Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Character Building Part 5

Yes, I know it has been a little while.  I'm working on a very long post with lots of pictures about my Hobbit party.  However, at the moment my feisty computer refuses to upload the pictures, so I'm just doing this for now...

Today I am going to be talking about physical appearance.  I'll be honest, I am very picky about how books cover physical appearances.  A trend I've noticed in romance and fantasy books is talking WAYY too much about the physical appearance of a character.  Junk like, "Her chestnut auburn hair flowed through the wind and gently kissed her slightly tilted cheek as her silver bluish gray sea eyes gazed over the land, her porcelain hands clasped in front of her and her tiny but not-too-tiny pink lips opened slightly to reveal a row of perfect white teeth, as white as snow, and her skin glowed in the sun a nice pale tan."

Yeah.  Ugh.  I already think that there is no hope for romance stories, but this travesty must certainly be stopped in fantasy!

However, I also get annoyed when there is NO description of a character for chapters and chapters and then when you have pictured the character how you want, the writer comes and FINALLY gives a brief description of the character.

It's a very fine line.  And here is how I think it should be settled...

Mention the physical traits the character can control, and in so doing, mention the traits they can't control.  

For example, in 'Ember Flame', I pictured Hail Frost as scowling constantly, brooding, and cold.  His facial expression would look rather cruel and cold, but it is merely a wall to keep his secrets in and people out.  Physically, I always pictured him as nobly handsome; sharp nose, pale skin, combed black hair, and blue eyes.  When Ember first sees him, she describes him as "cold" and "stony", and in so doing mentions his black hair and icy blue eyes.  It helped add to his mysterious and distant aura.

I didn't mention that I thought he was handsome because 1) it kinda screams cliche.  And 2) Ember would not notice that.  At this point in the story, she is way too self-centered to even notice guys, and she's never been one to care about looks.  So she would not note how good-looking someone was, only what she felt about the person.  The first person to actually describe Hail as "handsome" would be Caran.  I used her to say it because it emphasizes her superficiality. 

So ya see?  In describing the physical, something you have to do eventually in a novel, you can get across something of their personality, and also the narrator's personality.

Another physical you can use is clothing.  Characters' pick and dress themselves, so clothing should be a reflection of who they are.  It's that way in real life.  I do NOT like frilly skirts/dresses, sparkles, sequins, etc.  I'm not a very girly person.  It's just not who I am.

One of the coolest aspects of Doctor Who to me, albeit a superficial one, is the clothing.  I love how each time the Doctor reincarnates himself, he has to get a whole new wardrobe.  Compare the ninth doctor to the eleventh doctor.  The ninth doctor travels through time and space garbed in a plain T-shirt, a leather jacket, blue jeans, and close-cropped hair.  The ninth doctor is definitely the angriest and most brooding, so his dark leather jacket and plain, unassuming T-shirt help emphasize his "stay back unless I want you near" demeanor.

Then there is the eleventh doctor.  He's friendly, silly, a bit more eccentric than the other doctors, and compassionate.  He wears a tweed jacket, a bow tie, tucked-in shirt, and his hair is nuts.  Occasionally, he dons a fez or stetson to show how "cool" he is.  His oddly classy way of dressing helps emphasize his eccentric, but approachable, nature.  

If you don't use physical description well, it can seriously hinder your novel.  However, if you use it effectively, it can help your readers get a much stronger grasp on your characters. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Characters in Costume: Antagonists

This month's "characters in costume" challenge was on antagonists!  I had a lot of fun dressing up as a villain and it helped me see her in a different perspective.  So thank you Gillian Adams for hosting this!  It is a TON of fun and very helpful!  :)

Now, for da pictures... ( oh yeah, and SPOILERS for both 'Ember Flame' and 'Hail Frost.') 

Amidoa, sorceress and queen of the Myla-Sil islands and villain of both 'Ember Flame' and 'Hail Frost.'

Amidoa is an extremely proud and vain woman, utterly controlled by her need for power and greatness.  She is a Five, a race that was created to assist the Leverage in everything they might need.  Fives have unruly powers that typically only work when a Leverage is in danger.   When the Fives and Leverage abandoned one another, Amidoa attempted to harness her powers by turning to black arts and dark magic. 

With the help of the Pull and Lord Sicreet, Amidoa rose from a lowly Five girl to being the queen of Myla-Sil, one of the most powerful countries in the world.  All she had to do to keep her throne was one simple task: convert the Leverage or destroy them. 

Happy to oblige, Amidoa set about her work instantly.  She easily found control over Flake, Rime, and Snow Frost.  She then moved on to harder territory.  She managed convince Hail Frost that following the path Elethor had given him was pointless, and he must join the Pull or die.  Hail did join the Pull as an assassin, but his conscience continued to torment him so he drowned out his feelings in drinking.  As Amidoa tried to force Hail into giving up his power for the Pull, Hail, in a drunken rage, sliced off her right hand. 

