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This week at Magicalwords.net, I will build on the character development part of last week’s blog and show how I created and developed Thorn St. Croix for the Rogue Mage series: BloodRing, Seraphs, and Host. I feel that you need to know a bit about the series-world so you can see how the setting itself is part of the book’s conflict, and how the world affects, shapes, and changes the character and becomes part of the plot, especially in an urban fantasy (or any fantasy) novel. So here is the publisher’s version of the series blurb.
The Rogue Mage Series
No one prophesied an ambiguous apocalypse. Though the appearance of winged seraphs heralded three plagues and a devastating war between the forces of good and evil, the world didn’t end. The earth survived. Humankind struggles on. Now, over a hundred years after the appearance of the first Angel of Death, the earth has been plunged into an ice age and seraphs and demons still battle, while strife rages among the surviving humans, who struggle to rebuild society and technology.
The neomages have spent the last eighty years in luxurious confinement, isolated from humans and exploited for their gifts, imprisoned in Enclaves where their lifestyles and ability to use of left-over creation energy—their magic—cannot harm the human population.
When a unique battle-mage is bred and born, her gift nearly drives her insane. Thorn St.Croix is snuggled out of the Enclave, and lives disguised as a human—a fugitive, channeling her gifts for war into stone-magery, and the pacific tasks of jewelry making. But when Thaddeus Bartholomew, a dangerously attractive policeman, implies she kidnapped her ex-husband, Lucas, Thorn retrieves her weapons and risks revealing her identity to find him. And for Thorn, the punishment for revelation is death…
Thorn St. Croix is no ordinary neomage. Thought she doesn’t know it, she is much more.
In a series filled with exhilarating action and lush imagery, Faith Hunter portrays a near-future world caught in the throes of the ultimate war between good and evil-where a neomage with everything to hide finds her destiny revealed…
As you may recall, in the *Do List* blog, one of my *Dos* was: Your character has one great strength and one great weakness. The weakness makes the conflict worse, the strength and developing strengths saves him and resolves the plot’s conflict. This is called the marriage of character development and conflict.
There are specific, identifiable parts to strength and weakness Characterization…. These are called TRAITS. Thorn St.Croix’s strengths and weaknesses, in bold:
1. Human or Natural Traits: Read here selfish. As a child, Thorn was captured by a Major Darkness and carried underground where she was terribly injured before being saved. She is terrified of being underground, and terrified of the Dark. In order to save her life, Thorn was smuggled out of the only safe place for her kind (at age 14) and has hidden among humans for 10 years. If discovered, she will be tortured, flayed alive, her body cut in tiny pieces. She is afraid. She has also become lazy, seeing no reason to keep up with studies into her craft (stone magery) and her weapons (battle magery). This has left her poorly trained. She became lonely, and married a human, Lucas, even knowing that a human male might have betrayed her to the authorities if he discovered her secrets. She is angry at Lucas for betraying her with another woman, and has divorced him. She is angry at the woman he cheated on her with. All of these are normal traits, but being unresolved, make her weaker.
2. Typical Traits: These are representative of a group: Thorn has the ability to bend and shape left over creation energy (magical force), especially that stored in stone and in the magma heat of the earth’s core. She needs huge amounts of food when working her magicks. She has the small stature, increased speed, and very brittle bones of her species. She has no soul and no interest in religion in a world ruled by the seraphim and the orthodox. She fears the orthodox, who kill her kind. She has increased night vision and skin with a phosphorescent hue which she must keep glamoured. All these are typical traits of her species. Thorn will go into mage-heat if a seraph is nearby, part of the reason mages are kept sequestered by orthodox humans. This would surely give her away to the human authorities, which makes her and her kind afraid. (Mage-heat doesn’t happen in the series as it stands to date.) Even without mage-heat, she is highly sexual, and is attracted to forbidden species: the kylen and seraphs.
3. Individual Traits: These traits are peculiar to one character, the non-stereotypical and personal traits fall under this heading. Thorn has no license or Visa to live among humans, and is a witchy woman in hiding. She actually likes humans, which few mages do. Thorn doesn’t look down on the mundane humans, and having lived among them, has come to appreciate them for their own unique gifts. Loves stones, gems and jewelry. Even though grown up, Thorn keeps the gifts from her human foster father, a small collection of dolls. Though soulless, Thorn knows some verses of scripture, used to fight demons and Darkness, which she utilizes and builds on in the series. Being reserved, she makes friends poorly but keeps the ones she makes forever. She is very private, a keeper of secrets, and a vegetarian. Thorn is a fast learner of warfare needed to protect humans in her town, and has many mage-gifts she must discover by trial and error. She has many scars from a childhood attack by Darkness. Is not beautiful at all. She loves peanut butter and beer.
4. Moral or Social: Read here unselfish. These are the traits that keep the tribe together, like loyalty, or courage, or self-sacrifice. Thorn loves her human step-daughter more than her own life. This love is both her greatest strength and her greatest weakess. She still loves her ex-husband. Is protective of humans when Darkness attacks. Is protective of humans when the judgmental seraphs are about. Is brave despite her fear, loyal even to those who hurt her, and generous despite her need for privacy.
If our main characters are to blossom, then they also have to have a function and the weapons to accomplish the goal you set for them. Function: Thorn is necessary to stem the attack of Darkness that has taken up residence in the mountains behind her town. Weapons: She has the desire, developing skill sets and magic to fight. When her stepdaughter is threatened, she also has the desire to fight.
So, how do I use the traits to develop a character? (Develop = change, growth, evolution.)
If you look at the traits carefully, and if you’ve had a philosophy, or psychology, or spiritual realization course at anytime in your life, you will spot some methods of characterization and character development right off! Numbers 1 and 4 give us the greatest room for conflict. The internal conflict(s) of character development has to contend with the external plot conflict(s). The natural man’s desire for self gratification butts up against the social man’s need to assist the group. These traits come between the two conflicting parts of being human (or mage). All 4 traits (in differing quantities) are needed for a well rounded positive character or hero, and for an exciting, suspenseful antihero or bad-guy character.
To further break them down, by reading 1 & 4, it I think it is pretty obvious that Thorn will be pulled in different directions and be forced to develop when:
- a kylen cop comes to town, partially awakening her dormant sexual desires
- accuses her of being involved in the attack and kidnapping of her human ex-husband,
- is in position to expose Thorn for the unlicensed witchy woman she is, and
- when her step-daughter asks Thorn to find her daddy.
Anyone want to break down your main character’s traits and explain how he/she will develop? It doesn’t have to be as detailed as mine, of course…
Excerpts of the Rogue Mage books at FaithHunter.Net.
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