Shadowed Fate: Character commentary: Corvo Attano

*Edit 6/20/14:

Some of this info has been altered or has evolved. Sometimes a story may take a different direction than intended, or a character will suddenly make different choices and have different motivations. But rather than change this entry entirely, just take the info here with a giant grain of salt :D.  This was more of an exercise anyway…something that escapes one person who seems to think this was some stone-written character profile. Well, some folks aren’t the brightest, are they?

Shamelessly copying the character intro topic from my pals over on the Crackin’ The Whip blog, and keeping with tradition of expanding on chapters I’ve just submitted to FF.net and AO3, I’m exploring my MC of Shadowed Fate: Corvo Attano.

In the game Dishonored, Corvo never says a word. Developers seem to think (as with the first Dead Space and Isaac Clark) that a voiceless protagonist puts the player in their place. Not really…I mean it does, but there’s a reason Daud (who is voiced by the talented Michael Madson) is a mite more popular despite his questionable actions in the game. He has a personality. He has flaws. He is seeking redemption in the Knife of Dunwall and Brigmore Witches DLCs. Players identify with Daud. He is enjoyable to watch.

In fanfiction, writers have the opportunity to uh, fix things the developers didn’t get right. Or to explore the eternal question “what if?” It’s a powerful lure, that “what if”, and is why writers/fans who love the source material so much want to play in that sandbox.

Anyway, this isn’t a post about why fanfiction writers write fanfiction. This is about turning a voiceless character into something three dimensional.

So, Corvo Attano. Lord Protector of the Empress and betrayed by the people he trusted – not only once, but twice. Granted, a different group of people, but you’d think he’d would have learned his lesson the first time around.

Anyway, my Corvo is basically Nathan Gale from my original novel. Nathan 1.0 is what I like to call him. And if Nathan 1.0 had grown up in the Dishonored world, Corvo Attano is what you’d get. This enables me to play around with characterization and tweak some of Nathan’s quirks as Corvo. My original novel will feature Nathan 2.0, one who is on present day Earth and deals with his own set of traumatic events, but Nathan 1.0 will still be lurking underneath.

As Corvo, Nathan has a ruthless streak molded by witnessing the murder of a woman he loved and protected, betrayal by the people he trusted, and six months being tortured and beaten in a harsh prison. So when my Nathan/Corvo breaks out (with some help from the Loyalists), he’s pissed. He’s had all that time to stew and brood, and plot nasty horrible fates to those who’ve wronged him. Everything he loved is gone, except for Emily, the Empress’s daughter, but he has no idea where she is or if she’s even alive.

During the events of the Dishonored, my Corvo/Nathan goes on what I call a “quiet rampage”. His expertise lies in stealth, and he uses that to surprise his targets, often combining the magic the Outsider gives him to “chain kill” everyone in his path. Everyone except servants, survivors, the idiot nobles at the Boyle party, and of course, Sam, even when he turns on Corvo at Kingsparrow Island.

Under that overturned boat on the pub’s beach, Corvo had played Sam’s audiograph with a heavy heart. “I carry death wherever I go, it seems.” The words brought more than a little guilt, and more than a little shame. My Corvo wondered why Sam never voiced his concerns, and seemed quite fine with the way he handled things – even saying all his targets deserved their fates. But then, my Corvo never killed the main targets. Their non-lethal outcomes were often worse than death, and that suited my Corvo just fine.

But when Emily was found and brought to The Hound’s Pit pub, my Corvo’s actions influenced her in darker ways than he anticipated. The disturbing drawings, the cold things she said. They bothered him. Yet, he couldn’t let go of his anger. He couldn’t stop seeking revenge. And in the end, the collage of his mask Emily spread on his bedroom wall confirmed his worst fears. He had created a monster. What kind of merciless Empress would she be? How would Dunwall fare under such a ruler?

And this is what led to a spontaneous decision at the Lighthouse. He could have easily saved her, but he took a deliberate step forward and froze. Havelock fell, and Emily’s screams still haunt him. At the time of my story, Corvo can’t reconcile what he did, what he allowed to happen, and this is made worse by Daud.

