Character Development – Show Me – Jane and Beast — PART TWO


DARK HEIR  Yep, it’s Thursday! I’m baaaaaack!

And yes — Dark Heir is out and doing well. 🙂

If our main characters are to blossom, then they have to have a function and the weapons to accomplish the goal you, the writer, sets for them. Function: Jane is necessary to stem the vamp war with the European Vampires, a war she knows nothing of when the series starts. Weapons: She has the desire, developing skill sets and the family she is building to fight evil. When she realizes that her friends and godchildren are potentially threatened, she also has the desire to fight.

So if look at characterization from the standpoint of strengths and weaknesses, we can easily take a character—any character—and show them developing by simply letting the plot points challenge the character’s weaknesses.

Last week we looked at Jane Yellowrock’s traits, so this week let’s look at them again, with the thought of how I might challenger her to grow.

  1. Human or Natural Traits: Are always here selfish, based on fear and unmet need. As a child of five, Jane witnessed the murder of her father and the rape of her mother. As most children do, who go through something like this, Jane internalized the blame. This makes her feel guilt at a very deep level. DEVELOPMENT POSIBILITY: Jane is placed in positions of making mistakes that challenge her memory of her father’s death, and the things she did afterward. Worse (SPOILER) when she helped her grandmother to track, capture, and kill the bad guys, she added violence on her own part to the issue, and violence almost always begets violence. In a child, being a witness, or even a forced participant in violence, can result traumatic memories, a PTSD that can last a lifetime. Jane has this, and that puts a stress on her weaknesses—on her human, natural traits.
  2. Typical Traits: These are representative of a group. Jane is a Cherokee skinwalker. Following a shift into an animal form, she needs huge amounts of food, because her magics depend on energy from food calories. She has the golden skin of the Cherokee, the height of her father, the long black hair of her childhood. She looks tribal American. DEVELOPMENT POSIBILITY: Jane not being able to get the energy that allows her shift, forcing her to find a way to get that energy from another source. I didn’t use this in the series, but it was a possibility when I was developing Jane in my head. Second DEVELOPMENT POSIBILITY: Racial problems from being a Cherokee chick. Also have not used, but this one exists for when the European Vamps come to visit.
  3. Individual Traits: These traits are peculiar to one character, the non-stereotypical and personal traits fall under this heading. Jane is different from most skinwalkers because she has Beast. With Beast, she can draw on the increased speed, balance, leaping ability, and night vision of the puma concolor. Even in human form. When she fights, she has increased speed, strength, and healing. All these are a-typical traits of her species. DEVELOPMENT POSIBILITY: The atypical traits lead her into difficulties that force a change in her relationship with Beast. This has been huge part of the series. Also, Beast is a fully developed character of her own and she has ideas of magic she wants to try, men she wants to “date” and things she wants to do. Things Jane is not interested in at all. The internal stressors contribute to forcing Jane to grow strengths. Like personal relationships, forcing her to commit to those relationships. I have to say, Jane has grown a lot.
  4. Moral or Social: Read here unselfish. These are the traits that keep the human tribe together, like loyalty, or courage, or self-sacrifice. Jane loves her godchildren and her friends and is fiercely loyal to them. This love and loyalty are both her greatest strength and her greatest weakness. She is brave in battle, has little fear, is loyal even to those who hurt her, gives her word and means it, stands behind it. And she is generous despite her violent past. DEVELOPMENT POSIBILITY: Jane’s loved ones are placed in danger, forcing her to improve on her magic and forcing her to let Beast show her new things. DEVELOPMENT POSIBILITY: When Jane’s loved ones are in danger, she might not think clearly and the result of her errors can force her to grow and develop.

