Character study: Beric Wheelwright

He was quiet for a few seconds, growing steadily redder, before he found the courage to spit it out all in a rush.

“The literature teacher at my secondary school had rather a thing for me. We got it on regular for several years.”

My eyes stretched. “How old were you?”

“Oh… started when I was thirteen. Ended at sixteen, when I left the school altogether.” He wrinkled his lip in thought. “Spent a lot of time getting myself into juvvie, that last year, so’s I wouldnae have to see her.”

“Beric, that’s awful.”

“No, no no,” he said quellingly. “It wasnae that at all. I was proud as a cock and grateful as a one-eyed whore for the attention. Only I knew I shouldn’t be, aye? That was the problem. I couldnae enjoy it.”

Beric Wheelwright appears in all three Settlement novels, and he is one of my favorite characters to write. Moreso than many of the other secondary characters, he has evolved in each book. By the third one the reader realizes that he is a chameleon of a personality, though there are some consistent traits at the bottom of him which lead to the ever-changing nature.

Let’s have some physical statistics on him, shall we?

Name: Beric Wheelwright
Born in: Leith, Scotland
Height: 6’3″
Build: lanky, ropy, skinny, clumsy
Coloring: blond hair which he grows long, pale skin
Marks: tattoos up and down one arm

The first scene in which I wrote anything about Beric was the one in which he tells his campfire story, about his mates Andy and Rabbie and the wild shot-gun car chase the three of them get involved in over a local girl named Nora. I didn’t know why I was including the story at the time, except that it is a true story, one from my husband’s high school days (yes, truly, it is a miracle the man survived to marry me), and I thought it was a good one.

From that scene, I have extrapolated the rough shape of Beric’s life, pre-transportation. He was one of several children in a working-class rural family. He is clever. At school, he was bored out of his gourd, unstimulated and unchallenged, so he got into trouble to keep himself busy.

Throughout Dark and Deep I saw Beric as, if you’ll forgive my labels, a nerd. He has the cluster of logical talents: machinery, music, and foreign languages. He doesn’t have much physical prowess. In crowds, he acts the clown.

Some time in between Dark and Deep and Promises to Keep, I remembered such a person who I used to know. His name was Jason. He was in the computer science program with me, and he was very good with computers. We were also in French classes together, and along with another girl who was in the biology program, we were a regular Three Caballeros.

It was at the beginning of our sophomore year that Jason showed his true colors to me. He had just done me the huge favor of buying and delivering a new computer game for me, and stayed to watch me install it on my computer. He complained about his summer misadventures, while I did. He had had a girlfriend. Then he had accidentally slept with someone else. Then, in the crap-storm that ensued, he had accidentally slept with someone else.

That was when I realized that people are capable of putting up completely segregated faces of themselves, to different people. Up until then, it hadn’t occurred to me that Jason could have a girlfriend, much less accidentally cheat on her. Twice.

Without sharing too many spoilers about Beric’s character development, I have kept Jason in mind while I write him.

Here is a tidbit for you: the reason Beric volunteered for transportation. He doesn’t make much sense as a settler, does he? As he says in Promises to Keep, “I lived in the country, but I didnae go out in it.” Well, that was all too true. Beric the hooligan managed to get a local politician’s daughter in hot water, in the Old World. While it was easy for daddy to extricate her from the trouble, Beric remained as a problematic blabbermouth. The politician trumped up some serious criminal charges against him, and offered him an out of court settlement: volunteer for transportation, or go to prison for the rest of his life.

Beric agreed to transportation.

I never write my characters based on a specific actor or actress, but if I had to cast Beric Wheelwright for a movie, the first screen test would go to Blake Harrison.

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