Day Two Hundred and Eighteen: Daughter of Power
For the month of December, I’ll be world-building. This means taking a look at the people, places, and institutions that I have created over the last six months and trying to figure out more about them. This will involve a look at the stories in which they’ve appeared, and then some speculation, stream-of-consciousness writing, and with any luck a few revelations. In addition, I may come back and add new material as the Elves in my unconscious ship out new ideas, so I’ll be sure to link them up.
Your feedback as readers is, of course, more than welcome. There are probably questions that I’m forgetting to ask and holes that I need to fill.
Wish me luck!
Okay, let’s take a look at one of my earlier characters, from a story that really could benefit from some serious re-working.
Elli Acton is the only daughter of a very powerful man – Wilford Acton, who founded Acton Informatics. She’s appeared in two stories, only the first of which is canonical. The second, however, still reveals a bit about her character, so we’ll use it here.
- Her full name is Eleanor.
- She has been divorced more than once.
- She doesn’t often talk to her father – nor does she seem to want to.
- She believes that he has interfered in her life somehow.
- She has brought a gun with her that she plans to use on her father.
- Elli sometimes reacts with violence when her father is mentioned.
- She likes to read non-fiction.
- She has little patience with guys who try to chat her up.
And that’s about it. Clearly the key to understanding Elli is understanding why she hates her father so much. I mean, she really did mean to kill the man, and if you’re going to do that then there has to be some pretty serious hate going on.
My first impulse is to say that it has a lot to do with her father’s work. That’s usually a pretty good starting point, and having a distant, unapproachable father has been a reliable trope in fiction since, well, forever. But it can’t just be that he works too much, and I think it’s the information we get in the second story that really may provide the key. The narrative says, of Acton and his company:
[Wilford Acton] was the founder of Acton Informatics, which began as a maker and supplier of customer listings back in the late 70s. As technology improved, Acton and his company became the premier designers of databases in the nation, and were now supplying programs and programmers to nearly every major government and corporation on the planet.
Michael, the POV character in that story, wants to work with Acton to create a system that essentially anticipates the wants and needs of consumers by way of monitoring their purchases and finances. So for example, if their credit card activity shows an increase in social activity – like going to bars or restaurants or clubs – then they might receive coupons to local eateries. Someone who lost their job, whose credit activity might be showing a lot of late-night internet purchases, might see a lot more ads for counseling popping up in their browser.
Now, it’s ethically dubious at best, but here’s what I think is going on: Acton Informatics has been doing this for a while now.
I’ve noticed that my Evil Corporations tend to be specialists. Cerbecorp is the best at security, Munin Scientific is the best at memory and storage. Acton is the best at processing and manipulating information. I’ll have to do a longer piece on them before the month is out.
What it boils down to, however, is that Wilford Acton used his daughter as a kind of test case. He managed to collect enough of her data that he could predict her actions with incredible accuracy, and spent years manipulating her into certain decisions. At least one marriage, a job, moving to a new city, that kind of thing.
Elli found out (How? That’s a good question.) and she was exactly as upset as you might expect someone to be. She wavers between trying to pretend her father doesn’t exist and focusing her laser-like fury on him. She absolutely refuses to forgive him for what he did, and has no interest in finding out why he did it. As far as she’s concerned, it was an unforgivable violation of her trust, and she will spend the rest of her days hating him.
Naturally, this makes Elli a difficult person to get close to. She trusts very, very few people, and even those only conditionally. She takes any possible association with her father or his company as a sign of betrayal, and is not willing to hear anything good said about him.
This, of course, offers up a couple of interesting story possibilities. One, of course, is Reconciliation. One way or another, Elli is forced to listen to her father’s reason and understand why he did what he did. She needs to be given the choice to forgive him, rather than completely denying the possibility.
The second story possibility is an Alliance. As much as she hates her father and everything he is associated with, there may come a day when she needs his help more than she needs to hate him. The alliance would be fragile and uncomfortable, but it might go a way towards that reconciliation storyline.
I’m really lucky, actually – I get along very well with my parents. I find it hard, and a little sad, to try and put myself in the position of someone whose relationship with their parents has degenerated into virulent hatred. Maybe in order to help Elli to overcome her issues with her father, I should look into the stories of people with such poisonous relations. How did it start? How was it healed, if at all? Why would hating someone for years be preferable to finding some level of forgiveness?
I suppose that’s one of the real benefits of writing – you get to explore these questions without actually putting yourself through them.