If you look at the traits carefully, and if you’ve had a philosophy, or psychology, or spiritual realization course at any time 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 should to contend with the external plot conflict(s). The natural Jane’s desire for self-gratification butts up against the social Jane’s need to assist the group (her family and friends). These traits come between the two conflicting parts of being human (or skinwalker). 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 Jane will be (has been) pulled in different directions and be forced to develop when:

  1. Jane remembers the childhood violence and is about to understand the guilt she places upon herself. Guilt she needs to be free from.
  2. Jane goes on a slow but effective spirit journey that forcers her to remember a past that has haunted her subconscious and affected her decision-making process.
  3. Forces Jane to form a spiritual bond with Beast, one that turns out give them both more strength and new (but possibly deadly) strength.
  4. Jane is forced to learn new fighting methods, to depend on other people (the Younger brothers) and is forced to learn trust, love, and is also forced to learn how to commit to ohers.

I hope you got something about characters and development, using Jane and Beast. If you are in the mood to play, take a look at one of your characters and see how they fit in with the character traits here. Feel free to post them in the comments and I’ll check in and comment back!

Faith Hunter


3 comments to Character Development – Show Me – Jane and Beast — PART TWO

  • Hepseba ALHH

    Late, but I’ll play:

    1. (Selfish traits) Iesha grew up in a large, but very cold family. Though she is the eldest of many sisters, after her mother died and her father disappeared she left as soon as she was able. She does not tolerate confinement well, and finds her comfort most often alone and wandering out in the world. DEVELOPMENT POSSIBILITY 1: Her frequent off-to-wander disappearances put stress on her marriage, but that early stress-testing will hopefully come in handy when DEVELOPMENT POSSIBILY 2: Her sisters show up and start to really wreak some damage.

    2. (Typical traits) Iesha is a Speaker troll, descended from a long, unbroken female line. As such she appears human but has a tail, and has the power to shape living things with her voice. Without magical bonding to a mate, however, her magic is unfocused and sometimes dangerous. DEVELOPMENT POSSIBILY 1: The necessity of hiding her non-human-ness from most of the humans around her leads to very strained relationships. DEVELOPMENT POSSIBILITIES 2: Instances when her magic does get used leads to collateral damage that is either a) directly harmful to those around her, and/or b) ups the chances of her being discovered for what she is.

    3. (Individual traits) Having been closest to her father, who was born human, she associates a lot more with humans than most trolls. However, because her magic is dangerous and tied first to her voice and only second to her will, she is effectively mute, not daring to speak and injure those around her. DEVELOPMENT POSSIBILITY: Distancing herself from troll-kind places her more on the human “side” when lines are drawn, but has also made her very isolated, making the forging and reforging of her core relationships of prime importance.

    4. (Unselfish traits) Despite her parents’ loveless marriage, she maintains a sense of hope and (silent) laughter. Though she cannot save her father from his past (being turned into a troll) she strives to make it up to him by not following in her mother’s footsteps, and has the strength of will necessary to carry out that promise. DEVELOPMENT POSSIBILITY: When necessity forces her to break this promise, everything will go to pieces, but it will also mean that she gains her voice and learns to develop her magic in ways that are truly powerful.

  • Razziecat

    I had to think hard about this!

    Human or natural traits:
    Keth’s tendency to provoke and push back at authority leads him to volunteer for a spy mission to the enemy world, in large part so he can prove someone else wrong about information vital to the war effort. DEV. POSS: This mission sparks an interest in the enemy as a people, and he begins to see them as more than just “the enemy.” He uses knowledge about their culture to help end the war, but also uses it in trying to get revenge against the man responsible for the attack that killed his wife, and this becomes a personal vendetta.

    There are also elements of Typical and Individual Traits relating to grief, guilt and the need for vengeance and justice.

    Another time, his adversarial relationship with his father blows up in his face when he temporarily becomes the mentor of a youth from the once-enemy, now uneasy-ally alien world. DEV. POSS: He has to swallow his pride, ask his father for advice, and learn about a guardian’s fears, priorities and responsibilities.

    Moral or social:
    When his wife’s body is recovered from the rubble of a destroyed city, Keth is thrown into a tailspin of depression, guilt and anger. His drinking gets out of control, he becomes violent and risks losing his command. Around this time the former enemy world has a terrible natural disaster, and Keth is confused by his own empathy. DEV. POSS: He looks for spiritual guidance and is advised to go back to the “enemy” planet and visit the area he himself destroyed, even though his personal nemesis may end up killing him. He’s willing to take the risk, knowing that his own people won’t protest lest they weaken the fragile peace between their worlds.

