Character Development – Show Me

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We were down yesteday due to hosting problems. Happy to be back up and running!
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:

  1. a kylen cop comes to town, partially awakening her dormant sexual desires
  2. accuses her of being involved in the attack and kidnapping of her human ex-husband,
  3. is in position to expose Thorn for the unlicensed witchy woman she is, and
  4. 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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48 comments to Character Development – Show Me

  • I hope you noticed this in your publisher’s series blurb, “When a unique battle-mage is bred and born, her gift nearly drives her insane. Thorn St.Croix is _snuggled_ out of the Enclave,…”
    I guess there are worse ways to go. *haha*

    Ok, onto characters. I hope you don’t mind if I use my current WIP since I really could use help with it?

    I’ll use your 4 part method…

    1. Human or Natural Traits: Read here selfish. Robere Su’Anili has been friends with Araceli since childhood. He has begun to develop romantic sexual feelings for Araceli but is ashamed of how he feels due to the attack on her four years ago. He is deeply scarred emotionally from the attack but his wounds were never tended to because of the focus on Araceli.

    2. Typical Traits: These are representative of a group: Robere is from the Evengale Moutains and tends his family farm there. He is strong for his size due to the hard farm lifestyle. Loyalty is a strong trait and he takes care of his own agaisnt all outsiders.

    3. Individual Traits: These traits are peculiar to one character, the non-stereotypical and personal traits fall under this heading. Robere has a desire to be more than he is. He was to travel and see the world. He wants to get gold. He can be selfish at times. He can be lazy as well. He is quick with a smile and joke, but can get moody at times.

    4. Moral or Social: Read here unselfish. These are the traits that keep the tribe together, like loyalty, or courage, or self-sacrifice. Robere is strongly loyal to his friends and to his people. He will give up everything for their well-being. In particular he is intensely protective (almost to a fault) of Araceli since her attack. He feels responsible for her insanity and seeks a way to make a mends.

    I hope I gave enough info???

  • <snuggled…
    *grins*

    I like. What is the central conflict/main plot point that will challenge R’s weaknesses?
    Faith

  • The central plotpoint/conflict would be resolving his relationship to Araceli and working out his guilt over the attack. There are other *minor* plotpoints like his role in saving civilization but the above is the main conflict.

  • Hmm. Seems to me that world saving woudl be a big part of what drives his charater development. LIke:

    1. Human or Natural Traits: Read here selfish. Robere Su’Anili has been friends with Araceli since childhood. Though she is insane since being attacked four years ago, he has begun to develop romantic sexual feelings for her for which he is ashamed. He is deeply scarred emotionally from the attack but his wounds were never tended to because of the focus on Araceli. The goblins (or whatever) are poised for attack, but interest him only as something to protect her from. Until he sees that by losing his world, he will also lose Araceli. (this gives a broader picture, and lets you see how he develops)

    2. Typical Traits: These are representative of a group: Robere is from the Evengale Moutains and tends his family farm there. He is strong for his size due to the hard farm lifestyle. Loyalty is a strong trait and he takes care of his own against all outsiders. But his protective instincts also are challenged by the threat to his land.

    3. Individual Traits: These traits are peculiar to one character, the non-stereotypical and personal traits fall under this heading. Robere has a desire to be more than he is. He was to travel and see the world. He wants to get gold. He can be selfish at times. He can be lazy as well. He is quick with a smile and joke, but can get moody at times.
    I think to make this character stand out from others in the field, he needs something more here. Thorn was the *only* mage living outside the Enclave. The only Battle mage of her kind. Both of these put her in danger. What makes R stand out?

    4. Moral or Social: Read here unselfish. These are the traits that keep the tribe together, like loyalty, or courage, or self-sacrifice. Robere is strongly loyal to his friends and to his people. He will give up everything for their well-being. In particular he is intensely protective (almost to a fault) of Araceli since her attack. He feels responsible for her insanity and seeks a way to make a mends.
    Good! Now add a bit here about how these affect the storyline of *attack and defence?*, and then you have a character who is really different from the others already in the marketplace.
    Faith

  • >>”What makes R stand out?”

    I guess nothing atm. What if I make him a magic user? Right now, the magic users are trained priests who seperate themselves from society. If I were to make him a latent magic user, who doesn’t know it yet, would that work? I think it would add a new level to the relationship with Brother Therin (the priest) since they are currently at odds with each other. So if Robere finds out that he has something in common with him right now, it cuold create some serious issues.

    Thank you for all your help, btw!

  • You are quite welcome, Mark.

    The Latent magic user is fairly common, but you could twist it bit and make it side-ways different. What if you made his magic different from the priests, sort of anti-priest-magic? Or banned magic? Or old earth magic not seen since prehistory? Or sun magic, never seen before?

    Misty did this to great effect with her character in MadKestrel. Kes’s magic works totally different from the priest-magic of her world, making her able to hide from them, and making her valuable to them. Misty, do you have comments?
    Faith

  • Beatriz

    Great post, Faith!

    Thanks for sharing, Mark. It’s neat to watch the current WIP evolve!

  • I do have another opposing magic system in lpace but it used by the evil folks. Lemme give a quick peek at the magic system I have. The magic used by the priests is given by the all powerful god. It’s restrictions are that it can only do good. You can heal, grow, contruct, bring out truth…. that kind of thing. You cannot do harm with it. (I guess it is kind of like paladin magic?) The evil magic is given by the evil god and feeds off of chaos. It has no restrictions (you may kill, destroy, or harm at will), however it is inheritely weaker than the good magic when they come into direct contact.

