This post will be the same deal as my last one on Hayashi Seiko. For those that aren’t interested in looking at the last post, here are the rules I’ve set for myself.
The point of this post isn’t to talk about the character as they currently exist in the story, but rather to touch on how my concept of the character changed over time as a result of the setting switch and other decisions I made over the course of writing. No plot details about In Honor’s Shadow will be revealed, so you don’t have to worry about spoilers, however I will mention story points from earlier conceptions of the story that were ultimately cut for various reasons.
This is Shiro in his modern incarnation in the book. His evolution was quite different from Hayashi Seiko’s. Her character is radically different on a personal level from her original incarnation, but retains the same general background as nobility of some influence. By contrast, Shiro’s character and background are remarkably different from the original concept.
Originally named Albin (a name that now seems so bad to me it almost makes me cringe), this character was born a peasant in a rural medieval village. In his backstory, he and a number of his friends joined a crusade to retake the holy land, during which he managed to distinguish himself enough to be knighted. Eventually, he and his friends became disillusioned with the crusade and returned home only to discover their village had been wiped out during their absence.
At his core, Albin is a grim character. He joined the crusade for adventure, but instead of finding glory he became sickened by the methods employed by some of the crusading nobles. He was knighted, then found himself shut out of noble circles because of his low birth. He returns home to find out that everything he knew while growing up was no more, and without any support network he and his friends are forced to become mercenaries to support themselves.
By the beginning of the book, Albin would have a very pessimistic outlook on the world, and on how he expects others to treat him. The few friends who survived the crusade with him are the only ones he truly cares about, having taken the perspective that they are the only ones he can trust when the rest of the world is doing its best to destroy them. This made him a character who is rabidly loyal to those he personally cares about, but also makes him willing to take questionable actions to make sure those he cares for are given their due.
This is probably where I should say that Albin was intended to be a bad person, but one who is sympathetic and not beyond redemption. His distrust for the world makes him willing to do terrible things to others, but his experience has been that everyone is merely trying to exploit him and his friends. But this has also made him very protective of those he feels responsible for, which would ultimately be a path he could take to growing to a better person.
A large part of Albin’s character involved the entourage he’d gathered during the crusades, including a couple of friends that had survived the fighting with him and a “heathen” that had become one of his followers due to circumstance. While this concept stuck with his character when I made the switch to Shiro, I altered it to having those that follow him be something he gathers after the story begins (within the first third of his story) to help make him more of an independent person.
Major changes to his background include making him a noble from birth as he was born into the samurai caste (although he was born very low ranking in the caste). While both Shiro and Albin have suffered loss during their lives, Shiro borders closer to a broken ace than someone who is outright antagonistic to most of the world. This isn’t to say he lacks any bitterness, but rather by the time the book has started he’s reached a sort of reluctant acceptance.
This creates a sharp difference from Albin’s character. Although they are both outcasts, Albin is looking to lay claim to what he can in any way possible (at least initially), because that is how he’s come to believe the world works. Shiro, however, is more passive as he views his status as more akin to a penance that—even if undeserved—once complete could lead to his reintegration to society.