Things have been difficult for me lately and I’ve been doing a lot of thinking after my first time seeing my family in person for 5 months, bringing up a lot of different feelings. It’s required a lot of self-examination of my reasons, and a reminder of how deeply personal Virsune’s story is to me. It’s really put a damper on my ability to eke out a blog post, or really write anything at all, but time waits for no man and I have to move forward.
What better way to break my writer’s block than by talking about the character I love more and more every day?
Virsune is one of those characters who sprang out of my subconscious one day. I can’t really define a distinct creation moment for him, like I can for most of my older characters. There’s no set point in time that I sat down and hashed out his character on paper. He just evolved naturally, and is very much the result of the struggles I was facing at the time he came into being (and am still facing). For that reason, he’s still evolving, and I learn more about him constantly every time I dedicate a significant amount of time to doing something that involves him.
At its core, Virsune’s story is a redemption arc. It’s about a man who, while always well intentioned, has done some pretty morally ambiguous or downright wrong things in his past and hurt a lot of people in the process. Sure, he has extenuating circumstances, things that made him a bad father or a bad friend, but he never uses those things as an excuse and simply tries to move onward from what he has done. He never expects forgiveness, and does his best to accept the consequences of his mistakes, no matter how painful those consequences are.
I worry a lot that people are going to say he’s too idealized, that someone like him couldn’t actually exist and that he’s too perfect, especially because he does forgive his abusers for what they did to him. But forgiveness is a process, and Virsune struggles a lot with feelings of inadequacy and self loathing. His selflessness is as much of a byproduct of his abuse as his panic attacks are, someone who internalized everything that happened to him rather than externalizing it.
I guess part of me was just sick of protagonists who were either super gritty and worldly, young, untested, and one-dimensional, or generic female protagonists who are the symptom of a society that doesn’t critically think about its representation.
I kind of wanted a character who struggled with the same sorts of things I’ve found myself struggling with — trying to reconcile a rough past with my moral beliefs, trying to accept that others see me as a good person, that I ever could be charismatic or well-liked when I’ve struggled so much with the way I say things and how I’m seen by others. That Virsune, that character, just happens to be a 50-something adult male with a degree in Archeology who specializes in the transition from pre-Space Flight society to the advent of modern society? Well, that’s just the result of the series of weird coincidences that resulted in his evolution.
And he is that character.
I’ve talked before about how he defies tropes, and about how it was unintentional to sort of make him the “anti-male” in terms of what’s typical in media. I’m realizing more and more that Virsune really does defy what a protagonist should be, and it worries me as much as it excites me. I worry that by even mentioning how he breaks tropes that I’m being somehow arrogant or otherwise imagining it, or that he doesn’t deserve to have these things said about him.
Part of that is because he is so personal.
Virsune flees an abusive situation, a place where he had many people he loved, but he could no longer stand what that place had done to him. He’s faced an abusive mother, an abusive spouse, scandal, and the hatred of loud fringe groups who rally the masses against him. He finds himself in a situation where he is isolated and alienated from everything he once knew and has to learn to rebuild himself at a stage of life later than most people learn such lessons. Having supplanted myself to an entire new area of the country, after being repeatedly told that I’m several years behind developmentally, I guess my brain just created a character who I could work out my issues through.
I’m excited because I know that other people could really use a character like him. There’s a use for an autistic 50-something who suffers from depression and PTSD in fiction, because honestly people like me really could use a few characters like them. I’m a big fan of critical representation, not just creating characters to fill in a diversity slot like in the 90s and early 2000s, but actually thinking about a character’s role in the story in relation to their traits. Representation is more than just making a character a person of color or disabled in order to get diversity points, it’s creating an experience that people can relate to through your writing.
Virsune is important to me, and I hope that he can become important to other people. As shy and as hesitant as I may be, as insecure as I am, I don’t think there’s anything that can stop me from sharing him with others. It’s because he’s personal to me that I feel he can do so much good, and as he continues to grow and change, I grow more proud of him.