My writing often begins with a good Dwarf story. I've always liked the idea of these industrious, stout fellows toiling away in mines. From Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarves to the Dwarves of Tolkien to creating them in role-playing table-top or video games, I've always leaned toward the exploration of the Dwarven priestly character that maintains his faith and keeps strong even when made light of by his own teammates. Male or female, that didn't seem to matter, though when playing DND, making the character a female often flummoxed the other white, straight nerds that typically played with me. Not a curse on them, just that it was fun to challenge their expectations in that way. I was also the one to suggest that Elves, being so long-lived, more than likely, tried one of everything over the course of a couple of millennia of life. What are they going to do all day in the primeval forests worshiping their love and fertility deities anyway?
Dwarves for me were always about being that one goody two shoes that everyone poo poo'ed, but would always come back to when the crap was hitting the fan emotionally, physically or even literally. I sometimes would purposely make my cleric a warrior-priest that did have healing spells - one or two - just for him. Warriors take care of themselves after all. Relying on another to heal them just meant that they were crappy at what they do. As a game runner, it did give me sympathy for the one player that was excited to try the priest role as I knew they were often limited in muscle and in healing abilities to start. I came up with many variations on healing for them so they could do it from afar or have extra spell slots they wouldn't be "out of things to do" after shooting off the one or two spells they had in their repertoire. I also allowed them to have unusual ways of casting that might also expand, or at least, personalize their characters a bit more. After refining my systems to my own personal tastes, Dwarves could only be priests if they wanted magic. Otherwise, they had to have a djinn or some other fetcher to bring them spells and that often made for interesting gameplay.
The fourth book of the Dance of All Beings Cycle, if everything works out, should feature a classic Dwarf character of mine that has been knocking around my story bits for years. His name is Balo, and he is a priest of a holy order of knights that typically is only followed by Men. How this came to be and how he comes to be a part of the story that starts with Bully and David is an interesting journey that I hope I will be able to get out into other people's hands. I would call it a 'low fantasy' story that while it features all the usual suspects in such a fantasy novel, it definitely is a 'bottom-up' look at the world through Balo's eyes. Low fantasy I think, while obviously not the original voice in sci-fi/fantasy that it once was, works well for allowing a more realistic, character-driven style of writing instead of fixating on the tropes of place and magic systems. I may allow too much magic into the world to be officially 'low fantasy,' but for me, the style is more about the less than goodly character in the world in gritty detail.
Balo certainly continues in the tradition of my characters being less than likable. To me, their lovable and I wouldn't change them, but as readers have told me, Bully, David and certainly Balo aren't heroic characters that they identify with. Some even express how little they actually like the characters, wishing they would suddenly burst out of their cocoon and into their superhero costumes and dash off like Superman. I don't see them as that. Their 'less than' status is what makes them interesting to me, especially when 'chosen' for certain tasks over others that would be considered the Supermen of their world. I also don't want to spoil for future readers, and current readers, the reason why they go through the arc of growth they follow. Some build their own vision in their head and I don't want to overwrite that with what is 'correct.' Indeed, if a reader came up with a better idea than mine, I certainly won't tear it down with the more mundane reality of what I intended. Sometimes it's just the philosophy of a character, and sometimes it is actually the unseen parts of the story that are only hinted at in certain points of the narrative. Either way, if the reader finds a better path, I won't force them to stray from it.