Raisa Ilyushkin

Creating the Protagonist

        Every novel needs a hero. The main character meets the villain, triumphs over the challenges, and gets the prize.scientistThe heroine was the first thing that came to mind before writing Angel of Mortality, even before the plot, premise, venue, or genre.

        Raisa Ilyushkin, a character in an international intrigue novel I am writing, was recommended as chief scientist at a chemical company by her aunt, Oksana. I decided to follow Raisa’s career.

        The only things I knew about her were that she was born in Ukraine, thirty years old, and had a Ph. D. in biochemistry from a Russian university. I looked at the lives of two Nobel Prize winners in Physics and Chemistry, Marie Curie and Barbara McClintock, to help formulate her personality. I wanted Raisa to show emotion and appear feminine to create a believable character for the novel. On the fifth attempt, I rewrote the novel in first person present tense to make her presence more intimate.

        Several events influenced her emotions, including living through the Russia/Ukrainian war in the heavily bombarded Donbass region; a failed love affair with a Moscow notable, including an early-term abortion; an attachment to the Eastern Orthodox church; and meeting her future husband in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

        It took me seven rewrites to find her voice and inner soul, but by the time I finished, I knew her history and personality as well as if she were my sister and I had grown up with her. I had a deep understanding of what motivated her and drove her actions. She begins the novel with her head deeply entrenched in science, and concludes it with her soul dedicated to the betterment of humanity.

        The realization that her invention, designed to help humanity, can be used by evil individuals to do so much harm, changes her character significantly throughout the novel. The revelation to Alfred Nobel that the dynamite he invented could be used for nefarious purposes, as well as constructive ones, such as clearing rocks for construction, is similar.

        Raisa does not complete her arc in the novel. However, the defeat of her enemy, Pavlovich, and the birth of her daughter, Zvezda, give her the opportunity to free her inner child and express her emotions.

        The awakening of the xenoborg, EVE, to its potential to reshape the Earth and move beyond the narrow boundaries proscribed by Raisa sets the stage for the xenoborg’s future evolution (and, perhaps, a future novel).

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