    What if I make it so that his magic is unrestricted good? Would that work better ya think?

    >>Beatriz<< Thank you for your kind words. I had hoped I wasn’t boring anyone.

    Plus I don’t want to seem like a “Faith Hunter Hog”.

    Do you have any current stories to work with here? I would love to read about other people’s ideas as well.

  • Thank you Beatriz.

    I can’t really answer that, Mark, except to say it needs to be something that sets your hero apart. It needs to be something that makes him *the one* to rescue his love, as well as solve the bigger-picture problem. My fantasy agent is always asking/saying to me, “What about this conflict is world-shaking? Your plot needs to be bigger and broader than just a small thing. It has to *matter* to your entire fantasy world.” She is a smart agent!

    In Thorn’s case, she is hunting for her missing ex-husband and is therefore on scene when a new Dark Power makes a move on humanity. Her personal need/desire is overlapped by the broader picture, and she has to deal with both.
    Faith

  • *lifts head from desk, yawns* What? Me?

    Seriously, if I have to make an escape from somewhere, being “snuggled” out is WAY high on my list of methods! 😀

    Mark, what if Araceli and Robere as a couple can make magic happen, but never one or the other alone? It could be the magic as it was meant to be, not fractured into good and evil as it is now. At first, Robere might assume it’s his own power, and find himself being drawn in by the priests, and the only priest who suspects otherwise is Brother Therin, who convinces the others that Robere is evil. (big conflict!) The emotional power of Robere and Araceli’s shared trauma could be what allows them to shape the substance of the world around them, but the priests can’t recognize it, so they think Robere is lying or that the two of them are possessed by demons. The problem will arise when their magic turns out to be the only power that can save the world, except the priests don’t want to admit that joining up with the other side is a smart idea, and Araceli is too crazy to cooperate reliably. Or something. 😀

    Oh goodness, I’m rambling again. This is why I always carry a notebook on long trips. Imagine having to spend hours in a car with me!

  • Misty! (claps hands with excitement) Very nice! Reminds of of our old polting sessinos. (Polting, yes. Not ploting. Long story.)
    Faith

  • >>Misty<< Now there you go. You just had to give me something to think about. *wink* I like it. It might need some tweaking to work within my storyline. However, you have certainly caused my Thought Cauldron to boil. Lemme see what bubbles to the top.

  • Cool! I can’t wait to hear what you come up with!

  • So, I thought about the above structure and decided to try it for one of my many POV characters:

    Human or Natural Traits: Read here selfish. Gedrys is the son of Rowe, the most famous knight of the isle and lives in his father’s shadow, afraid he will never live up to his family name. He fears he will disappoint his father and embarrass the family. Since they are not noble by birth he also feels inferior to even his peers who are of noble birth. Since he has yet to be in a real battle he is afraid he will be too scared to fight.

    Typical Traits: These are representative of a group. Gedrys is a squire in the household of the royal duke. He is familiar with castle life and knows the north and northwestern part of the Isle very well. However, he has little to no experience with the rest of the isle and is unaware of who would be friend or foe. He is proficient at horseback riding, at swordplay and enjoys the hunt. As the son of the most famous knight everyone around him has high expectations of him and treats him with more deference than he realizes. He is intent upon proving himself.

    Individual Traits: These traits are peculiar to one character, the non-stereotypical and personal traits fall under this heading. Gedrys has a special affinity for knife fighting and is a skilled hunter and tracker. Though he is unaware of it, he is favored by higher beings and critical to the fulfillment of multiple prophecies. He is being watched by different Mages, each hoping to sway him as a tool towards their own aims. He is very uncomfortable around dark mages and is constantly drawn to the home of a powerful light mage. When his father is murdered and the lord of the isle killed as well – by the royal duke whose household he serves – Gedrys offers himself up as a vessel of vengeance to a powerful spirit of Light. This transforms Gedrys into a fierce warrior, but takes most of his free will from him as the Light Spirit determines who he is to wreak the Light’s vengeance upon with the promise that, when the time is right, he will have his personal vengeance. Gedrys is unaware that a terrible struggle for control of a holy land is soon to emerge and he has been chosen by this spirit of Light to be its instrument of vengeance.

    Moral or Social: Read here unselfish. Gedrys loves his family and will do anything to protect their lives now that his father is dead and he is the eldest child. He is also in love with the traitorous duke’s daughter and will do anything to aid in her assuming control of the royal duchy. Gedrys is torn between protecting his family, fulfilling his duty to see the crown prince on the throne and the desire to help the daughter of the traitorous duke assume her role as royal duchess by protecting the traitor’s ducal lands until she can return from a diplomatic mission overseas. He fears he is slowly losing his humanity each time he is compelled to violence and vengeance as part of his pact.

    So, that’s what I’ve come up with as a first go-round at this character development sheet. This bears a lot more thinking about to find more succinct ways to say what I’ve tried to say above.

  • Very cool to see real live character work being done on our site!! Great work Mark and Faith! And CE, I can’t wait to see how Faith takes on your character!

  • Beatriz

    CE– sounds interesting! Can’t wait to read what’s next.

