Imaginative Wacky Funfest: Featuring Salieri

Imaginative Wacky Funfest chronicles my adventures in character and world-building. 

Salieri Conti is one of my favorite characters, and yet, he is one of the hardest to talk about.

It's not that I have trouble articulating why I like him. It's just much easier to do so in my head than aloud (or on paper). I think the first factor is that he's, well, hot. And for a girl with more than one shy bone in her body, talking about hot guys, even fictional ones, is awkward. Imagine talking about Mr. Smok'n Hot with your parents in the room. Now, multiple that times four, and you've got an idea of what talking about your own fantasy creation. Cough. Shift.

Maybe this is just a phase I'll grow out of.

But now that I've done my awkward dance of an opening paragraph, let's talk about hot vampires.

There's a lot of talk about why vampires are a hot topic right now. I'm not going to bother with that here. All I can talk about is why vampires have an extra notch of sex appeal. I think it's an animal thing, like enjoying how someone smells. I think everyone wants to be desired, and a vampire just introduces another element to desire—your taste. Follow me? It's irrational and random—how would I smell or taste, anyway?—and another factor beyond our bodies and our minds that someone can be attracted to.

It's from this frame of mind that Salieri's vampirehood sprung.

But one thing I cannot emphasize enough is that Salieri's vampirehood is a tertiary part of his character.  It's one of the reasons his blood-sucking isn't mentioned directly until the second half of the novel. There's a lot of joking, teasing, and dancing around the fact that he eats people because there's so much more to worry about. Unlike Twilight or Interview with a Vampire, Salieri's existence as a vampire isn't a point of conflict. It's just a fact.

In Mabel's universe, vampirism is a symptom of extreme narcissism and a dangerous superiority complex.

The other things that define Salieri are very, well,  human. Salieri loves being handsome. Who noticed that his club is named Narcissus? He very much basks in the glow of his own looks, he's flirty, and he knows how he affects others. Which is why that opening paragraph above is so perfect for him. He loves music, especially pop music, recording artists, and creating recording devices. He's a member of the Technovampiric Guild, so he's a bit of an engineering genius, but...

It's not what he wants. Salieri wants more than anything to impress Montiere and to fall back in his good graces. He doesn't know why he fell out of them in the first place. He's not in love with Montiere, but it's hero worship. Like many of the vampires, Salieri sees Montiere as a surrogate God and father all rolled into one. He will do anything to please him.

The thing that makes Salieri powerful, I think, is that he's beautiful and brilliant, everything that we instinctively believe will cause someone to succeed. But in Mabel's City, Salieri cannot win at the one thing he truly wants. Taking a winner and making them a loser is emotionally charged.

But onto happier things! Salieri is the bizarre descendent of several characters, especially Sebastian from The Devil in Winter (another blond rake with fun dialogue),  Finnick from The Hunger Games (remember that sugar cube scene? Yeah, me too!), and Damon from The Vampire Diaries (a perpetual loser in love and scheming), and of course, Antonio Salieri from Amadeus. In fact, a lot of characters came to mind that could have influenced the gumbo that is Salieri. I have read Shaffer's play and seen the movie several times. Amadeus has inspired me so much that  I've always wanted to explore the winner/loser dynamic in my work. While Salieri's appearance and dialog are inspired from other places, this burning desire to be noticed and to lash out at forces beyond his control... This is very much a product of Amadeus. Which is why Salieri shares the name with the main character of the play.

Why is Salieri blond? Because I —like Montiere— have a soft spot them. Why not? He has to look like something. I originally designed Salieri, and then designed Montiere to be a contrast. Whereas Montiere has dark hair and brown eyes, Salieri is blond-haired and blue-eyed. No one directly inspired his appearance, but because photos are fun...

Why is Legolas here? Because it's my blog and I can have all the Legolas pictures I want. 
For the most part, my iTunes library is constructed out of film and video music, with a healthy smattering of classical music. Some jazz too. But if you venture into the dark corners of my iTunes, you will encounter what I call the "Salieri Conti" playlist. This playlist is a sampling of the frothy, addictive, popular stuff he loves.

It's fun to listen to different stuff every now and then, and there's a guilty pleasure in Salieri's playlist. I imagine he's constantly playing with his own playlists, but here's some of the tracks in my iTunes with his name on them:

Moves Like Jagger
Family Affair
Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger
We No Speak Americano
The Scientist

Too Close deserves a very special mention, as much of The Wildfire Affair, especially the climax, was written to it.

Unlike with film or classical music, I can burn out pop songs. I'll often listen to them on repeat as I hammer out scenes, sometimes over a hundred times. But they wear out easily and drift into parts of my library that I don't touch. I'm not sure why this happens, but it often feels like there's simply more to listen to with classical music. It's thicker, deeper, and harder to wear down. So, while this is most of the Mabel's City Salieri Conti playlist, most of these songs are worn and won't be used in the next books.

(USC has wonderful interactive media and music industry programs, and I have friends in both programs, so that explain's Salieri's majors. Another attachment to music.)

I think the exciting thing about writing Mabel's City is that this is the first time I have written a full character arc. It's the first time I feel that I've started convincingly with a person, then have them transformed by the end of a book. Character arcs aren't necessary for characters to be awesome, but it's quite an experience actually writing one. Whereas Mabel transforms over the course of Mabel's City to become the powerful witch, Salieri transforms over the course of the series, and his story is just beginning.

Writing this post reminded me of how much Montiere has influenced Salieri's development. I'll have to do a post on my villain...