I don’t even know where to start with this one. Throughout the course of this project people who were Matthew and Epp inclined would tell me how much they enjoyed one character or the other. Some people liked watching Matthew as he tried to bumble his way to an understanding of the new world he had entered; some liked Epp’s smooth manner, charcoal suit and hard-taught lessons. And I would nod as they said this. Then I’d open my mouth and out would come, “I like Nyx.”
And the person would slowly back away from me.
There’s nothing like writing the bad ones. The bent and the devious are always the most fun characters to play with. I had known this going in to these stories. I had written a few lunatics, a few warped individuals, a few people it would be fun to have a drink with assuming you were safely separated by a nice thick sheet of bullet proof Hannibal Lector cage glass.
But none of them prepared me for Nyx. I love Nyx. There isn’t any moment of Nyx in these stories that I wasn’t in love with; her introduction, her cold creaking glove, the bizarre and pert sexuality of her body movements, her teenage-style head bopping attitude, everything. To the point where, once she had appeared and I began to appreciate her, I made a conscious decision to under use her. To only let her bounce in at the sides of scenes, to never let her command the stage. I wanted to keep her as off center as possible. For a few reasons.
First, I think less is always more. I’m a firm believer that the best thing to ever happen to Steven Spielberg’s career was the mechanical shark not working when he began filming Jaws. Less is more. To show too much of Nyx would have lessened her impact. In fact, I never once showed what it was that she did with her victims. The farthest I ever let her get on the page was her first kill, and there we only see her teeth just touching the back of Robin’s head, then we get a single sound, then we leave and come back when she’s done. That’s as far as we see her go. Everything else she does we see only the aftermath of. Except, of course, the parts your imagination fills in.
The second reason I didn’t want to linger too long on her was because I wasn’t sure how much there was to linger on. A lot of these characters I knew I’d be providing back story for. As soon as Kyo showed up I knew there’d be more to him. Others I knew there would be exactly no back story for. We were never going to see Mary or Bartleby’s origins. They just weren’t part of the structure as it first came to me. It would be possible, mind you, to create their stories, like it would have been possible to create an origin for Nyx, but those tales would have felt tacked on. Like putting an addition on a house using a different architect than the original. It might work out okay, but it might not, or you might wind up with two very nice structures that don’t really relate all that well as a whole.
My third reason for keeping Nyx thin is similar to the first. Not only did I not want her to have too much page time, I also didn’t want to run the risk of describing her attitude for you. I didn’t want her to act creepy. I tried to never make her snarl, never glare, never look “with evil intent” at someone, never rant or rave, never, really, do anything other than be a somewhat empty-headed girl in her late teens/early twenties. I’m sure I slipped up here and there on this, but for the most part I just wanted Nyx to be a normal girl…who happens to cannibalize those around her for what, at times, appears to be sheer entertainment purposes. It felt to me that this would be much creepier than to have her gnashing around in every scene she’s in.
Nyx also created one of the weirder aspects of the Matthew and Epp stories from my end of things. Her and Mary.
I listen to an astounding amount of music while I write. Very loudly. AC/DC‘s “Dirty Deeds” got me through most of “Sunrise Over the Dakota.” And I listened to “These Things That I’ve Done” by The Killers over and over again while writing the scene with Epp in the cathedral. Within this love of popular music, there is contained a sub genre of rock and roll music performed by women. There’s a lot of Furtado and Stefani in my i-Tunes. I have a rather profound liking of girls who can sing. And rock. And turn a crowd into a frenzy. A girl who can properly scream, “Thank you, CLEVELAND,” and then drop the microphone and throw her hands up before walking off stage…well a girl like that is a keeper. And, granted, you don’t get that sort of Joan Jett rocking as much in today’s musical landscape, but in my mind it’s all good.
Now, I’ve already mentioned that when I was casting about for what Mary looked like during her introduction, I wound up using this photo of Shakira as sort of a template:
I don’t really think Mary looks anything like that. At all. But at her genesis this photo helped me get a bead on her. And from there on out I found myself putting on Shakira whenever Mary was around.
Then came Nyx. And while I didn’t use a photo to create Nyx (she was based on a girl I saw riding the subway) I started noticing this album cover popping up on my i-Tunes:
That’s an album cover from the Swedish band The Sounds. It’s very nipply. And it sort of freaked me out. Because I looked down at the little square on my i-Tunes window where the cover art for the current song is showing one day and Jesus Christ but Nyx was sitting there. Two of her. One innocent, the other hungry. And from then on songs from The Sounds became my jumping off point whenever I needed a shot of Nyx, creating this very odd split of musical personality with Shakira/Mary on one side, her songs melodious and vulnerable, and then The Sounds/Nyx on the other side with their gravelly pep.
It’s rare, very rare, for me to be provided wide open doors into the worlds I write. Usually I have to sniff my way around when I pick up writing for the day until I can get my bearings, and then I have to proceed slowly with my first scene or two. Or I’ll have to meditate and think a bit on one of the bigger marquee scenes that are firmly rooted in my head, then back away from there to the scene I’m working on, retaining as much feel as possible.
For Nyx and Mary, once this weird battle of the bands started in my head, I never had to do anything more than play Shakira or play The Sounds and I was able to walk right into their heads. They even started becoming counterpoints to each other for my writing. This isn’t overly abundant in the finished stories, but when I was trying to bounce back from one side of things to the other it often became easiest to take Nyx’s (or Mary’s) view of things and invert it in order to figure out how Mary (or Nyx) was currently handling the situation.
I never got to work Shakira into Mary’s personality, but I did mange to make The Sounds a part of Nyx’s life. One of their songs is her ring tone.
I love Nyx.
And she’s the only one of my antagonists to make the list. Gregor didn’t make it. His muddled attempt at recreating the world always seemed a bit more like a roundabout way of getting even with Epp. And Hector? Hector was nothing but a persnickety coward. After he made his first move Hector did nothing but hide. I get the feeling that even if the battle at Katie Packer’s birthday had gone his way, Hector still wouldn’t have felt comfortable coming out in the open. For Hector, things were never going to be perfect. You ever notice how often he readjusts things mere centimeters so they look right to him?
No, for me there was only Nyx. I’ll throw in here that, for the briefest of moments when I was trying to come up with Nyx’s look, I almost made her a ten year old girl. I’m not sure I could have handled that.
And then there was Nyx’s ending. Her ending was abrupt. Part of me felt she deserved more. But part of me was worried that this was my wanting more Nyx and not what the story wanted. So I made Nyx end the way she existed: mostly off of the page. And it was a little disturbing to not properly be able to say goodbye to her. But I think it’s what she would have wanted. She was never a major player. She was the side-kick. She was the muscle. Hell, for that matter when we first meet her she’s the side-kick’s side-kick. The muscle’s muscle.
And so she gets slot number seven. And there is nothing that captures Nyx for me like her lovingly sucking on some poor person’s finger bone through all of “The Monk, The Warrior and The Lord.” The thing rattles around in her mouth the entire story. Of course, it’s not until the following moment that you were meant to think it was anything but a delicious piece of hard candy. Which for Nyx I guess it was:
She took a long, slurping suck on the object in her mouth, enjoying its taste so much she didn’t notice Hector glaring at her until he cleared his throat and she froze, like a student caught chewing gum.
Hector held a cupped palm up in front of her mouth and she obligingly slid the object out between her lips and into his hand. Hector held it up to the light, turned it around a few times, then stared angrily at Nyx.
“What?” she asked. “I stopped off for some Chinese before I came here.”
Hector handed the finger bone back to her; she popped it into her mouth and resumed sucking.