I’m working, if I may use the term “working” very loosely, on the sequel to my novel Blood Justice which I know you all loved when you read it. A character in the sequel is a magician. Not a Ricky Jay, D Copperfield or Houdini illusion/escapist type. A Sorcerer using real magic power. He was born with the power, brought up to use it, to wield it with precision and skill. A Sorcerer was what he was. Unfortunately, he wanted to be the most powerful Sorcerer/Witch. So he went up against The most powerful Witch, and lost. As punishment for going against her, and all the bad things he did to get to go against her, she took away his Magic. She reached inside him, literally, and took all but a tiny fraction of his magical power.
So without Magic, who was he? Born and raised with it, Magic was all he knew. He was a Sorcerer, suddenly deprived of what made him a Sorcerer. What if a life long writer lost his/her ability to write, a sailor to sail, an accountant his ability to count, a politician his ability to…(oh, do politicians have abilities?) a plumber his ability to plumb, an electrician his ability to spark – what would they do to reinvent themselves?
I’m not talking about their jobs, millions are going through that right now, but their identities, how they see themselves when looking in the mirror, their talent, gift, mind-set. How would you cope with this loss? Would it devastate you with no possibility of recovery? Would you turn to booze, drugs, domestic abuse, staring out a window in a depressed stupor, suicide? If someone called your name would you answer, “He doesn’t live here anymore. No forwarding address.”
As everyone has a different version of their identity, as opposed to everybody else’s version, they would also have different ways of coping with its loss. Some would take it badly, some sadly, some might relish the chance to forge a new identity. Especially if they didn’t like the one they had. A second chance. Are you what you do, or what you are? How many of you might go for a chance to change that? Would you really? Do you have friends who would help you through the transition? Would they still be your friends after you sprouted those shiny new butterfly wings? Who would you rather be if you aren’t one of the few who are happy, “just the way they are?” You might ask that person in the mirror what they think. If you’re not afraid to talk to strangers.
What if you were my sorcerer? In my story the Sorcerer is a passing character probably not seen again until the next sequel. But what if you were writing his story? How would he react? Slink away to obscurity? Become a kid’s birthday party magician? A used car salesman? Or get mad? Maybe go to the new second wand in the real magic world and make a deal. Maybe go to the bad guys (Vampires) he worked with and make some kind of deal. Or maybe he would slink off, but not to oblivion – To some of the magical characters and/or entities and/or friends he met on his journey up the sorcery power ladder to plan his triumphant revenge.
There are plenty of stories about people losing their memories. What if it was an alien on a raw colony world. The Humans take it in and treat it as human until it believes it’s one of them, until others of his kind come looking for him. Who would it chose – his human family or his kind who are alien to him?
What if it was a human taken in by aliens?
What if you were hit man on the run? New life, new family, new identity. A well-worn story line. But what if the ghosts of his or her victims took over his body and made him discover how his murders affected certain survivors. Then made him take care of his victims’ unfinished business, including making sure loved ones were taken care of with money obtained from sometimes (well, mostly) unsavory sources or murderous revenge, or….
A few places that have dealt with this theme: Quantum Leap TV show, the novel Memory by Donald Westlake. ( A fairly depressing book, but it deals with the identity issue straight on.) A novel by (I think) David Morell about a spy who had so many identities he didn’t know which one was real. In my novel Fear Killer, ( see sidebar)Emily Perrit is definitly having an identity crisis.
So how does the identity you have in your head stack up to the one everyone else sees? And what are you going to do about it? Who ever you are.