Though Daud had killed Emily’s mother in front of her, and gave her to the morally corrupted Pendleton twins, Daud ends up saving Emily from being possessed by a witch named Delilah. Corvo finds this out when he and Daud meet again in Serkonos prior to the events in Shadowed Fate. Back in Dunwall, Corvo spared Daud because of his confession. Killing the Empress hadn’t been a personal vendetta, but a job, and one Daud regretted with all his heart. And now he can’t bring himself to hate Daud, or blame him for killing Jessamine. Corvo plans to keep Daud from discovering what really happened at the Lighthouse.

In Shadowed Fate, Corvo has been in Serkonos for five years. Daud and he are estranged due to Daud’s interest in the Outsider’s Mark, and the being himself. Corvo blames the Outsider for many things and believes he is the underlying cause for much of the Empire’s trouble. In Corvo’s mind, the Outsider is as guilty as the Abby of the Everyman, and in some ways worse.

During the first chapter, Corvo is on a mission from the Duke. Purge the Abby. The backstory here is that Corvo and the Duke have had several discussions about the Outsider and the Overseers, and are in agreement that both need to go. Over the years, the Duke has been secretly meeting with other like-minded leaders and parliament members in the hopes of gaining allies should Serkonos succeed from the Empire. And now, with the Fugue Feast winding down, this is the perfect opportunity to strike. Corvo goes at this alone (because he’s more than capable)  to kill the High Overseer, while back in the capital, the Grand Guard are killing every Overseer in sight.

During the scene, we have Corvo fluctuating between apathy and regret. The Oracle is the first sign that he’s not some merciless killer, but a man with a duty he finds difficult to carry out. He must constantly psyche himself up, rationalize what he’s doing. Even with Fairchild, he keeps reminding himself that this is a Bad Man, and Look At What He Did in order to continue with the torture. But in a sense, this works against him. If Corvo would have been more stoic and professional, he would have shot Fairchild and avoided the ambush waiting for him in chapter 2. Because he allowed his emotions to dictate his actions, he sets himself up for more pain and misery.

Then the frustration. I have Corvo venting quite a bit. I think this quote:

“You deserve this, and you deserve more — all of you! Liars and hypocrites, burning so-called heretics, torturing innocent people and children! And for what? Power? Order? You don’t even know!”

And this one:

“It’s just a game, isn’t it? The Outsider verses the Overseers. The bastard probably made you out of boredom, and now he can’t control you. So it’s up to the Marked to do his dirty work, to keep this world from falling into the Void because of your damned war!”

Pretty much spells it out that Corvo is fed up. He’s had it with the state of the world and the harassment of the Overseers. He’s sick of the Outsider’s meddling and leading people to their deaths. In his mind, the Outsider deserves some blame. Bestowing magic on a human is like giving a two-year old a loaded pistol.  The two-year old will shoot either his foot off or someone else’s.  It’s a given. Or maybe the kid won’t. Either way, wouldn’t you look at the jerk who gave the kid a loaded gun like: WTF dude? Why did you do that?

And this discontent only gets worse as the story goes on. But unbeknownst to Corvo, the Outsider is manipulating events and in a sense, herding Corvo to a certain fate. Corvo is a pawn, but a special one, something the Outsider hasn’t dealt with before, and this novelty intrigues him.

In chapter 3*, the Outsider pays Corvo a long overdue visit, and displays some facets of his character not seen in the Dishonored game. It’s always a challenge to take an established character and give them new motivations and situations they’ve never dealt with before.

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One Response to Shadowed Fate: Character commentary: Corvo Attano

  1. B. Corp says:

    The Silent Hero type is even a trope unto itself. I suppose some kind of artistic justification is possible, but at the simplest of levels, it allows the devs not to bother with dialog trees 😛 so if anything, it’s more art from adversity.

    Interesting bit with the character reuse, and how you filled the (more or less) blank Corvo with the essence of Nathan. I’m trying to get a kind of “character stable” myself- not my idea, one of the many books on writing out there phrased it as such. And it was funny, so I committed it to memory. Get some characters, be it from real life or pre-existing stories, change them up a bit, or, better, try to distill some kind of central archetype to them, and then add variance from the archetype when using the character in a story.

    In my case though, I go the other way to what you have here. Rather than take a character of mine and place them as a character in a fanfic, I’m rather more apt to take an existing character and change them. I know no shame 😛

    Well, that, and I like to keep awareness of my influences. As Einstein said, the key to originality is to hide your sources. From yourself as well, I might add.

    Anyway, seems like Corvo (hence Nathan) is going to be the kind of powerful character that has all kinds of flaws to get himself in all kinds of trouble. What yer preppin’?

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