    Mark– I’ve nothing to share. I’m not a writer like everyone else around here. I’m just a Crazy Stalker FanGirl.

    Misty, I have three words for you about being with you for road trips: Little Rummer Boy

    This was such fun to read! Thanks again, Faith!!

  • CEDunkley,
    Sorry about the late reply — a copy edit came in and I got lost in it. Just came up for air.

    As I understand it, your character has no magic, but is used by magic users, primarily of the Light, who make him do … evil? And his main skills in teh beginning are not knightly, but more of the woodsman? I like!

    Your primary character conflict is four fold : Gedrys is torn between
    1. protecting his family,
    2. fulfilling his duty to see the crown prince on the throne and the
    3. desire to help the daughter of the traitorous duke assume her role as royal duchess by protecting the traitor’s ducal lands until she can return from a diplomatic mission overseas.
    4. He fears he is slowly losing his humanity (in service to the Light)

    Your primary plot conflict into which he is being is drawn: Gedrys is unaware that a terrible struggle for control of a holy land is soon to emerge and he has been chosen by this spirit of Light to be its instrument of vengeance.

    I think you have enough here for a 3 or 4 book epic fantasy series and your main worry will be how to divide it up into the proper segments. It sounds well thought out and ambitious.

    The only problem I have with it (if I understand what you have said) is the Fairy Godmother aspect of the Light giving him the necessary gifts to do the job instead of him earning the gifts and therefore developing on the page before the readers’ eyes.

    Is there a way you could combine Gedry’s struggle to keep his free will (maybe deflecting the worst of the vengence, protecting the more innocent) with learning the skills he will need to fight, and start with small battles so he can *grow* into the warrior you need? This might slow it down, in terms of plot pacing so that you need an extra book to fulfill it all, which…yeah, I know…which is a problem in this market…

    So my best advice is:
    1. Find a way to break it up into four 100,000 word books, which might mean dropping a plot point or conflict. Could be hard to do.
    2. Find a way to show Gedry developing on the page instead of being given anything. Easy enough to do.

    Anyone else have thoughts?
    Faith

  • Faith,

    Thanks for all your input. The story where Gedrys goes from young, untested squire to a tool of vengeance is a stand-alone (a prequel of sorts) book that has an external threat, which is the initial conflict from which spring so many consequences. The holy land war is the central conflict that will span a 5 book series that picks up events 10 years after the stand-alone. The 5 books cover a twenty-year period. Gedrys’ story will be one of many.

    As for the Fairy Godmother element, that has been a concern. One of the ideas I’ve been playing with is for most of the time, Gedrys is a skilled knight who as he is growing, strives to improve and hone his skills. It is when the spirit of light requires him that he transforms into an instrument of vengeance where his free will is diminished. I kind of look at it being impossible for him to be in this state constantly as, since he is only human, he would not survive very long before being essentially hollowed out.

    This allows for Gedrys to not only grow and improve on his own but gives him plenty of time for facing the consequences of those actions which are contradictory (but in the eyes of the spirit of light in the holy conflict very necessary) to his normal nature.

    Thanks again for taking the time to provide us with your insight. This is an excellent exercise, one I will be doing for all of my other POV characters.

  • CE, You have thought it through quite well! Yes, that works in terms of WC and length. I *really* like the idea of him being essentially two people, one less skilled but more compassionant and human, one totally skilled but without free will or control or … hmmm. I like. As long as he is doing the Light thing for reasons that seem good to him on some level. Or, the Light thing for the light reasons.
    Sorry. Couldn’t resist.
    Faith

  • Ok, back at work now…

    What if I kinda combine what Faith and Misty have suggested? Originally I was going to make Araceli a latent magic user. I was going to pass that role to Robere but how about I take a different route? I can make Araceli the latent user of unrestricted magic BUT make it so that she can only use it when Robere is with her? He would be like the key to her magic. This relationship is already kinda worked into the story so far and it would not take much to incorporate.

    Thoughts?

    >>CE<< Thanks for sharing too! You have an interesting story there! There looks to be lots of conflicts both internal and external there.

  • Hi all!

    Long-time reader, first time commenter 🙂

    Ok, this is a quick rattling out of a character I’m thinking of making the centre person of my next project. I normally write short stories but want to try my hand at novel-length, so developing the necessary extra depth to my lead is going to be a very interesting experience. All comments/thoughts/criticisms gratefully received! She’s been in my head for a few weeks now, but this is the first time I’ve ever sat down to try and make her real – I’ve been putting it off, but Faith’s great post has pricked my conscience inspired me. I will try fit this in one comment, but… it’s gonna be long!

    The overall social situation of the country is degenerating into a civil war between the wealthy capital city’s senate, and the impoverished country supporting it which is now disillusioned with a bloated democracy and wishes to restore the old line of royals. My character is to be a silly, flighty young woman in desperate need of growing up who is pulled into the greater conflict. Her choice to fight for what is right gives her the opportunity to develop beyond the superficial upbringing.

    Two events are key to her shift in mindset: Although a small event, the cracks appear in her perfect world when tragedy strikes a close friend through a situation she herself is about to face.

    The second, and pivotal event, is when she and her mother become the first victims of a rebel band’s new tactic of attacking the wealthy caravans as they travel to and from the capital. Life as a prisoner of the rebel army as it moves through the impoverished realm awakens A’s true character and forces her to choose between the comfort of her old life and the hardship but moral rightness of her new life. There will also be some measure of conflict with her mother, who seems delighted to be freed of marriage to A’s father and life in civilisation – A, however, finds it more difficult to let go of the luxury and gentility she grew up with.

