By this point you’ve probably realized that Heat Wave is told from two different perspectives: Double Helix, a member of Project Sumter, and Open Circuit, a wanted man. You’ve probably also noticed that so far, Helix has had more time in the driver’s seat than Circuit has. You can expect that pattern to continue, at least for the near future. But here’s a fun fact: When I originally had the idea for these two characters I actually intended for Circuit to provide most of the perspective.
Helix is pretty much an accidental viewpoint character. I never even intended to use him to provide perspective. When I first created him, Helix existed pretty much entirely to provide a foil for Circuit. So how did he wind up becoming the primary point of view?
Well, as you might already suspecte, it had very little to do with his character and a lot to do with Circuit, and a little bit with the needs of the story (Circuit and Helix existed in a number of forms before they found a home in the world of Project Sumter.)
The protagonists of Heat Wave started off in a series of unpublished short stories told from the perspective of Circuit that served to help me refine their voices and establish many of their important character traits. I hadn’t been working with Circuit and Helix long when I came to realize that, while Circuit could be fun to write and has a unique way of looking at the world, prolonged exposure to him steals much of his charm.
For one thing, he’s very superior and sooner or later your going to get the feeling that he’s looking down on you for something or another (which is understandable, because he is.) For another, he’s not very sympathetic to others, which also serves to make him hard to sympathize with. But most of all, he’s given to sermonizing on the importance of his own point of view, which can really get dull.
Worse, he wouldn’t be as effective a character as he is without those qualities, so I couldn’t simply sort through a box of writer’s tricks for replacement quirks. Circuit really needs to be a sanctimonious, arrogant know-it-all in order for Heat Wave and some of the ensuing stories to work.
In addition it quickly became clear to me that only showing things from Circuit’s point of view wasn’t really working either. The stories needed some kind of insight into how Circuit’s enemies were working against him to really be effective, and Circuit himself couldn’t provide that insight without introducing a whole new host of problems (like, how does Circuit even have trouble with Helix if he understands him so well?)
When Project Sumter was added to the mix to keep track of talents and serve as an the organizational foil for Circuit, it only seemed natural to have a point of view on that side of things. Helix, as the most thoroughly established character in the story after Circuit, was the natural candidate.
As the story progressed Helix came to take more and more narrative time away from Circuit, in part because he has the more interesting early parts of the story and in part because Circuit with time on his hands is truly obnoxious. If you enjoyed Circuit’s opening narrative, worry not! Once he has something constructive to do it will be safe to let him out more often. In the meantime, hopefully Helix will be able to keep your attention.