Hail tore away from the grip the Pull had on him and tried to sew his life back together.  Amidoa, however, never tore away from her bitterness and thirst for revenge.  As a Five, she was able to cheat death five times.  On her fifth "life" Amidoa is confronted with the most difficult decision of her life.

Seek out her revenge on Hail and lose any love her young Leverage daughter might have for her, or relent and spend her last life trying to heal the wound her bitterness has sliced between her and Ash.  


As I said before, these characters in costume challenges are SO much fun!  Again, thank you Gillian for creating these challenges.  Special thanks to my little sissies for helping me put together my costume and for taking pictures!  Can't wait for next month!  :)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


"You are invited to a Hobbit birthday with Gillian Adams over at Enter the giveaway for a chance to win an awesome speculative fiction book!"

*insert smiley face*

Go enter it!  It's a SUPER good deal! 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Character Building: Part 4

Today we shall be talking about goals.

Now, I'm not referring to the story goal necessarily.  I'm talking about more personal goals, the reasons behind the story goal.

I think I'm starting to sound like Jack Sparrow.  Okay, let me try again....

The Story Goal is the reason for the story,  Whether it be vanquishing the villain, dropping a Ring into Mount Doom, finding the Fountain of Youth, if it is the reason the characters are on their quest, it is the story goal.

Personal goals are a bit more vague.  It's like what the character is really trying to do.  For example, the story goal of Lord of the Rings is for Frodo (or anybody else, for that mater) to take the Ring and drop it in the fires of Mount Doom to destroy it.  Typically, if you ask 'Why?' enough, you should come to the personal goal.  This is the 'whys' for Frodo.

Why drop the Ring into Mount Doom?  It will destroy Sauron.
Why destroy Sauron?  Because he wants to pillage and destroy Middle-Earth, killing many (if not all) good life forms and ravaging the world with Orcs.
Why is this bad?  Because it will destroy the Shire!

And there it is!  Frodo chooses to go on the quest because he wants the Shire to be saved.  Later, he realizes the world is much bigger, and of course, he doesn't want anyone else to die.  But he ultimately travels to Mordor to save the Shire.  That is his personal goal.

The personal goal would be different if I asked the 'whys' for different characters.  If I asked it for Aragorn, the answer might be because he doesn't want Gondor destroyed, or going further that he wants to marry Arwen.

Conflict is what makes a story.  So sometimes, your characters personal goals will clash when ultimately they  want the same thing.  For example, in 'Star Wars: A New Hope' Han Solo and Luke Skywalker both want to see the Empire destroyed.  Han hates the Death Star too.  He hates the Empire.  But he and Luke clash because Han's personal goal, saving his own skin, goes against Luke's personal goal, follow his father and learn the ways of the Force.  Be a Jedi.  Han leaves right before the battle with the Death Star because of his personal goal.  Luke goes to fight the Death Star because of his personal goal.  Later, the story goal becomes too large for Han to ignore, so he forsakes his personal goal and returns to help.

Of course, all the characters can't agree on the same story goal.  Then all we would have are trite disagreements and momentary conflicts.  Villains needs to have polar opposite goals of the hero.  If the hero wants to destroy the villain's most powerful asset and stop his plans to ravage the earth, the villain needs to try to reclaim his most powerful asset and work harder on ravaging the earth.

You see where I'm going with this?  I've read far too many modern stories where the hero is thrust into the quest and I never figure out why he is doing it.  I think this is becoming a serious issue for writers and we need to pay closer attention to it, much like the identities problem I mentioned earlier.

(BTW, Jack Sparrow, Aragorn, AND Han Solo all in one post???  My poor fangirling brain is going into overload!!!!)

(Now all we need is Loki....)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Character Building: Part 2.5

Of course, it was only after I wrote the post on identities that I watch the most epicest Doctor Who scene EVER!  I wasn't sure I'd like the eleventh doctor, but after watching this, he just might be my favorite...and I've only seen two episodes of him!*

I love how the Doctor, even after going through so many identities, he still knows exactly who he is and what his purpose is.  He's pretty darn awesome.

*Haven't finished the tenth doctor yet.  Heck, I haven't even finished the first SEASON of the tenth doctor.  I love the tenth doctor.  A friend wanted me to see the eleventh doctor, so I skipped ahead to the first episode of season five.  I'm sure there are plenty of epic tenth doctor scenes that would fit this character building post, I just haven't seen them.  Not to mention the awesomeness of the ninth doctor in his first episode...

I'll stop rambling now.  Watch the video!  It's awesome!  

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Character Building: Part 3


I could end the post with that, but for the sake of being professional, I'll elaborate.

Nobody's perfect.   Anybody will admit that.  Therefore, realistic characters-especially realistic heroes- need to have flaws.