    Human or Natural Traits: A is a senator’s daughter, born and bred amongst the marble towers and luxury of Kerren’s capital city. Like all wealthy young women who are raised to be mere ornaments, her concerns are fashionable dresses, jewels and handsome young men. She is exceedingly lazy, flippant and totally dependent on servants to function. In her defence, her life has not allowed her to develop any deeper, nobler traits. Her insular and superficial mindset means she is unaware and uncaring of the impoverished life led by the majority of Kerren’s citizens outside the walls. She has been raised with the intention of securing a marriage with nobles from other realms, and so her education is negligible for women are not viewed as being worth unnecessary learning, but she is bright.

    Typical Traits: A is a member of the governing humans; the other races are viewed as sub-human. Humans inside the city also consider the humans outside as little better than barbarians. All with magical or psychic abilities are outright feared. She is tall but physically weak, for women are meant to be delicate and light. She has never run or ridden a horse. Like most, while she observes the rites of the temples, she has no actual beliefs. Families have strong bonds, strongest between those of the same gender, so she is very close to her mother.

    Individual Traits: The bubbly life she led in the city’s society has given her a bright personality that makes it easy for her to make friends. She has a sentimental streak and treasures personal items with emotional value such as the odd necklace handed down from her great-great-grandmother. She has always suppressed a strange longing to see outside of her life. She does not know it yet, but she has some measure of psychic talents of a nature specific to women (this is inherited, but a maternal family secret) and has simply labelled her strong intuition or visions as flights of fancy as no normal girl would want such a taint to her name – but deep inside she does suspect something is wrong with her. She likes cats, apples, swimming and playing the lute.

    Social and Moral Traits: A has hidden strengths that life has simply not let her discover yet: she has a passion for justice and a loyalty to those treated unfairly that once she is able to look to others before herself – initially something she is forced to do while in the army camp – will be the trait that enables her to mature and find ways to use her strengths to help heal Kerren. She can be strong both emotionally and physically when given the chance.

    I am struggling with this, and whether I’ve even put things in the correct ‘category’ – characterisation in a novel is so very different from characterisation in a short story!

    Toodle pip!
    Anna

  • Wendy

    I think this is a very useful exercise. Great post! Interesting breakdown of characters following.
    Going to try it, though I am a day behind…(perhaps only because I am in total honeymoon period with a new POV character)

    Human/Natural traits: (selfish) Raktano Visetta is the son a of famous soprano. He was raised, to the age of 14, among an eccentric community of his mother’s friends: opera company members, musicians, artists and actors. He doesn’t know his father, and if his mother Vivienna knows his identity, she hasn’t revealed it. This makes him very dependent on his mother, and when she loses her mind, Rak feels helpless.
    Vivienna’s patron (Leoni) does what he can to aid her recovery, but Rak does not approve his methods (Victorian mental health care, even in fantasy, is a sketchy business). Rak and Leoni disagree massively, and Leoni believes he has every right to impose his will on the young man.
    When Vivienna commits suicide, Rak blames Leoni, and Leoni refuses to have him around the opera any longer. At the age of 15, Rak is angry and alone. This leads him to make several interesting life choices.
    (all of this happens before the story starts, and will be revealed bit by bit as I go along)

    Typical traits: (representative of group)
    Rak, raised among actors and other flamboyant stars of the stage, is quite a chameleon himself.
    By the time the reader meets Rak, he displays the “rough-around-the-edges” traits of a man who has been living a bit hand-to-mouth for the last then years.
    Rak is also a man from a warm climate living in a four-seasons-frigid-winters climate. He complains as one might expect.
    As “Donovo” (the “art curator” to our antagonist), he plays to “typical” scholar traits of awkwardness around ladies and a tendency to be a verbose.

    Individual traits: (peculiar to one character)
    Rak is irrationally afraid of death and the trappings of. He can’t be in, or around, cemeteries without getting the heebie-jeebies. This fear leads him, in the youth of his art & etc. thieving to pick up an apprentice, someone to send into crypts and catacombs when necessary.
    Rak is an artist of some skill. Though he despairs of ever being great by his own standards, he reproduces the masters with relative ease, and makes money this way for quite some time before deciding that more could be had in illicit art transactions (often involving swapping his painting for the original).
    He adores orchestral music. He finds popular music to be without depth, expressing only sentiment.
    Rak is superstitious, but tries to live in a “modern” world beyond the mythos of the country’s history (from whence all the conflict rises). His job with the antagonist (a prime minister of sorts), makes him confront belief and disbelief on an almost daily basis. This makes him edgy and snappish when he has time to be himself (as opposed to “Donovo”).

    Moral/Social (unselfish):
    Rak thinks of Dane as his little brother, and their relationship contains all the complications of a sib-ship. At one point, they choose opposing sides of the conflict and this split causes a lot of guilt and second-guessing on his part.
    Rak also finds himself in love with a young soprano, Mirit, who unfortunately loves “Donovo.” It is a threat to her life—and more indirectly, his—that finally draws him all the way into the conflict between the PM’s faction and Dane’s faction. He can’t fall back on “not my country, I don’t care what you do” any longer.

