A Character Study

I’m writing a Central Corps wiki.

I started it because I kept forgetting what color Jessica’s eyes were, and I got sick of flipping through my reading copy of THE COLD BETWEEN (which is a book I’d really like to retitle) to check.

Turns out there’s a lot of background detail in these books, and that doesn’t even count the stuff that’s only in my head.

This wiki is going to take a really long time.

But in the meantime, as I’m NaNoing Book 4, I’ve been thinking about my characters. This is less a draft wiki entry, and more my own thoughts on where the character came from and the purpose they serve in the story. Or maybe just the purpose they serve for me. I dunno. It’s probably the same thing.

Anyway: Here’s Greg.

Greg Foster is a fuckup.

He’s a smart guy blessed with good looks and the ability to project some personal charisma, and he fell into the right job. He’s had some professional success early on, and it’s given him both confidence and authority. He made captain at 28, and at 30 was handed a brand new flashy starship right off the factory floor.

I took a page from Carol O’Connell for Greg. In an interview once, she said she made Mallory (her sociopathic antihero) beautiful because mentally she was so completely broken. Greg isn’t as damaged as Mallory (I mean, who is?), but he’s pretty much lived his life based on other people’s expectations. He’s the second child, born five years after his sister Meg (Greg and Meg; I didn’t even think when I came up with their names, but it seems like Greg’s folks are Those Parents), and by the time he came into the world his mother knew she wasn’t going to get Meg to follow in her footsteps, so she swept him up into her own dreams and ambitions.

(Oh, God, I went Freudian, didn’t I? Well, no surprise I fridged the poor woman.)

Greg’s experience with his mother’s death was very different from his dad’s or his sister’s. She returned to active duty when he was only seven; his sister was twelve, and had had more years of concentrated time with their mother. He missed her in a different way, and had adjusted to her absence the way children do when they’re young. His dad had been stuck loving a woman he knew he would almost never see, and then she was gone, and he was left with a boy he’d never learned how to get close to.

Greg spent a couple of years trying to be emotionally supportive of his dad and dealing with his very emotive sister, before adolescence delivered unto him a massive well of rage at his mother for a) leaving him in the first place, and b) getting herself killed. So he spent some time picking fights with pretty much everyone and nearly got tossed out of school, but at some point he realized he’d rather get his academic shit together than have his father say I told you so for the rest of his natural life.

And then he went to college, and then the military academy, because throughout the teenaged rebellion he never questioned his mother’s conviction that he belonged with the Corps. He met a pretty little medical student who talked about going into space with him after she was finished with her training, and they got married. He deployed, and with all their time apart their lives began to diverge, as lives do; but for various reasons staying married worked for both of them. For Greg in particular it provided a nice shield: he could be friendly, even flirtatious, with other soldiers, but he had a good excuse for never ever following through with any of it.

And then he met Elena, and all of his carefully constructed balance went straight to hell.

I write a lot of bisexual characters. This is mainly because they make sense to me. (It also allows me to do whatever I want with romantic relationships, mwahahahaha.) But Greg isn’t bisexual. He isn’t even heterosexual. He’s Elena-sexual, and that warps every romantic relationship in his life.

He can overlook most of the people she dates because none of them deserve her, but he can’t hate Trey, because Trey is actually wonderful to her, and Greg values her happiness. He can hate Dee, though, because Dee is fatally flawed but she doesn’t know it. And he can hate himself, because he knows he doesn’t deserve her, either.

(That’s his thinking, anyway. Elena is her own bag of flaws and ugliness, and I’ll get to her another day. Greg is aware of all of it, but somehow the whole of her just works for him.)

Some people seem to think I intended Greg to be some strong, appealing romantic hero. I didn’t, and he’s not. (Ref. Liz doesn’t write romance novels, no really, I mean it, you’ve been told this before.) He’s a pain in the ass, and a seriously flawed person who could use a couple of decades of therapy and probably a puppy. He’s handsome because ffs, people, the man needs something. He’s pushing forty and just beginning to figure out who he wants to be in this life. (This is a real thing, kids. Figuring yourself out doesn’t end when you’re thirty. You can trust me on this. Sometimes it doesn’t start until way, way after that.)

Greg is a fuckup. By the end of BREACH OF CONTAINMENT, though, he’s beginning to learn.

One last note: Of all my characters, Greg is the one who resonates with me the most. He’s the easiest to write. I know him the best. He’s the most fun to torture. (There’s no need for anyone to psychoanalyze that little tidbit.) If I could meet any of them in real life, he’s the one I’d choose. I’d sit and have a drink with him. He’d have coffee, probably the cheapest cup he could get, because flavor isn’t as important as caffeine. I’d have a beer, one of those dark ones you can’t see through. We would people-watch and talk or not talk and it would be entirely comfortable.

He’s also the one that readers pick on, and that’s…a weird experience for me. Of everyone in these books, Greg carries the most of me (although I’m neither as good-looking nor as fucked up), and it’s impossible not to get defensive. There’s a reason I don’t generally read reviews, even good ones.

4 thoughts on “A Character Study

  1. I have only just started reading book 2, but I can already say I love Greg the most. I can’t wait to find out what ways you find to torture the poor man 😉

    And I’m very happy to learn that you are writing on book 4 🙂

  2. I never considered Greg a fuckup. He is one hurt soul doing his absolute best to keep the crew happy and efficient. Wish my CO in the Navy had been Greg. He, as opposed to Elena, is command material. His torture is entirely self-imposed, though she certainly knew what buttons to push. And you made me hurt right alongside him. I still don’t understand why she wanted/had to push them. I had to read the final pages of book #3 before I would let myself buy it. I hope book #4 doesn’t kill me.

    1. I hope book 4 doesn’t kill anyone, to be fair. 😀

      Elena’s got her own baggage, and she’s not at all used to having close friends. She also has kind of a mean temper. Her life has not been what she expected. But I’ll get to her later.

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