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The Curious Case of Savannah Rivers

A little bit of character background today on one of my favorites in the entire Lord of Columbia Series: Savannah Rivers. If there’s one character that I consider a journeyman, or in this case, a journeywoman, it’s Savannah.

And no, I don’t mean journeywoman as in Savannah bouncing around from place to place in the Lord of Columbia Series.

Also, when I’m talking about character background, I don’t mean background in the same way as I would, say, giving information on the character’s life before the events of the story.

Because Savannah literally came from a different story.

Comeback Kid

Okay, so here’s a confession: Before I even got into detail regarding Northern Knights, there was another novel I had written; one I never published because, well, its predictability just isn’t going to win over readers, except if you’re one of those insane people who will read and like just about anything—weird!

No, I wrote a novel called Comeback Kid and I was proud of the work. It was the very first novel I ever finished, so obviously I was proud of the feat. Comeback Kid basically talked about a thirty-five-year-old grocery store bagger named Brock Patrick who loses his job on Christmas Eve, is granted a Christmas wish to relive his life where his failures began, and fix what he broke.

Okay, so maybe the premise itself isn’t horrific.

Anyway, a very minor character named Savannah Rivers, a college graduate student dating my main character’s cousin, appears at the Christmas party in one of the opening scenes, bearing the same exact appearance that Savannah has in Northern Knights.

She speaks one line. “Yeah, that’s a very bad habit, Brett.”

Savannah was talking about Brock’s smoking habit and she doesn’t appear again until making a cameo appearance in the book’s final scene.

Now, thirty-five-year-old failure Brock Patrick has a little bit of a thing for the twenty-six-year-old Rivers (we’re talking doctorate students here, so don’t think Brock’s one of those weirdos looking at college girls) and holds it against his cousin that he’s dating a former star college athlete turned graduate student.

By the way, when you read Savannah’s quote, she says ‘Brett,’ so that’s not a typo. It just shows how transparent Brock is to the extended family and anyone else associated with them.

He’s an average nobody who’s a schook, as in the lines of Henry Hill from the movie, Goodfellas.

 

Savannah’s Progression

I don’t know what made me do it, but there was something about this character I absolutely loved. It could’ve been the girl I partially based her on, who was also a college athlete and one of the brightest people I had come across back in December 2015, if my memory serves me right.

The girl was one hell of an athlete, especially for her smallish stature, and she made the perfect physical basis for who Savannah became when she made her way into Lord of Columbia.

Initially, I planned on publishing Comeback Kid, but again, I never felt the novel was good enough, so it’s a finished product that’s been in developmental hell for the past three and a half years.

But anyway, I loved the character, so I wanted to give the kid a cameo in Northern Knights, and when readers read each novel, they would do a double-take when they saw Savannah appearing in each.

At least that was my initial plan.

A cameo appearance, then an exit. She served no other function than to be a bit of a gag, who I wanted to put in each of my books if they held a different genre and story. Again, the reader would’ve known it was a Todd Matthews book because of this random character named Savannah Rivers popping in, saying one or two lines, then disappearing from the work.

 

My Hatred for—Racism

Yes, anyone who knows me will find out early and often I’m a staunch opponent of racism of all kinds. Literally, of all kinds, and I have a broad definition of what racism is.

And it was something I wanted to put into the work just to give the reader a nice feel for what I think of the inexcusable attitudes toward others due to the color of someone’s skin.

But I wanted to go deeper than simply relations between blacks and whites. I wanted to give Savannah the features of the one race in American history that was treated and oppressed more than any other race in America, and that of course was the Native Americans.

Treated like hell simply for inhabiting lands. Massacred in a sense, but not in the way our history books tell us, which lead us to believe whites simply slaughtered them by the thousands.

It was a slower decline and many integrated themselves with whites and other groups as well, diluting the race. However, their numbers were wiped out faster than any other race in recent memory, and to this day, here in 2019, they’re still treated poorly. Again—no other race in American history has received harsher and more unfair treatment than Native America.

So, I had to search for the right character to make this happen. Lira wouldn’t cut it as she already held her own path. Shay and Korra were too popular with the guys, so no one was going to feel sorry for the two girls. I could’ve created another character, but I had already mentioned Savannah, so why not give her a shot and expand the kid’s role?

Not to mention the girl I based her on already shared several features of Native Americans, with the dark hair, facial structure, and skin tone. Whether she actually had Native blood in her I’ll never know, but either way, she was a perfect fit, for the most part.

So I came up with a girl who was only attending Summit University to play the game of shotball in college because despite her amazing shotball skills, no school would recruit her because of her Native Columbian heritage, only she was a half-blood, which made her and her family even more of an outcast.

 

Minor or Major?

But then again, I only wanted Savannah to be a minor plotline. Someone who played shotball well and nothing more. Much like the same role Amy Still, another player for the shotball team, was in.

Then, I wanted to place a scene in the book that’s so serious I based an entire article on it in my Libertarian Influences section and I needed a central character for such a scene.

Lira’s role was set. And again, neither Shay nor Korra exhibited characteristics to make an audience feel for them.

So, I turned to Savannah to be the center part of this major scene, and in doing so, would launch a character I never intended to launch into one of the more important characters of the entire Series, sending a rippling effect through the thing that upon finishing my first drafts of Raven’s Flock, couldn’t be happier about.

And yes, it’s true. A girl who started off as a very minor character in another book crossed over into another, initially intended to be a minor or even a one-time character slowly developed and evolved into one of the most important people in Lord of Columbia.

So, one must ask themselves if these supposedly random photos bear any relevance to the article. In the case of my own influences, it bears A LOT of relevance, and that’s about as vague as I’ll get in this little game of pictionary.

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Published inLord of Columbia

4 Comments

  1. I love the detailed explanation you have given in this article It is so interesting to me, a novice writer myself, to hear the thought pattern behind another(more experienced and talented!) writer’s work and character development. I love that you have weaved a character through your work that can be identified by your fans. I think you should think about publishing that book! You really never know. Some of my own work, the ones I am most critical of, have ended up being some of my biggest hits with readers. Thanks for a great read!

    • Thanks, Ashley and yeah, definitely a little bit of a different thought pattern here. I might actually give the book away to my email subscribers; I just have to locate it. It’s either on my old laptop or it’s hiding somewhere in my Google Docs.

  2. StevieStevie

    Hey Todd, 

    That was such a cool story to hear how Savannah developed over time.

    It’s really interesting to get inside your head for a bit and your mentality when writing your books and developing your characters and how they are somewhat like an extension of yourself.

    I love the idea of the cameo appearance in the books too, makes me laugh a little, thinking that she could just pop in to say “hi” once in a while.

    That was a nice insight to your creative thinking.

    Thank you

    Stevie

    • Todd MatthewsTodd Matthews

      And I might even insert someone like Savannah to make cameos in other works, along with other characters as well, especially if I ever decide to somehow entwine a few of my series’. I think readers really enjoy that. 

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