    I’m afraid I’ve not been very succinct, but it was hard without detailing all the pieces of plot that everything relates back to.

  • Mark, I like. The duality of magic use. I don’t *think* it has been done.

    Wendy, I have dialated eyes and want to work on yours when I am normal. Well, as normal as I get. Watch for it later on tonight or in the a.m.
    Owl-eyed,
    Fiath

  • Ahem. Misty, you are evil. Pure evil. You–
    No! Wait! You are getting me back, aren’t you? For making you cry about Kes! Admit it! You are!
    Arrrrg!
    Faith

  • Anna, I’ll do your work next. For now, Wendy…

    Wendy, this is historical fiction? Not fantasy? Maybe something in the nature of Anne Rice’s (title I think is) Cry Unto Heaven? If you haven’t read it, do. It is wonderful.

    Rak/Donovo are dual, (schizophrenic, maybe?) but rational personalities. I think you will have to be very clear about the differences between them. Perhaps two disctinct internal voices as well as distinct dialogue voices? I assume you are going with limited third person POV? If not, I feel like you will need to, in order to get into the character’s personalities/heads.

    It appears you have two main conflicts, which seem to work well together:
    1. External plot conflicts, not made clear, but it appears to be at least one major and two minor plot conflicts?
    All affect and put pressure on the character and his… um.. duality/instability? If so, good!
    2. The internal conflicts with are layered atop one another, beginning in his youth and being brough to a breaking point when Mirit, Dane and R/D’s needs or conflicts all come together.

    This will work if you make sure to build R/D’s opposing psychoses/needs/conflicts up slowly. Otherwise I can see the reader getting confused and that is never good.

    This is the best I can do with what you have given me but I like it, especially if it has a real period flair in both speech patterns and style of narritive voice. It is certainly ambitious! When I was starting out, I wrote a bang-bang-shoot-em-up police procedural and I thougth *it* was complex! Not compared to this!
    Faith

  • Anna,
    First — I love toodle pip!

    Second — you got the traits well and I have only one comment to make about them. A is developing strongly only on the moral and social traits. If you haven’t included *equally strong* develpment in magical traits in your story, and apperciation for beings who use magic, I’d like to see that too. Good job!

    Third — may not be so easy. What I am concerned with is how you intend to open the novel. Your character (while no more flightly or silly than many American teens) is so lacking in um..character…that you could tire a first reader (agent/editor) before the conflict is ever reached. Is there a way to open just before the attack, giving the reader only enough to see A is annoying and silly and blind to the misery around her? I’d like to see the attack before page five, with hints it is about to take place on page one.

    Just a thought.
    Faith

  • Hi Faith

    I’ve been in the UK for so long that some bizarre expressions have crept into my everyday speech 🙂 I have so much difficulty keeping them out of my writing.

    Thanks so much for advice!

    Re. other development – I’d really like her to develop her psychic abilities over the course of the story. As it is something inherited – that necklace might figure in there as an actual amulet of sorts (thinking out loud here) – I thought it might be a good way to heal the rift that starts to appear between her and her mother (who is going to be quite a major character herself) – who will be secretly quite adept as a seer of sorts. A’s talent is more seeing to the truth of things. As well as having to accept it in herself, she is also among people who don’t have the luxury of refusing talents as and when they appear; she learns to see it as something that can be used for the group’s benefit, much like a swordsman’s talent with a sword is. The rebel army will have drawn many ostracised groups into its ranks, and there will be a group of both magic-users and psychics that help her. Her ability will make her of use to the warlords leading the rebellion and so she will be drawn into the larger political and military storyline which itself will contain battles and turning points.

    They also don’t have the luxury of letting a woman with no children stay away from the fighting, so she will be inept with a sword, but develop some measure of competency as an archer once she loses her civilised softness!

    I think for her mother, B, it will be less a growing into her potential and more a rediscovering the person she was meant to be before marriage and the like forced her into the tiny life of a senator’s wife. Overall it will be an adventure story, so I’m not worried about finding A a bloke as she has enough to worry about, but I’d love to work in a sideline of romance for B. I started B’s ‘character sheet’ – they are such a help for getting traits firm in my head.

    Oh, this is such a novelty – having room to think about these things 🙂

    Re, opening – v. good point, which I’d begun wondering about myself! Your idea is good, which means I could shift the friend’s tragedy to before my story, so A actually appears first as her flighty self, but with this undercurrent of fearfulness already there which then leads up to the attack.

    Anna

  • Faith said, “No! Wait! You are getting me back, aren’t you? For making you cry about Kes! Admit it!”

    Nah, I’m just evil. 😀 As I believe I’ve mentioned before, dearest Faith, you bringing me to tears was the best thing that happened to my novel writing, so there’s no revenge to be sought. *hugs*

    Seriously, I’ve found this whole thread exciting, and it’s making all those plotting neurons in my own head fire like crazy. Not that I’m stealing y’all’s ideas, never fear! I’d rather eat collards for a week than ever do that to anyone! (And I really, really despise collards.)

  • C.E. said, “He fears he is slowly losing his humanity each time he is compelled to violence and vengeance as part of his pact…. I kind of look at it being impossible for him to be in this state constantly as, since he is only human, he would not survive very long before being essentially hollowed out.”

    Oh, yes. In role playing games, magic users might blissfully toss magic around with not even the slightest consequencem but in fiction that just won’t work. It’s energy, for goodness’ sake! I’m currently working through something similar in my own work, so this resonates for me. That alone makes me want to read what you’re writing! Well done.

