsy Dornbusch is the author of a dozen short stories, three novellas, and two novels. She also is an editor with the speculative fiction magazine Electric Spec and the longtime proprietress of her website, Sex Scenes at Starbucks (www.betsydornbusch.com). She can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.
Many thanks to Betsy Dornbusch for writing this piece for Bibliotropic. It was an interesting insight into the origins of a favourite character!