Orphan-Heart

Okay but hear me out…

Jaal joining the crew of the Tempest and realizing that he thinks he likes Ryder more than a friend; that he’s starting to fall for her. He talks to her more, he starts making her a new gift that he’s put infinitely more thought into than the last one, and he starts corresponding with his True Mother more often.

She asks about this Sara Pathfinder, where she came from, what her family is like… and that’s when he realizes he doesn’t know what her family is like, does he? He’s never met her father or her mother, or knows if she has any brothers or sisters or cousins… Ryder doesn’t talk about them, and he never thought to ask.

After a mission, it left Jaal feeling particularly alone, missing his family… Ryder came to him to talk, the topic was brought up in conversation. She told him her mother and father are dead and her brother is in a medically induced coma, that she’s basically an orphan. It makes his heart hurt, he was surrounded by people, by family, always no matter what… to be so completely alone and frightened and overwhelmed in a new galaxy 600 years away from your home… he can’t imagine it. He immediately emails his True Mother.

He tells her Ryder opened up to him, told him about her family, and how it made him feel sad. He deeply cared for Ryder, he wanted to help her… He had to help his darling one. “So bring her here! Introduce us, we will be her family.” Sahuna tells him. The idea entices Jaal, especially considering the recent events with Aksuul…

He suggests it to her, and they take the shuttle to meet his family. He introduces Ryder to everyone, despite his embarrassment from the praises of his True Mother. Ryder is smiling with stars in her eyes, loving every minute. She missed the family atmosphere so desperately, she loved being surrounded by it again. He was so glad he helped her, made even gladder by the confession that she felt the same way about him that he did about her.

… a first, for him.

4

-You let in the outsiders, with their sad eyes and wounded hearts. The orphaned, the abandoned. Let them in your home. Learn from them, yes but raise and love them. Offer them all the magic the whole world has to offer. Then they fuck you. Oaths? Meaningless. Love in their eyes, worthless. Heart they promise you will never be. - Marco Polo (2014-2016)

Here’s to all the hearts that didn’t make it home.
All the hearts left on someone else’s doorstep
On street corners and calloused hands
In gutters with broken glass,
Under unmade beds and moving boxes
back pockets and subway seats,
An unchecked lost and found.
All the hearts still crying for a chance,
Orphan hearts
Transient hearts
Hearts that never meant to be drifters,
but always
caught the wrong wind.
—  Homeless Hearts, Elizabeth McNamara
How to Make Interesting Characters without Giving them a Tragic Backstory

Okay, first things first, giving someone a tragic backstory does not make them interesting. It just makes them a prime candidate for extensive therapy. What actually makes them interesting is the story that the tragedy creates.

In DC cannon, the death of Bruce Wayne’s parent leads to him becoming Batman, but it didn’t have to. In another world, his parent’s death might be nothing more than the plot of a crime drama in which Bruce is the heart-tugging orphan who stars in that episode and then disappears into the ether.

Along the same lines, Bruce’s parents didn’t have to die in order for him to become Batman. He could have just as easily seen one too many unsolved killings that had nothing to do with him and been inspired to use his fortune to go help his beloved city. Perhaps it’s not as heart wrenching a story as the original, but that doesn’t mean that it would be a bad one.

To show what I mean, let’s look at another famous super-hero orphan (why are there so many of those?) whose story has nothing to do with the death of his parents: Steve Rogers (a.k.a. Captain America). By the time Steve shows up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, he’s lost both of his parents. His father died in the First World War and his mother died from tuberculosis. This has absolutely nothing to do with his story and it’s never presented as something that makes Steve more interesting than your average person. What makes Steve interesting is that he is a legitimately good person with one of the strongest moral compasses you will ever see.

That’s not something that we associate with War Heroes. War is about compromise. It’s a gray zone in which right and wrong become twisted beyond recognition and we have to do things that go against everything we believe for the greater good of our fellow man.

Steve Rogers hears that and rolls his eyes while marching into a Nazi death camp single handed.

That’s an interesting character and, hey, nothing tragic happens to him until after the story’s already begun.

So how do you make characters like Steve? People who audiences like for who they are instead of what happened to them which, by the way, applies to Bruce Wayne, too. He may have been shaped by what happened to his parents, but that’s not why people love him. Fans love him because he’s a human in a world of superheroes who still manages to go toe-to-toe with them. The number of fans who like him because he’s an orphan with a dark past is pretty small. Maybe even nonexistent.

Alright, back to the topic at hand: how to make people interesting. While I could talk about this at length, let’s keep it simple and focus on the fact that most interesting characters fall into one of two categories.

  1. A Force to be Reckoned With – these are characters who need no supporting cast or foil character. You can put them in a locked room with nothing but a phone book and your audience will still love them. These characters are also rare, so don’t go obsessing over whether or not you’ve got one. Instead, focus on making sure that each of your characters is unique and well-developed enough that they don’t feel interchangeable with their co-stars. How do you do that? By making sure that you have a firm grasp on who they are and what makes them stand out. Don’t say that Danny loves apples. Lots of people love apples. Loving apples does not make him interesting. Instead, say Danny will eat literally anything apple flavored and we’re still not sure why. All we know is that he doesn’t get birthday cakes, he gets apple pies. Is that enough to make Danny “A Force to be Reckoned With”? No, but it does make him stand out from the rest of the cast and, as I tell you more about him, he’ll stand out more and more until we reach the point where there will be lines that only Danny could say.
  2. Team Dynamics – a lot of characters who we love wouldn’t even make the top-ten list if it weren’t for their costars. In the Harry Potter books, Hermione Granger works as a perfect foil to Ron and Harry. They’re slackers who crave adventure while she’s a straight-A student who wants nothing more than to learn everything she can. If Hermione were to star in her own book series without any friends, then it would just be seven books whose titles would fall along the lines of “Hermione Granger and 11 Outstanding O.W.L.S.” or “Hermione Granger and the Comprehensive Guide to Hogwarts’s Library”. Along the same lines, without Hermione, the Harry Potter books would, instead, be the Harry Potter book whose title would be “Harry Potter and the Year a Plant Killed Me”. To make characters like Hermione, think about your staring cast and consider how they work together. Who would they be alone and how does being on the team shape them? How do these friendships change them over the course of your story? Remember, even Fred and George Wesley needed someone to work with.
ironically, this one doesn't have a catchy title

my arms are
falling stars
running out
of flame
&
magic

these lips
are unsalted seas
with sinking ships
swallowing dreams
of the now orphaned

this heart
this fucking heart
is a jigsaw puzzle
placed in a frame
sides untouched

neg

at

ive

spa

ce

this love
this fucking love
is a supernova
is an unknown island
is a masterpiece

waiting for you