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When readers pick up a novel, they relate to its characters and sometimes even relive their stories. To have these kinds of reactions from the reader, the characters need to follow one simple rule: be believable
Making Sābanto's characters believable was very important when I created them. Here are a few points on the thought process of developing characters:
A Character Style Sheet is a separate document when you dump all you know about the characters. Their past, present and future aspirations. There is a process called Character Interviews that can help with writing Character Style Sheets. The character interview format provides a list of questions, helping the author build a detailed overview of the characters based on their answers.
I procrastinated with writing a Character Style Sheet but I found it helpful once it was completed and it helped me find inconsistencies in the book.
Sābanto tries to portray characters with a lot of history to shape them. I define their actions and motives and allow them to learn and grow. Are they believable and relatable? I hope so and I’m looking for feedback on that from my readers.
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I started writing a number of stories in the past but Sābanto is special, not only because it is the first book I am planning to publish but because it is the first story that I worked on ‘backwards’. I envisioned the end first, before I started to write the beginning. This approach worked well for me because I had a certain goal to achieve. Rather than trying to figure out how the story would end, I had to work out how to get there.
The idea came to me as a short story in a very futuristic society. As I was reviewing and expanding the short story, I realized that the background of how Sābanto was created and how it evolved could be very interesting. I thought that the process of how our society got into that state needed to be defined more.
My first step was to explain what Sābanto is and what it stands for. That is how Book 1 “The Crimson River” came to life. It was clear that the book would concentrate on the poor, so I decided to start from the ground up, the poorest of the poor. The base had been established.
As a second step, I needed a character in the story who would push things forward and introduce the reader to Sābanto. That is how Oliver, the war veteran was born.
The third step was to establish a motive. I knew what the final goal of the book was, but Oliver needed to have an internal or external push to get there. In a society where people were dying of cold and hunger, there had to be some contrast and that is how Oliver was entrusted with a fortune.
And of course we need to have a conflict - something or someone in Oliver’s path that would lead to trouble. Someone who would tell him: “I know you from somewhere!”
After giving Oliver a background story and building the initial world around him, I let him loose.
Sābanto is definitely a character driven story. I did not have a clear idea how I wanted the book to proceed, so I let the characters show me the path. If the path was going sideways, I tweaked the characters. I also had to explore multiple paths for the same characters to see which one would make the story more interesting and believable but still continue the general path towards Sābanto.
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Sābanto has been written for adults who are open-minded and like being challenged by different views and perspectives. It is not suitable for younger readers and reader discretion is advised.
In the book I tried to reflect on life and our relationships with each other. My goal was to be honest about the world around us. The book is rough, brutal and sometimes graphic. It is definitely not an easy, relaxing read and it touches on many sensitive subjects that might make some people uncomfortable or even shocked.
My intention was to make readers reflect on what they read and I hope the book will bring the injustice and flaws of the world we live in to their attention. Sābanto tries to expose the issues many people face today that most of us are lucky to never experience.
As I was editing, I was thinking about toning down the book but as I was making the changes, I felt that the book was becoming weaker. It felt like I was lying to myself by not facing the reality of how brutal the world is. It was like writing about a thug who never uses coarse language, a kid who has never cried in their life, or an adult who has never lied. Unrealistic.
Here are some statistics and facts that relate to Sābanto and its content:
“Women are generally more likely than men to be poor and to remain poor for longer periods of time.”
"Poverty is the primary driving force behind women becoming prostitutes."
"The overwhelming majority of children who have sex for money do so out of economic need, particularly in the context of widespread rural poverty."
"Women and girls living in poverty are more vulnerable to sexual exploitation, including trafficking. And those who experience domestic or intimate partner violence have fewer options to leave violent relationships, due to their lack of income and resources."
"Numerous studies have shown that children growing up with violence are more likely to become survivors themselves or perpetrators of violence in the future."
"Several risk factors have been identified that increase the likelihood that a teen will join a gang including the presence of gangs in the neighborhood, having gang members in the family already, histories of sexual or physical abuse, growing up in poverty, having access to weapons and drugs, and a lack of success in other areas of life, such as school."
"There is a close connection between illiteracy and poverty at all levels--global, national, and subnational; the countries with the lowest levels of literacy are also the poorest economically. Poverty breeds illiteracy by forcing children to drop out of school to work, and these illiterate people are forced to stay on the lowest levels of the work force and thus remain in poverty."
“Thousands of children are serving as soldiers in armed conflicts around the world. These boys and girls, some as young as 8 years old, serve in government forces and armed opposition groups. “
And to end on a more positive note - The Onion! “Our Street Gangs Are Probably Using Bad Language”
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Sābanto is an English loanword into the Japanese language, written phonetically. Japanese doesn't have a natural V or a hard R. The macron over the A means it's an elongated sound, imitating an R. The word means a ‘servant’. The word maid - maido - is more popular in Japan to describe a servant. However, I found a use of Sābanto in the context of the book more effective.
What does it symbolize?
To answer that question we need to go back and look at hierarchies and caste systems in human history.
There is little evidence that social levels existed before the Neolithic period. However, starting about 7500 years ago, the first farming cultures showed signs of division. For example, some people were cultivating less fertile soil than the others.
In Mesopotamia, 5500 years ago (3500 BC) society was already categorizing its people into groups based on socioeconomic factors like wealth, income, race, education, ethnicity, gender, occupation, social status, or derived power (social and political). That is also when the first mention of slavery is documented.
This divide between people continued through the ages of Ancient Greece, Egypt, the Roman Empire and the Middle Ages. What is worth noticing is that society always has groups at the bottom of the hierarchy.
Even with the abolition of slavery, this divide continued to exist. There was no longer a master and a slave but there were still wealthy and beggars. This dynamic was existent up to and including the industrial revolution, when human life was expendable in the name of chasing cheaper production and maximizing profits.
Today there are still people at the bottom of the social hierarchy. Homeless, addicted and mentally ill, to name a few. Many times we go about our lives and we forget that they exist. We race to be part of the world of the better off - those standing higher than us - as an ultimate reward. We work on our education and careers. We gamble, hoping to make that jump up one day, kick up our feet and finally relax, enjoying the new reality.
Many examples in history show that the chances of becoming extremely wealthy are close to none. However, a single unfortunate event in our lives might make us poor and homeless. That is why it might be better for us to look down and prepare for our fall, rather than chase the unattainable. What kind of help would we like to receive when we hit the rock bottom of society? If we bring that bottom higher, maybe the fall wouldn't be that long and painful?
Will we ever be able to remove the lowest level in our society and ensure that no one is homeless or ever goes hungry or cold? Can Sābanto finally be the real answer? Can Sābanto serve humanity?
Sābanto is an IDEA.
Sābanto is HOPE.
Sābanto is a REVOLUTION.