Balon Character Development Spotlight
Since Amethyst Shards is (finally) out, I wanted to talk about Balon Zfnoctewoohi. Balon, Balon, Balon. Balon who is the only member of the Trinity and the One to debut mid-series (excluding Dien who is like an evolution of Hequera). Balon who has only been in five books (half of the series) thus far but has has dominated so throughly thematically and plot-wise since her debut.
This was always going to be the case, though, with where the plot was going (Malcolm Zfnoc, the fate of the dogma of dark/light, etc.).
Balon, however, was not always like she is in the books. Let’s take a dive and look at the ‘original’ version of Balon.
The OG Balon
As I mentioned in the ancient Noctewoohi lineage chart, Balon was originally:
- Male / a ‘he’
- The child of Malcolm Zfnoc (not Paewar Zfnoc)
- More dark aligned rather than light aligned
- May have originally been spelt ‘Baylon’
Personality wise, as I recall, Balon was more of a somber, torn individual. Balon had more affinity towards his father…wearing his helmet (which is no longer a canonical artifact). Balon was more Malcolm Zfnoc’s official son and Lona (proto-Lana)’s illegitimate child. I don’t remember, honestly, how I thought of that relationship (if it was consensual or not). I may not have thought about that angle that much. It was more the idea of Balon being the child of two opposing families and having to reconcile both lineages.
I would say Balon, in this old form, was pretty trope-y. Emo, torn between good and evil, type of hero. The son of the villain having to deal with that dark side. Alucard from Castlevania springs to mind and Lloyd from Ninjago. Balon felt he had to achieve order and balance and had an innate sense of destiny. He knew he was somebody and had purpose he wanted to achieve up front.
Which is…not really our Balon.
Getting to the Actual Balon
It’s kind of crazy how the real Balon is in comparison to that old Balon…but how did we get to real Balon, our canonical Balon?
I couldn’t recall exactly my flow for re-developing Balon, but I looked at an old outline for the Primordial Essences Saga from 2016 and it was quite illuminating (heh). By that point, I had decided that Balon was now female, she was connected with her mother and did not know her father, and her father was Paewar. So those changes were developed pretty early on.
As for my reasoning, as I recall anyway, on some of those changes:
- I gender swapped Balon because I was striving for more gender balance in the Trinity and the One. Dien got us close, but Balon put it as 50/50 and there was no reason for Balon not to be…since I was like redesigning the character anyway. I didn’t have any attachment to Balon as a male. Cyclone, King, Farrco, absolutely. Spellbinder as female, absolutely. Balon was a clean slate. Also it brings her further away from that old trope.
- I made the decision that Balon would not be Malcolm Zfnoc’s son and instead be Paewar Zfnoc’s son. This was due to timeline decompression. The Avatar lineage of old was super like…compressed. I extended it out and made it like less boom, boom, boom. I.e. Paewar even exists. Explaining how she would be Malcolm Zfnoc’s daughter when Lana was not that old and Balon was nowhere near that old either would be…complicated if I went there. I have ideas on how that could have worked, but it just doesn’t make as much sense as this.
Interestingly in my OG outline for books 5-8, Balon was more sketchy / independent from the group. Here’s a very cleaned up version of the book 6+7 outlines (I marked these as total conjecture so….they weren’t hard locked in):
Book 6: LIGHT
- Balon is having you know some internal monologue about balance and instability and family problems
- Hequera and co. desperately search for the guardian amidst instability in China or wherever. It’s a goddamn mess.
- Balon meets with her mother. Mother shows off the Light Spider, explains how OP it is and how she got it. Reveals it after saying that she wants Balon to find the Dark Spider. Thus begins Balon’s journey to find the Dark Spider, but before that, she begins to see her mom use it and sort of go nuts with it. Light to madness, Darkness corrupts. Balon converses with others/herself and eventually decides to confront her about it. Thus happens a battle of Balon trying to defeat it. Nielkov???
- Paewar = father revelation???
- 3+1 get involved? Balon spars with them. She slinks away with the light!spider and the trinity is pissed off.
- Hequera + Wolfen fight Malcolm. They lose. The end. NOOOO. Hequera gets slain by Malcolm. Ends with ‘DIEN.’
Some quick comments:
- Very interesting how I have Lana showing off the Light Spider from the get go.
- The cliffhanger was Dien. I moved that to be an internal part of TCOD. I think if I put it in TMOL it would have stolen a lot of thunder from Balon.
- I don’t remember exactly why Lana wanted the dark spider. I don’t think the destruction of the staves was an original plot point or even an idea until I started getting into TMOL and realizing how apt that felt.