  • Anna, I was thinking about the opening to your novel. I’m with Faith in starting with the attack. The beginning needs to reach out, yank a reader’s collar down and keep him there. 😀 I assume the friend was attacked and killed by bandits? Maybe you can combine the two events, so that the friend is with A when bandits attack, and dies in front of her. Being witness to the death of a friend would probably serve to wake A up more effectively, and would definitely give you a bang-up opening.

    And you might want to hint at her psychic ability then, too. It can be subtle (a voice she thinks she hears, only much later realizing she was hearing with her mind instead of her ears), but put it in there somewhere.

    Keep us posted on how it’s going!

  • Wendy said, “…(perhaps only because I am in total honeymoon period with a new POV character).”

    As they say here in the Carolinas, you are preaching to the choir! I’m suffering from the same thing right now, a new character who wants all my attention. I’ve tried to be patient with him, but he’s very persistent. 😀

    Interesting that Faith assumed a dual personality for Rak/Donovo, since I read it thinking Donovo was Rak’s public persona, which allows the thief to infiltrate places a thief shouldn’t be.

    Will Leoni show back up again? He strikes me a bit as the “gun on the mantel in Act One” figure, although I’m not sure why. Maybe because they left each other under such tragic circumstances, and a resolution between them would be satisfying. Being a theater person, he’d be in an excellent position to spy for one side or the other. Oh,oh, oh wait…Leoni is Mirit’s patron!!! He can be crucial to helping her accept Donovo as Rak, and by doing so, repair the old damage between himself and Rak.

    Now, I was just going at this with the assumption of historical….is it fantasy? If so, I’ve got other ideas…. *grin*

  • And I thought it was interesting that Faith and I assumed different aspects about the duality of Rak/Donovo because it shows how different readers see vastly different scenarios when they look at words. 😀

  • mikaela

    I am stealing this. I love it! It allows me to pinpoint the character in away nothing else have done. Thanks!
    Oh well here it goes 🙂
    1 Human or Natural Traits: Read here selfish. When Jenny was 150 years old, she overheard her mother plan to kill her. She bolted, and since then her life has been filled with distrust. Since her mother wasn’t happy when she ran, she has moved a lot. 5 years here, another ten there. Because of this, she is only focused on herself. This means, she hurts people without intending to do it when she abruptly cuts off her relationships, every time she moves. ( Yes ,it gives her enemies. ).
    2. Typical Traits: These are representative of a group. Jenny is a runner, and she is dodgy. She was taught the tools of the trade by a vampire, as well as the basic magic training she has. She is nimble, and used to dodge attention
    3. Individual Traits: She is cynical, and believe that everyone wants something from her. They don’t. Most of the time…
    4. Moral or Social: Read here unselfish. These are the traits that keep the tribe together, like loyalty, or courag. e, or self-sacrifice. Jenny is brave, and she would do anything for a her daughter. And she knows it. Her courage will be tested when her daughter is kidnapped…

  • Wendy

    Thank you Faith and Misty. I will try to get into my plotting a bit so as to clear up some things. Initially, I had included a lot more plot in my character outline and cropped it a bit to not overwhelm the posting. (But I shall overwhelm now)

    Anywho:
    First off, some clarifications: Misty is correct: Donovo is Rak’s public persona…as a theater guy, it’s (relatively) easy for him to switch between the two.
    I’ve been working this thing in first person, alternately Dane and Rak (to get glimpses of both factions)
    It is fantasy. (see massive plot recap below)
    …and this is ambitious, but it seems less so than the piece I was working on because the scope is a little less broad. (Project on the back-burner is medieval fantasy with a War of the Roses succession-issue inspiration…much too epic.)

    Plot in a large nutshell then:
    Anton Dresnya (our PM) hires art thieves Rak and Dane to begin a collection of artifacts with connection to the legend (or is it?) of Urellan and Fianna (from the early “middle ages” of Marfal’s history). This king and his witch-woman queen unite many warring tribes into what will become Marfal and kick out some aggressors that have been using the tribes as conscripts and slaves, etc. Queen Fianna and her society of sorceresses imbue the power of six artifacts with the magics that relate to the six gods in order to aid Urellan and his new allies. The allies are victorious and Urellan and Fianna give thanks to the gods and promise never to use the blessed weapons again. Of course, human greed intervenes and Urellan is overthrown; Fianna goes into hiding with her society and scatters the weapons all over creation. The society pledges to watch for anyone who might wish to use them in the future. Fianna dies and joins her king (all used up with performing last rituals around the weapons and whatnot). The country splinters.

    (some of what follows is still in flux….)
    Back now to our “modern” heroes: Some of the artifacts have been uncovered, but are just hanging out in museums or private collections as relics of earlier times. When Rak and Dane go to steal one of the weapons, a sword, it sends out the magical equivalent of a tracking signal to the secret society that continues to watch for just this sort of incident. They are stopped by the society (well, two members of—an ancient witch woman named Sania and her apprentice, Marigold) who believe Dane carries the spirit of Urellan and can wield the weapons, if it comes to that. They are both invited to join the society.
    Dane, being a native of Marfal, is quite taken with this concept; Rak thinks its crap, and wants the money he’s already been offered to build up the prime minister’s collection. They argue about it and go their separate ways, though Rak agrees not to tell Anton anything.

