Anatomy of a Character: Antonia Milos

In Human X, the character of Antonia Milos is a textbook example of the organic way I develop characters, especially my supporting cast. I put a fair amount of a planning into my major characters, while still giving them room to develop with the story. I knew who Colin Jeffries was and where he had come from before I wrote a single word. When I started typing chapter one, however, Antonia Milos didn’t even exist. In fact, when I typed the words “Chapter Two,” she still didn’t exist.

Before I finished chapter two, however, I needed to fill in a bit of Collin Jeffries’ back story. He was a lawyer, and a hot-shot Beltway shyster at that, so he needed to work for a big fancy-pants law firm. I reached into my brain for a nice Ellis Island goulash of names to put on the letterhead: Hatcher, Linney, and Milos. Perfect. Anglo Saxon, Irish, and Greek. Job done.

Not quite. A few paragraphs later I needed to recount the results of a conversation between two of the partners, so in that moment, she became Ms. Milos. Before I typed that, the third partner had been basically sexless. Her X or Y chromosome had been a bit like Schrodinger’s Cat. Until I made that decision, she was neither male nor female.

Even so, at this point Ms. Milos was little more than two X chromosomes with a name and a reserved parking spot, at least on the page. In my mind, she was starting to take shape. It was still blurry, but she already cut an elegant silhouette. Then came a key scene maybe a third of the way through the book, which spins the story off into a new direction, and I knew that Ms. Milos had to step on stage.

It was here that Antonio Milos gained a first name and a physical presence. And what a presence it was.

Antonia Milos was almost as tall as Colin, and one associate had covertly compared her to a professional volleyball player. She was pushing sixty if not past it, looked forty-five and, as far as Colin could tell, not one strand of her jet-black hair came from a bottle.

“They should put her picture on the Greek flag,” Sean Linney, her follow partner at the firm, had once told Colin over dinner. Whatever her background, Antonia Milos always sailed through the multiple strata of Washington’s political, business, and legal communities with the grace of a three-masted schooner at full sail.

At this point, I was actually crushing on this woman a bit, and somewhat disappointed she wasn’t real. Leaving the sad state of my personal life out of this, the scene also established that Antonia Milos’ interest in Colin is as much that of a lifelong friend than as a boss. Behind the dignified and refined exterior is a genuinely compassionate heart. We also learn that calling her “Toni” would be akin to addressing the King of England as “Billy.” This takes place in 2039, if you recall.

Antonia Milos went from a literal non-entity on page to a person with almost palpable reality (for the writer, anyway) by the end of the book. And her role in the book (and likely sequels) had expanded far behind even what I have told you here. I can’t say too much without major spoilers, but it’s safe to say that her role in Colin Jeffries’ life is only going to get bigger.

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