Now then, let’s talk characters! Let’s start with our current leading ladies, and see where we go from there.



Riley Sawyer is chronologically not the first important character we’ve introduced to you (and perhaps not even the second), but throughout act one, she remains the focus of our attention. Though subjected to much of the activity, she’s not a real action-hero by any means (is “reaction-hero” a thing?) at this point. When we set off to design Riley, we were going for a timid, disenfranchised urchin in the vein of Oliver Twist with a hint of Tom Sawyer (though far less than her surname would suggest).

In her very first iterations, Riley was intended to be a boy – but as she came along, we figured that story-wise it shouldn’t have to matter either way. And so, we decided to switch the design to female to see if we could remain true to that thought, but we kept much of her appearance the same. Because Rudy and I tenaciously tried to stick to “show, don’t tell”, we started using gender-neutral terms even when our friends brought up “that little thief-boy” in casual conversation.


Ella Davis, like Riley, also underwent a gender-swap during her design-phase – but moreso, she also underwent a series of genetic mutations. Where Riley is an outsider, Ella is and has always been a resident of La Palazza, because we needed a powerful motivator and co-conspirator who was at home to the surroundings. Before we settled on what is colloquially (and perhaps cruelly) known as a “lobster/crab-person”, or a variation thereof, we explored several other possible carnival-mainstays. As such, instead of Ella, we could have chosen a variation of Jojo the Dog-Faced Boy, there was talk of a boy with two small vestigial arms, and my design-notes seem to include the name “Bobo Bonobo, the Counting Chimp”, which is wrong on several levels.

Instead, Ella became Ella, a character neither crippled nor limited by her mutations, intended to become fully functional. I’m incredibly pleased with Rudy’s decision to make Ella’s choice in wardrobe increasingly ecclectic, based on a simple misunderstanding – when I wrote a line for Riley as a comment on Ella’s fused fingers, I used “mitts” as a phrase for “hands”. Rudy took it literally, and gave Ella bright yellow mittens, after which the rest of her clothing-style started clashing more and more. Personally, I love that; it also helped to make her character a lot louder and more outspoken, especially in contrast to Riley. Ella does not hide her hands – she’s acutely and proudly aware of what and who she is; her hands are just sensitive. Plus, she likes the gloves.

Despite being one of the youngest residents of La Palazza, Ella’s DNA has “big sister” written all over it. When we started fleshing out Donnie, Ella instantly became tied to him as a fierce and dedicated caretaker, we would not dream of having it any other way.

That’s it for now – in the next post, we’ll take on some of the other characters and the critical (or arbitrary) decisions we’ve made while designing them. Check back soon!