Adrift Character Spotlight – Tetlekar

”Highly Unorthodox”

Human, yet machine. Alive, yet timeless. Real, yet synthetic. Feeling, yet not fully comprehending. 

A very challenging character to write; I always wanted to have an android/robotic character with an actual personality in a story, yet avoid the usual tropes they usually come with, as well as avoiding both ends of the spectrum (making him too robotic or too human-like). So, instead of taking the risk of trying to create something entirely new or working with an established trope, I decided to explore one particular theme I’ve always liked with this kind of character: the sentient machine, previously bound by its restrictions or directives to perform certain tasks or obey certain individuals, suddenly finding itself both outside of such constraints and being allowed to develop a personality of its own; struggling every step to make sense of the world it now has access to and the mystery of its own emotions, yet never being completely free of from its intended purpose.

As the oldest survivor of the Phylactery, he does his best to provide both his wisdom and skills to prevent the group from struggling with the same obstacles he had at the start. However, he’s unable to understand certain parts of other beings’ behavior (biases, hatred, love, depression) as he simply unable to quantify them with a clear reasoning through a machine’s logic. This serves as his own Achilles Heel, preventing him from fully understanding the ”Why?” behind a lot of things, such as Cole’s curiosity or Haudrica’s grudges, unable to realize that living beings are just illogical at times.

Unlike the rest of the cast, however, his journey is less about survival and more about self-discovery, as he wasn’t ”born” with his sapience, he was granted it at certain point, and had to thread ahead with no guidance other than his acquired experience, and he bears the scars of this endeavors, both intrinsically and outwardly. 

However, despite of his acquired sapience and experience as an independent being, his original programing remains a central part behavior; he’s a Service Droid at the core, and even though he would be more than able of surviving on his own, his original program creates within him a compulsion that vies him to gather other survivors and help them, not as a leader, but as an advisor. It was this that led to him to settle on the NVSC9 and making it everyone’s subsequent home. The same applies to his never-dwindling loyalty and devotion to his Mistress, whose existence gives his life a ”goal” to work towards, far beyond day-to-day survival, but that he choose to keep (mostly) secret from others.

The main idea behind his character is rather simple; something familiar and human-like, yet at the same time not quite human. You could say he threads the outer edges of the Uncanny Valley, never going in or out of it; human enough to be relatable yet robotic enough to feel ”off”, with his unnatural dialogue and behavior being key points. (Btw, like most of the cast, his name is completely random; first cluster of letters I could punch as I wrote…)

Undoubtedly, the hardest part of writing him is his dialogue; he’s second only to Zalura in dialogue difficulty. I try to use as little contractions as possible, and try to employ a rather ”verbose lexicon”, which shows a character that learned his language not from other people, but from a great number of classical literature and the like, yet not so overly complex that readers can’t understand him.

I usually phrase, rephrase and rewrite his sentences a lot until they ”feel” right (and I DO admit I mixed a bit of ” The Spock” trope in his character, and not entirely unconsciously…) and then trust my proofreaders to give it a ”normal people’s words” check. 

So, as usual I ask the questions, this time chiefly the second one: What is that you find engaging in Tetlekar? Is his dialogue understandable, or did I go overboard? Do you feel he is a relatable character? Is there something specific of him that’s the main point of interest? Any details in particular you might want to know about him? I’d like to hear your thoughts on this at the comments.

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