Although I no longer write short stories, my favourite characters from over the years still live in my head rent-free. Here are some of them:

Tsuki

Tsuki is the main character of Dreaming Awake, a shameless Mary Sue from when I was 14 years old. Though I love him dearly as a part of me, he’s also a good part of the reason I could never take the story seriously now my teenage years are long past. A quiet and hard-working farm boy, the story of Dreaming Awake sees him discover he has magic powers granted by the sun, is descended from dragons, and—quelle surprise—has a key part to play in saving the world.

He’s always been called Tsuki, the name deriving from the Japanese for “moon”, despite the more solar mythology associated with the character and the “fantasy medieval Western Europe” nature of his background. Teenage me was not great at world building.

Tsuki has a longer description from the Dreaming Awake setting, and I must have recreated him in countless online games over the years, but never did write any other stories about him and his adventures.

Lilac and Skye

Lilac Ellenshore was one of the first “original” characters added to Dreaming Awake as it transitioned from being just self-inserts of myself and my friends towards something with a life of its own. I nickname her “The Littlest Murder-hobo” and she remains one of my favourite characters to this day. A feral child, she somehow survived in the forest after the death of her parents on a long journey, but when she tried to return to her village she was shunned as a demon by the superstitious inhabitants who thought her long dead. Skye Cartwright, a village girl about Lilac’s age, snuck food out to her to help her survive for years, but once the rest of the village found out, the two of them ran away together.

They feature in Dreaming Awake from around that point, on a journey to nowhere, Lilac helping Skye live off the land, and Skye helping Lilac learn how to fit in with the other people they meet on their journey.

The short story “Skye’s Dream” covers part of their back story, while Lilac’s intro for Dreaming Awake has some more. Skye was called “Shiiai” and neither character had a surname up until some point when I tried to set down proper cultures in Dreaming Awake’s world.

Serin Lovell

Serin is perhaps my favourite character of all, and has popped up in my imagination time and time again as inspiration for a story. The only Gypsy fortune-teller who really can see the future, she doesn’t need the trappings of tarot cards and crystal balls—but she likes them anyway.

We first meet her in the unfinished “Letters from the City”, in which Serin leaves her travelling life behind her and tries to make a living from her talents in the big city instead. The plot of Dreaming Awake then finds her trading her west London council flat for a caravan once again, albeit this time not exactly in the real world. As a woman in her thirties surrounded by teenage wannabe-heroes, she becomes something of a mother to the group. “Echoes of a Dream” and “The Palace of the Stars” are short stories from the Dreaming Awake setting featuring Serin. “Deus Ex Macchiato” has her back in the real world again. She also plays a bit part as an NPC in the TTRPG “In Love and War”.

House Poppy and Friends (and Enemies)

The principal NPCs of my tabletop RPG “In Love and War”, the Poppies are a minor noble house of faeries in a Tad Williams-esque fairyland of flower courts and intrigue. From the prologues—“The History of the Fair Folk” and “Let the Games Begin”—to the epilogue—“At the End of the Dream”—and lots in between, I have written more about these characters and this family than anything else.

From the head of the family, Duchess Regara, a stern and controlling woman with “Queen of Hearts” tendencies, to the most lowly of commoners, they were always a great source of inspiration. Regara’s unwisely-named sons Cain and Abel have always been a favourite, Cain effortlessly cool but completely oblivious, while Abel is more the bookish sort that toils in the background. Elaine, the Black Rose arch-nemesis of In Love and War, is another favourite of mine—a wardrobe full of black lace and an agenda full of ruthless manipulation.

Sophiel

Sophiel, once an angel of the heavenly choir, so loved humanity that she stole a look at God’s plan for them. Her punishment was exile to Earth, fully in the knowledge of His divine plan for the world and its eventual end, but unable to do anything to change that fate. I wrote barely a few paragraphs about her in “Going Home” before giving up, but the character lives large in my head and one day perhaps I’ll finish it, or write her into something else.

I love her for her total gives no fucks approach to everything. Kicking around on Earth for thousands of years, knowing what’s in store for mankind but unable to tell anyone; working as a mercenary who can’t kill or be killed; drinking, smoking, immune to hangovers and lung cancer; unable to fall in love or be loved. I feel like she went through her emo phase in about 3000 BC and since then has still tried to do the right thing, but really, really struggled to give a damn about it.

Elsa and Thorn

These are another two that have an outsized presence in my brain considering the few paragraphs I wrote about them, this time in the novel-that-was-not-to-be, “The Lost Sky”. Elsa is an undiscovered mechanical genius stuck as a milkmaid in a world that has discovered industrialisation and airships but not womens’ empowerment. Thorn is a teenage runaway from a long forgotten tribe of humanity that lives underground, and has low-grade magical abilities that developed there unknown to the surface world. When he finds a way to the surface he is immediately struck blind by staring at the sun after 17 years of subterranean gloom, leaving Elsa, who discovers him, with both an incredible secret and a complicated burden.

It’s the co-dependency in their relationship that makes these two special to me. Elsa has a boy who’ll whisk her off on an adventure, so she can finally achieve something in life—but he’s blind and awkward, and needs looking after in a way that stifles her. Thorn has a girl who’ll help him leave his past behind, show him the great world he always believed was out there—but she knows so little of it, and so few doors are open to them. Of course, the hundreds of unwritten pages would tell the story of how they fall in love despite it all, how they learn to bring out the best in each other, and go on to set the world to rights.

More Characters in…