*This article discusses the idea of Julian as a central character within the group dynamic of Master of the House. There are minor spoilers ahead (but nothing too seriously compromising).
My initial idea for this book was to have it be a cast of characters style story.
As progress on the book continued I quickly realized that even as a cast story, there needed to be an anchor, someone to which the story bent around slightly. The logical choice was Julian.
This story was originally played out (in a much different form) as a pen and paper roleplaying game. The character “Julian” was played by a glib friend of mine who became the de-facto party leader. People that talk tend to move towards positions of authority in groups. I think there’s something about confronting the fear of public speaking that makes the rest assume the person in question has leadership potential.
So the character premise of the book begins with Julian and Face as a potential good cop/bad cop act. Julian talks. Face punches things. Julian is like this everyday guy who is probably smarter than most people, knows it, and puts too much stock in that fact. He’s the guy who knows a little bit about everything. He knows a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy. He likes to hear himself talk and he gets completely lost in the here and now due to this.
Julian learns fast but he learns by doing. This means he often falls into traps that a moment of contemplative quiet might have easily sidestepped.
It’s my opinion that the lead character in a cast of characters is almost always boring. It’s an aspect that I think is somewhat necessary to engage a reader or viewer. If the main character is too strongly pulled to one way or another, the reader can’t necessarily sympathize with that character (and I think all readers want to put themselves in the role of the central hero). So, Julian can’t play the role of detached bad-ass (Hawthorne), the every-man who is in over his head (Face), or the redemption story (Katrina). Does that leave him as nothing but a narrative device? A means by which I can tell MY point of view?
That’s not how I want my central characters to play out.
The first step is to hand out some flaws, some things to humanize the character. One of the first story arcs with Julian is that he begins to buy into his own hype. He begins to take on the role of “gangster” and stops being the guy who is pretending to be a gangster. He also makes errors of judgement and leads his group into dangerous situations because he is not quite as good as he thinks he is at reading people.
He’s no Turnbill despite the comparisons other characters make in the book. So as the reader moves through the story, there ends up being a small degree of doubt that these plans will go according to well…plan.
But let’s not give up on that idea that he’s the character to which this story hinges just yet. I have no intent on a solid character like this becoming unlikable. Rather as this goes on, I want the reader to choose to side with Julian. By the end of Chapter 6 – The Hierophant, Julian has come to realize his own importance and understands that the unity of his organization and perhaps even their safety depends on trust amongst one another.
In this regard, Dori is quietly teaching him a lesson about cultivating trust but the point is that as the central character, Julian’s lesson is on full display for the reader to understand why these other characters put their trust in him. It’s a building of social capital between the characters that pays off later when the reader sees how the other character’s relationships expand because of Julian’s influence.