Thursday, March 13, 2008

Creating an Extreme Character in Fiction by Chris Hoare

Do you remember, not too long ago, when in fiction, on TV, and in movies a female character involved in dangerous action was portrayed as timid and terrified? Not universally, I admit, but that was generally the way that a woman in a dangerous situation was expected to be. What damned rot.

When the idea for the protagonist in my Iskander stories grew in my mind I decided that Gisel Matah would be as tough, as capable, and as reckless as any James Bond. Over the top? Perhaps, but she wasn’t going to back down to anyone – and she was never going to be patronized. Perhaps by other characters, males who were about to get their comeuppance, but never by the author.

She needed an appropriate history to justify these abilities – especially as in the start of the series she’s a sixteen-year-old starship brat. (No, you won’t have seen that in print yet. I rewrote the early stories and Arrival, the earliest in story chronology, is due out this July.) Gisel had a stormy upbringing in the last years of the 22nd century – child of an Anglo-Indian engineer (an egotistical man from a privileged background) and a Greek medical doctor (daughter of a UN trade commissioner and no slouch in the ego department either) – in Mumbai, the Peloponnese, and London.

The couple met in Mumbai, while Gina visited her parents in the city where her father was posted. After a short and stormy courtship the couple married, their first child, a son named Robert, was born just six months later. Gisel was the second child and soon after her birth the first rifts in the marriage began. Gisel was nearly five when Gina took off to practice medicine in a London hospital – the son went into the care of the Matah family in Mumbai, the little girl went to her Greek grandmother at Kalamata. Gisel’s ability with languages really began here, because by the time the Matah’s reconciled and she was moved back to Mumbai, now 9 years old, she could speak Greek, English and Hindi.

The private school she attended in Mumbai decided she needed an athletic discipline to tame her rebelliousness. They placed her in gymnastics competition and she won several team and individual medals. She became not only an accomplished gymnast but soon absorbed enough of the training and coaching that went with it she could later become the personal trainer aboard the starship Iskander.

When she was 13, her parents split again and Gisel went with her mother to London, where Gina became a resident at Guys Hospital. Gisel was developing into a young woman at this time, and so the growth spurt brought the end to her competition gymnastics. She joined a fencing club and by the time she left London to return to Mumbai she was short-listed as a junior for Olympic Team training.

Okay, you get the idea. These are background requirements that account for many of her accomplishments in the stories – her deadly swordfighting, her agility, and her proficiency with languages. I haven’t gone into as much depth with her psychological makeup, but her rebelliousness and mental toughness come from her parents’ provision of such a stormy home life. Somewhere along the way, Gisel found a spiritual mentor who taught her not only the power of meditation but the selflessness and calm courage of Eastern philosophy. When extreme action is called for she uses her own aikido method to enter ‘the warrior art of the sword’. The result of this training and less than ideal childhood is the Gisel Matah of “Deadly Enterprise” and “The Wildcat’s Victory” – a young woman who never backs down, and who is the equal of any man because she has to be twice as good.

The latest Gisel Matah story is The Wildcat’s Victory. On the Double Dragon website at --
and on Amazon as a POD paperback at –

1 comment:

Trailowner said...

Thank you for hosting me today.

You realize you have some of Gisel's secrets here -- she may come to get you.