    By the end of the story arc Keth learns that grief is not exclusive to him or his own people; he learns humility and is ashamed of the things he has done in acting out his grief and loss; he realizes that he can only move forward by giving up his need for vengeance and taking an active part in the rebuilding of both worlds.

  • With the caveat that I’m working on Book Two, and some of these are more directions I’ve already chosen and not just possibilities:

    Selfish traits:
    1. Since escaping her murderous uncle at age five, Janni’s grown up with the sense of fear that she’ll be caught and killed, since she’s still technically the heir to the throne. As a result, she’s preferred to stay hidden, and she originally wanted to stay hidden. But the landmaiden’s (read: healer’s) journey she must complete to keep her healing powers meant stepping outside of her safe zone, the village where she was secretly raised.
    Development possibility in the first book: Janni goes on her journey anyway. The risk is worth keeping her powers. Besides, what could possibly go wrong? 😉
    2. She never wanted to claim the throne. But by the end of the first book she realizes she needs to own her royalty for the sake of her country and eventually go back and do just that. Still, she decides she needs to complete her landmaiden’s (read: healer’s) journey first.
    Development possibilty/direction: She drags her feet about going back, because the more time that’s passed since her realization of what she needs to do, the harder it is to actually do it. Later she’ll face temptation to give up when she joins the army of an impostor trying to take control.
    3. Being raised with a healer’s sensibilities, she does not like to take life. But in the first book she’s forced to kill. And that’s part of owning her royalty.
    Development possibility/direction: She’s haunted by the life she took, even if she knows it was necessary. And she’ll have to realize it won’t be the only blood on her hands.
    4. Being raised apart from others and alone, Janni’s not used to normal life, even just normal village life, and she’s used to a certain amount of respect. She’s also used to peace and quiet when doing her work.
    Development possibility/direction: She’s forced into a hectic situation where she needs to function under pressure and noisy distractions, where the respect levels are little to none. Yes, I put her around small children.

    Typical Traits:
    1. Janni is a landmaiden on her year-long journey, though this puts her at risk of discovery.
    Developmental possibility: see above (covered in and glommed up with Selfish Traits).

    Individual Traits: Janni was born as Ilyra, princess and sole heir to the throne of Nem. She’s of mixed heritage, being three-quarters Nemish and one-quarter Bandi. In addition to her healing gift, she has some elemental air talents, powers which were exploited in the previous book and which are causing erratic, life-threatening problems for her now.
    Development direction: She pays the price of how she misused her wind powers in the first book. Those powers start to act up even worse than before as a result of the exploitation she suffered previously, and she’s forced to learn control of them (which includes mostly giving them up). This reduced connection severely handicaps her in the second book.

    Unselfish Traits:
    1. In the first book, Janni realized she couldn’t selfishly hide from her royal past. She recognizes that she must become the queen.
    Development direction: Having decided to take back her throne, she realizes she needs to learn more about her country, and herself. But taking the time to do so means that the army she needs will be hard to find. This is especially true when she learns that others with more sinister plans are trying to put a false Ilyra on the throne, and are gathering an army in her name (undermining any chances of her amassing her own). And the longer she takes, the more damage the false army does, which tempts her to give up.
    2. She’s loyal to the friends she does make.
    Development direction: When her love is taken captive, she’s forced to travel without him and make new friends along her journey, including the difficult befriending of one former adversary.
    3. As a healer, it means a lot to her to be able to help others. And she’s willing to learn new skills in order to be able to help.
    Development direction: she learns how to work with her powers in new ways, and to give up what she doesn’t need to save herself. And when she infiltrates the false army, she uses her knowledge and gifts as a landmaiden to improve the morale and living situation of the soldiers and their families, even though she eventually wants to bring the impostor and the entire army down. Or she thought she did…

    Whew! That took awhile, but thanks! I definitely feel more confident about this book now. Time to finish writing it. 🙂