Character portraits: Alex

Name: Alex Caulson
Series: Otherworld
Age: 22
Height: 5’9″
Weight 206 lbs.
Hometown: Pueblo, Colorado

About the character

Alex is a self-described nerd. He’s overweight and insecure. He likes video games, anime, electronics, and other geeky things. At the start of Out of the Past, he holds a bachelor’s in astronomy, a subject that has always been his passion. As history is another one of his interests, he’s trying to specialize in the field of archaeoastronomy, which is how he got roped into an archaeological excursion to Mexico in the first place.

But he doesn’t fit there or anywhere. He never has, and he knows it. Almost all the friends he’s ever had were online, and he met most of them while gaming or on obscure forums—the only reason he even has social media accounts is to keep up with his family. He keeps to himself, rarely speaking up even when he probably should.

When he and ten fellow students get lost while investigating their earth-shattering find, he blames himself. After all, it was his idea to go back out there a day early, before the experts leading the team were willing to set out. Though the others don’t blame him, he blames himself. Why? Because, in his mind, he deserves the blame. If they won’t give it to him, he’ll just take matters into his own hands.

Of the eleven members of the Otherworld expedition, he’s the most out of place. A gamer and internet junkie suddenly cut off from everything electronic that he wasn’t carrying? A fat geek (his words) stuck in a place where everyone walks? He would consider it a miracle that he survived the expedition, but he doesn’t believe in miracles.

Author’s thoughts

Quite simply, Alex is me in almost every respect. He’s younger, of course (22 to my 30, when I first started writing Otherworld), and he has more formal education, but we’re otherwise a lot alike. We’re both huge nerds—in more ways than one. We both read a lot of science fiction. I’d never been in a serious relationship when I created him in 2013; his first started in the summer of 2020, around the same time I was beginning to throw mine away.

That’s absolutely intentional on my part. I wrote Alex as something between a personal deconstruction and wish fulfillment. I’ll grant that the latter took over after a certain point; that point, in case you were wondering, was around Situational Awareness.

In other words, Alex began as a representation of who I saw myself as. Now, as I’m writing the 20th main Otherworld story, I see him as who I want to become. He’s happily married, two words he never would have dreamed could describe him. Though he’s had to sacrifice almost everything he had, he was able to build a life for himself. A simple life, but a life nonetheless. He didn’t realize what he was missing, how important it was to his well-being, until he found it, lost it, and found it again. I…have only made it to the second step of that process.

Of the hundred or more characters I’ve written, this is one of the easiest. The dialogue and exposition don’t always flow, but the inner monologue is easy: I just write what I would be thinking in that situation. That’s usually what Alex would be thinking, so it works out. I can put him into situations and draw on my own experiences to resolve them. Not only does that save me time as a writer, but it’s cathartic for me as a person. It lets me imagine a world in which things actually work out for me once in a while.

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