Do you remember the first time you saw Sesame Street? Bert and Ernie, Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, Elmo. Were they real to you? What about the Muppet Show? The Muppet Movie?
They have one major thing in common. They are all fabulous creatures from the imagination of Jim Henson. Creatures as real as the actors who play with them.
How does Farscape fit in? It was produced by Jim Henson Production. Rigel and Pilot (animatronic puppets) were created by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. The alien makeup and prosthetics were made by the Jim Henson Company. Whether it was the clever makeup, the superb acting, or a combination of both, the bizarre-looking aliens were as believable as the humans.
Last summer, my husband and I were fascinated by the TV show “Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge” where contestants vied for a job with the Creature Shop by creating puppets and animatronics. The judging emphasized originality and creativity, of course, but also believability.
That is the key—creating believable characters. In our stories, our job is to create believable characters. It doesn’t matter if they are humanoid or alien. What they look like is secondary to believability. What is the character’s goal? In Farscape, Rigel wants to return home to rule again. John Crichton wants to return to Earth. The story revolves around why they can’t.
In my new science fiction romance THE PROTECTOR, Rissa Dix runs a tavern in a remote colony on the frontier. Although most of the characters who frequent the tavern are humanoid, one alien in particular stands out. Nakus. Here’s a short excerpt that shows his disposition, character, and what he looks like.
Only a couple of customers remained, including that no-good Nakus who groused about everything. He didn’t like the food. Too salty. He didn’t like the liquor. Watered down. He didn’t like the vids. Too many repeats.
He slopped some of his watered down chokiris on her beautiful naurem bar top—the one she’d flown all the way to a remote outpost on Balderan to rescue from some idiot who didn’t recognize what lay beneath grime and dirt. If Nakus ruined the finish, she would finish him.
As Kiran wiped up the mess, he glanced at the short, round Kruferian, “Need a bib?”
Rissa strolled behind the bar to Kiran. “Has Nakus paid for anything?”
“Nope,” he muttered.
“Get his credits then cut him off.”
Usually light on his feet, Kiran lumbered—an intimidation trick he’d perfected—over to Nakus. “Time to pay up.”
“In a min.” Nakus wasn’t easily intimidated. “Not finished with my drink. Damn lousy liquor in this place.”
Rissa rolled her eyes. “Yet you come here every night.”
“Not like I have a whole lot of choices.” Nakus swallowed the last few drops in his glass.
“Pay up, Nakus,” Kiran repeated.
“Put it on my account.” The short Kruferian started to slide off the stool.
Kiran reached across the bar and grabbed the front of Nakus’ shirt. “Not so fast. You don’t have an account here anymore.”
“Since when?” Indignation rose in his voice.
Rissa ambled closer. “Since you don’t pay your bills unless I threaten to have Chief Kaminga throw you in the lock-up.”
“Give a hard-working guy a break, will ya, Dix?”
“You? Hard working? Hah. And I’ve told you enough times my name is pronounced Deece. You must be hard of hearing.”
“Or so stupid he can’t remember,” Kiran added as he released Nakus.
“I’m not going to sit here and be insulted.” He slid off the stool, tripped on a rung, and landed on his well-padded rear. “I’m hurt. Lousy stools. I should sue for personal injury.”
“Fat chance getting a lawyer to come here and take your case.” Rissa rounded the end of the bar. “I have had enough of your bellyaching, Nakus.” She grabbed the back of his belt and his collar and lifted him off the floor. “I don’t need your business.”
“Wait,” Kiran called as she hauled the dark-skinned Kruferian toward the outer door. “He hasn’t paid.”
“I’ll collect from Fortuna,” Rissa said over her shoulder. “She’ll take it out of his wages.”
“You can’t do that.” Nakus wriggled and slapped air because his too-short arms couldn’t reach her.
“I can and I will. I don’t tolerate freeloaders.”
Kiran strode ahead of her and opened the door. “Want me to dump his sorry ass out in the street, Boss?”
“I got it.” Like hoisting a keg of ale, she hefted the Kruferian a little higher and heaved him out onto the dusty path that passed for a street.
Nakus rolled several times before scrambling to his wide, flat feet. “I’ll get you for that, Dicks.”
She was sure he deliberately mispronounced her name. “Yeah, yeah. I’ve heard that before, you cheapskate.”
He brushed off his baggy trousers, shot her a rude gesture, and waddled across to the boardwalk in front of Fortuna’s. A group of miners who’d watched his humiliation laughed and hurled insults at the little Kruferian. That only added to his indignation.
He shook his fist at her. “I mean it, Dicks. You haven’t seen the last of me.”
After tavern owner Rissa Dix rescues two girls from a slave ship, she must rally the townsfolk to prevent traffickers from returning. Mining heir Dillan Rusteran has loved her for years. Little do they know that by rescuing more children they're tangling with a trafficking ring that puts Rissa in danger.
THE PROTECTOR (An Outer Rim Novel) is available at:
Whether your characters are human, alien, shifter, angel, vampire, etc., remember they need to be "real" to your reader. But first, they need to be real to you.