    What ensues is a lot of racing to artifacts, Dane growing up, Rak getting in progressively farther over his head both personally and professionally.

    Rak reaches a personal breaking point, when Anton informs him he’s financing a revival of the same opera the drove Rak’s mum to the bin….starring, the lovely Miss Mirit. (And there is this whole…does this opera make people crazy or have all the issues around it been incidental? threat.)

    Rak has a choice then, carry on with what he’s been doing…because research on the artifacts has told Rak (and Anton) that the madness can be stopped or reversed with help from the last piece.
    To do this, he needs Dane’s help…it’s a rosary-like thing still clutched in the hands of a dead guy. Amends and decisions must be made. *roll on into a climax*

    Obviously, I still need to work a lot on Dane’s side of the wheel, but it’s much more reactive than Rak, Anton and Mirit’s end of things so I felt like I needed this in place first.

    I don’t know if I’ll bring back Leoni, but there is a short story in my brain that might resolve that piece when Rak is younger. I want to tell the Rak, Leoni, Vivienna story as a short piece first. I’d also like to deal with Dane’s past in short form. (He did a lot of wonderful Victorian urchin things to help his poor unfortunate mummy.)

  • Mikaela,
    Glad it helps!
    I like this. A lot! It seems you have combined vamp with something else and created a third…supernat? This is what editors and agents look for when they say *I want something new!* They don’t. They want something old with a new, untested edge.

    Without seeing the plot conflict, I’d say that conflict needs to force her to look at, deal with, and eventually confront, her mother’s betrayal and the woman herself. If teh main character grows through the betrayal in some way, and that growth saves the day (and her) then you have done true character development. Good job.
    Faith

  • Wendy,
    Now that I see the whole plot, it works beautifully. One concern — It could become an apple cart book (all minor annoynances without real depth) if you don’t challenge the character’s selfish traits and *force* him to to do the right thing, force him to grow, on some level several times in the plot line.

    Think Han Solo in the original Star Wars movie. He really overcame selfish motives several times. And every scene that could have been applecart-ish, had at least one character rising up to a new level.

    Now think the fourth movie (intro of Annikin. Can’t remember title.) It was applecart after applecart and *no freaking one* changed or developed. Yuckers.

    One trick I’ve done after a first draft, is to read the hard copy with sticky notes in hand, and mark all places where the character (or a character) is forced to grow and expand. Use a different color sticky note to indicate places where action takes place and every character stays true to his selfish heart.
    Faith

  • I will gone this weekend (work, woe is me) and so may not be able to check in. Feel free to input stuff you want me to look at. I’ll pick magicalwords.net back up on Monday if not before.
    Have a good weekend y’all!
    Faith

  • Did I forget to say… Anna, it works! I think you are adding just enough depth to pull a reader in and not overwhelm.

    *Now* I am off!
    Faith

  • mikaela

    Thanks! She isn’t a vampire, she is a drow. And yes, the plot does focus on her past and dealing with her mother. Hopefully she grows in the process too…. She makes a decision at the end that really affects her life. ( hint: she goes legal)..

  • Wendy, you’ve got my interest piqued – I’m a sucker for stories in which a thief steals something he should have steered far, far clear of. 😀 It’s probably no surprise I tend to play thieves in gaming.

    Mikaela, since your character is a drow elf, and a female at that, her running away seems a bit out of character. In such an evil, matriarchal society, wouldn’t she have turned around and plotted her mother’s death instead? If her mother was a head of household, Jenny killing her first would have gained her status. So you might want to give more reason for her running than just the threat.

    This is, of course, assuming you’re speaking of the drow from the gaming world (i.e. Drizzt Do’Urden) If you are writing this particular version of dark elf, you need to be very careful not to use any words or phrases that the owners of the D&D copyright (is it Wizards of the Coast now? I don’t know for sure) can say belong to them. They tend to get annoyed at such things. 😀

    With that said, Jenny’s distrust and continual moving around makes sense, since drow don’t tend to get along in human-based societies very easily. Maybe part of her conflict can be connected to a former lover or employer who’s having her hunted.

    And this is a purely aesthetic question, but is Jenny short for something? It sounds a bit modern and ordinary for an elf. Not that I think you should call her something with lots of consonants and apostrophes, but an exotic name might set her apart.

    Good luck! Keep us posted on how it’s going!

  • Hi Misty

    That had been my original idea, a nice murderous bandit… but then – these girls don’t really leave the city. Current thinking is I get A out of the city based on her being sent off to marry some bloke her father had arranged for her. So maybe the friend ended up being married off to someone handsome and wealthy who all these little nits thought was wonderful – but turned out to be the type to beat his young bride to death? Is it too morbid to open with a murder/funeral?? Together with news of the rebels’ growing bravery reaching the everyday residents of the city, this would have A being sent out into a countryside that had the civilised lot in a tizzy while also she is now fearing for her own future?

    Once I’ve got her and her mum out of the city and in the hands of the other side I’ll be fine – I’ve got that almost entirely mapped out. It is just getting them out there to be attacked in a catchy and interesting way, I guess.

    And can I just take a moment to go ‘Eeeee, Misty Massey gave me advice!!’ I discovered Magical Words and the other three great authors here after trying to find more info on your work once I read – and absolutely loved – Mad Kestrel. I took it into the bath and ended up reading the whole thing in one go; the water was freeeezing by the time I finished.