Book 7: DARK
- Dien = Hequera. That sort of existentialist crisis. Ra’uw’la shepards away Hayelon incarnate and tries to deal with it in his own way.
- Malcolm goes after the dark scorp.
- All the while Balon is doing the same.
- Eventually Balon confronts Paewar, explains rationale. Light!Spider is taking its toll on Balon. They spar with the spiders.
- Then Malcolm and Dien show up. Sensed the staves. Paewar and Malcolm duel like OMG cause the staves are wrestling away from him and to the other and it is a mess.
- 3+1 come AGAIN.
- Eventually stuff settles.
- Does Paewar die? IDK.
Some quick comments:
- Way more action.
- I really dislike the plot beats in these original outlines, the canon version is so much better.
- The fates of Lana/Paewar were actually to live, originally. Lana dying was something like I was torn about and then totally committed to. Paewar dying naturally followed.
And now an outline from 2017, prior to really starting TMOL, I think:
2017 TMOL Outline
- Balon awesome intro scene
- The fight ends with Balon pining Kualaszar down. She/he points out her folly at her identity and they break away from the sim.
- Theme is Balon struggling to gain her identity
- She gets stream of consciousness once she accepts that part. After that, its the 3+1 story again.
I think I might have reimagined Balon because I felt like that trope-y Balon just…hmm. Didn’t feel right anymore or was not interesting. I think I was like…it would be straight out of a YA novel. Emo protagonist torn between ‘good’ and ‘bad’. So Balon went from sort of somber / sketchy to well…Balon. Bombastic Balon, making a strong entrance and really declaring who she is unflinchingly. It felt like a strong contrast to the other characters and a great way to define her quickly.
As for what defined Balon is…well…
Balon as She Is
Balon is…well…not settled, never settled. She may seem settled or that she has ‘calmed down’ at various points in her arc, but just as she does…something else happens and Balon sort of ‘reverts’ back into a more caustic state. She has meditative/retrospective calm periods and periods of her being sort of antogonizing and irritable. And the periods in between.
Admittedly, we haven’t really seen Balon in a post-beginning arc state. Yes, The Madness of Light was her introduction into the Trinity and the One, but her main driver/quest is only truly resolved with the close of Amethyst Shards. We’ve seen King before the Malnoren reveal, during, right after, a bit after, and long after. We’ve seen him through all stages of acceptance and ownership (especially seen in Amethyst Shards!). Balon’s acceptance is all over the place because her quest/driver has gone all over the place and has been more drawn out.
By her quest/driver I mean sorting out the dogma of dark/light. Finishing what her mother started…or not…or defeating Malcolm Zfnoc…or not… Or, as it is settled in Amethyst Shards, realizing nothing needs to happen and everything is fine as is. That is a moment of her letting and being done with her quest/work. Things are fine, everything is as it ought to be.
But even so, Balon is as she ought to be. Balon is never going to be 100% stable/calm/chill as she is her calm periods and will never be 100% agitated/irritable either. It’s part of her core being. It’s…Twilight.
As Balon herself says in Amethyst Shards:
Twilight is the only balance and there is no balance to it. There is only eternal frustration and agitation and pain and intensity and corruption and madness and all else.
Twilight is balance, but it is not balanced. Balon is herself the balance of dark and light but that does not mean a stable mixture.
This contrasts to my original feelings of Twilight, which are expressed in this old poem. Twilight I saw once as being like a calm balance, but now I see it like Balon. It’s just…a mix of both, for good and bad. It’s balanced and chaos. Chaos and order as one, in a way. It’s not going to be stable.
So Balon will always swing between being enlightened and, well, violent. She’ll start out a book one way then end it another or vice versa. That’s just how she is. She grows but that does not mean committing to one ‘way’. She isn’t suddenly going to wake up and be perfectly at peace…
Well. Speaking of peace.
Peaceful understanding. That’s what Balon had in the Bar of Despair, what she needed. But it was ephemeral. It was a drink, nothing more. I think, to a degree, haxi will always be temporary for Balon.
As it is for us all, though.
But anyway, Balon’s come a long way and I love what she has become and excited to be with her as she continues to grow and never change.
Farrco Character Development Spotlight
Spoilers for everything major I’ve written beyond Amethyst Shards. Do not read if you don’t know what I mean by this.
Spellbinder Character Development Spotlight
This is less going to be a character development post for Spellbinder but an analysis into her character, both meta and not. Personality, physical form, how she fits into the team, and so on. I don’t have much else to introduce with so let’s get started diving into her being.