And finally, we arrive at my personal favorite character in the book. Lightsong the Bold, the god who doesn’t believe in his own religion.
I had the idea for Lightsong a number of years ago. My first book, Elantris, dealt with the concept of men who were made gods. However, in that book, we never actually get to see men living as gods. The gods have lost their powers and have been locked away.
This time I wanted to tell a different story, a story about what it is like to live as a member of a pantheon of deities. Yet I didn’t want them to be too powerful. Or even powerful at all.
I realize that there is some resonance here with Elantris. I hope that the concepts don’t seem too much alike. What I wanted to do with this story was look at some of the same ideas in Elantris, but turn them about completely. Instead of dealing with gods who had fallen, I wanted to look at gods at the height of their political power. Instead of dealing with people who were ridiculously powerful, I wanted gods who were more about prophecy and wisdom.
I made it so that the Returned couldn’t remember their old lives as a way to distinguish them from the Elantrians. However, I can’t help the fact that the ideas had the same (yet opposite) seed. But I’m confident that there’s plenty of room in the idea to explore it in a different direction, and I think this book comes out feeling very much its own novel.
First Line and Lightsong’s Origins
Lightsong’s character came from a one-line prompt I had pop into my head one day. “Everyone loses something when they die and Return. An emotion, usually. I lost fear.”
Of course, it changed a lot from that one line. Still, I see that as the first seed of his character. The idea of telling a story about someone who has died, then come back to life, losing a piece of himself in the return intrigued me.
The other inspiration for him was my desire to do a character who could fit into an Oscar Wilde play. I’m a big fan of Wilde’s works, particularly the comedies, and have always admired how he can have someone be glib and verbally dexterous without coming across as a jerk. Of course, a character like this works differently in a play than in a book. For a story to be epic, you need depth and character arcs you don’t have time for in a play.
So, think of Lightsong as playing a part. When he opens his mouth, he’s usually looking for something flashy to say to distract himself from the problems he feels inside. I think the dichotomy came across very well in the book, as evidenced by how many readers seem to find him to be their favorite character in the novel.