    Toodle pip,
    Anna

  • Anna asked, “Is it too morbid to open with a murder/funeral??”

    Oh goodness, no! That’s a great way to start – lots of emotional resonance. Marion Zimmer Bradley used to tell people that a novel should start where things begin to go wrong, and a funeral’s great for that.

    I’m so sorry you got cold, but that is one of the nicest things anyone has said to me!! You made my weekend – thank you! 😀

  • mikaela

    Misty, the reason she ran is than her mother is the Arch-Priestess of Gwynfar, and that means she has much more power than Jenny does, not to mention knowledge, since Jenny was 150 ( equals 15, or so), and her mother was over 500….
    When it comes to her names, well… she humanized her name, her real name is Gwyneth ouerch Nethesar ap Dhur. The reason for this is that using your True names leaves traces that can be used to track people down, and she really don’t want to be found.

    As for D&D, well… I have tried to make my drows different. Yes, they are matriarchical, but they aren’t necessary, evil, just feared by the other races. Her mother is insane. And I know why. Have I mentioned I love the reason vampires exist in my world? *grins*

  • mikaela

    Oh I forgot to mention, I had the similar reaction that Anna had when Faith said that she liked it. Now I just need to actually finish revising it. That’s the next part. I can finish a first draft, but I have yet to get in the habit to finish revisions. Which is odd, since I actually likes revising.

  • I hope this isn’t insanely long, but I wanted to post it before it was too late. Please tell me what you think. Thanks!

    Luna Bravo is a small-town witch who has always been afraid to use her magic. But now that the city she calls home is overflowing with the blood and bones of those she has always protected, and the local authorities are refusing to do a damn thing for them, it is up to Luna to face her fears and the ruthless killer behind the attacks.

    1. Human or Natural Traits: Her mother was forced to watch her father get ripped to pieces by hunting dogs, after been charged with the crime of marrying a witch. Seconds after his death, the townspeople stripped her mother naked, and burned her at the stake. Luna Bravo was barely 12, the night she witnessed both events. She had been terrified of witchcraft every since. As a child she was so powerful that her mother had to filter her Channeling (the process of borrowing energy to produce change, or magic). Luna keeps her mother’s grimoire, but hasn’t brewed a spell or use magic, since childhood. She forgot everything about the magical properties of herbs, stones, and crystals. She doesn’t even know where to find them if she needed to. She dates, but she “loves them and leaves them”, the fear of losing another loved one has made her a lonely woman. Her feelings are unfounded now that she lives in Pre-Khaos, where most inhabitants are preternatural beings, but her fears blind her mind and sometimes her heart.

    2. Typical Traits: Luna is a universal Conduit (has the ability to borrow, or Channel, energy from everything around her and turn it into magic). She grew up in the wilderness of the Caribbean, hunting and gathering, in order to eat. This made her a proficient tracker, a decent knife handler, an outstanding marksman, and a very swift runner. Luna’s mother died before she was thirteen, so there was no Rite of Passage (Luna never learned how to control her ability). She could suck the life out of her entire neighborhood (or city), if she were to Channel without help. This would probably kill every living thing within a few miles radius, and who knows what the overload of energy would do to her mind. Luna grew up away from other preternaturals, so she knows little about vampires, daemons, faeries, demons… She depends on two ghosts to help her navigate the City of Pre-Khaos, New York, but one of them is her life’s biggest complication.

    3. Individual Traits: Luna is an Empowerment Couch at a nonprofit organization, which offers assistance to homeless HIV infected individuals. Luna was born out of the US, so she only has a work visa. If she gets into trouble with the law, or loses her job, she could be deported back to the land of the bigots who killed her parents. She is completely dedicated to her clients. In the past, she only hunted to eat, but today she slaughters a different kind of beast, to keep her clients from becoming their food. She only has 3 real friends, plus another who has become her protector. She is in love with the secretive ghost of Tristan McKenzie, and doesn’t really know how to feel about Kat, the ghost of his female Pit Bull who is not exactly too fond of her. She eats like a pig, and can survive on caramel ice cream, Hershey’s Shell chocolate topping, and French vanilla black coffee overloaded with sugar. She has to shave her legs everyday. She loves pink, black, and brown, and talks to her MINI when she is frustrated.

    4. Moral or Social: Luna puts her friends’ and clients’ lives before her own. She is willing to do anything for them—even magic. She spends her days helping people find the courage to deal with their illnesses, although she has difficulties dealing with her own issues. Her feelings for her friends and clients are her biggest handicap, but they are also her most powerful weapon—keeping them safe, gives her magic the focus her mother’s untimely death took away.

  • Mikaela said, “…well… she humanized her name,”

    Gotcha – that clears it up.

    “As for D&D, well… I have tried to make my drows different.”

    That’s good. I wasn’t trying to tell you not to write about the drow, of course, just for you to be very careful. When dealing with Wizards of the Coast, you want to avoid stepping on their toes – they’ve been known to sue over words if they believe those words belong to them. They have good lawyers. 😀

    Have fun revising! I love it, too, although I have an awful habit of fixing things that weren’t broken. Left to my own devices, I’d end up chopping out half the words I began with whether they needed to be removed or not. *grin*

  • This was great fun, y’all!
    Faith

  • Argh, and I found this site only today and missed the fun of playing along. 🙁