Before I delve into that, here is something that I find extremely thought-provoking when building a character. Like I said, anybody will admit to not being perfect.  But few people who are not Christians will attest to being born inherently bad and sinful.  Even some Christians have issues admitting that.  More often, people try to blame sin and 'badness' on society, parents, upbringing, etc.  But we ARE born inherently bad.  That's what makes us human.

Think of it this way.  Adam and Eve were the first humans on the planet.  They were also the only humans to know what a perfect world looked like.  Even though they became sinful, they knew what perfect looked like.  Therefore, wouldn't that have made them better parents than later parents that would have been 'tainted' by society?  If it is true that Adam and Eve were fairly decent parents, then how come the very first human born on the planet MURDERED his brother because he was jealous???  We are born inherently sinful!  It is not the parents fault!

I like thinking of that when I make characters.  I like deciding, if the character does not know God or some form of God if in a fantasy world, what is keeping them from plummeting into something as dark as a murderer?  Society?  Rationality?  Conscience?

For instance, with Ember, she doesn't kill or hurt anybody when living in Grel because she has a conscience. She can't bring herself to do it.  I think it's also a bit of rationality in it too.  Murdering the chief logger would only cause her further harm and she could possibly be killed for it.

Anyway, I just find that interesting to think about.  Moving on to the actual post...

I've read books where there have been characters who were so sickly perfect, I quit reading the book.  Not kidding.  Bryan Davis books are a good example of this.  His books ALWAYS have the super perfect, super chivalrous, super courageous male protagonist.  They are PERFECT!  And it annoys me so much!  I enjoy Bryan Davis' creative plots, and he is a fantastic writer in the literal sense of the word, but when it comes to characters, his books tend to lag.  Don't even get me started on the cliche damsels in distress that perpetuate his novels....

Not only do the flaws make the hero realistic, they also make him sympathetic.  Everybody has something they try to overcome, or should be trying to overcome.  The important thing is not to let the flaw remained "unnoticed."  The hero, or someone close to the hero like the mentor, should notice the flaw and try to fix it.

For instance, if your hero starts the story as a thief and a liar, he needs to work on fixing those problems throughout the story.  I love the movie 'Aladdin,' but I think the writers could have done better in this area.  Aladdin fixes his lying problem and that's great, but the only reason he stops thieving is because he marries a rich princess.  True, we could give him the benefit of the doubt, but I don't think so because at the beginning of the movie he actually says (well, sings) "I only steal what I can't afford, and that's everything....gotta eat to live, gotta steal to eat, tell you all about it when I've got the time."

So yeah.  Lazy writing.  Either that, or they don't see an issue with making him constantly steal, which is worse.

The biggest issue I've found with the hero struggling to overcome flaws is actually overcoming them.  I mean, eventually your hero will be perfect, right?  It's tempting to make the hero perfect after they work so hard to stop killing/lying/stealing/sneaking/eating popcorn dipped in corn syrup.  I had this issue when writing 'Hail Frost.'  Ember's main issue in 'Ember Flame' was lack of trust in Elethor (God) and identity problems.  She overcame both.  She now had a strong faith in Elethor, and she no longer struggled to prove herself.  Other than her goofy, snippy remarks, she seemed rather perfect.

I had to think for awhile with how to fix this.  She seemed real to me in 'Ember Flame,' but when I started 'Hail Frost,' she fell flat.  I finally realized something.

Overcoming flaws can sometimes create new flaws.  It's sad, but true.  Nobody in real life ever reaches 'perfect.'  God always brings to light something else that He needs to fix.  So why not with characters too?  

I started thinking what would be a naturally response to Ember finding her identity.  It had to be something that fit with her personality, and it had to be something that she could work on throughout the book.  I finally decided on selfishness.  Trying to prove yourself is a form of selfishness already, but since she stopped that, her selfishness just changed forms.  Now that she has confidence in herself, she got a sort of self-serving selfishness.  She abandoned the quest she and the other Leverage had agreed on, and instead, went to go discover something else about herself.  She also had to learn to care for her little sister before herself.

All in all, I think it worked out fairly well.

There's a lot more I could say on the subject, but I'll finish with these parting words.


Thursday, April 4, 2013

But it's my birthday precious!

Yep.  It's my birthday today!  Virtual cake and flowers all around!

Seriously though, I don't usually do "Happy Birthday to me!" posts.  But since today is pretty special (I'm turning sixteen) I thought I'd compare my life, especially my writing life, to six years ago.  Ready?  Good!  Cuz I'm not!

 What I want to be when I grow up

At ten, I wanted to be president of the United States.  Correction, I wanted to be the FIRST female president of the United States.  I blame Disney.  They were the ones who said to dream big!

At sixteen, I want to be an author, a screenwriter, possibly a movie/TV director, and a missionary.  Much more better, don't you think?

My Favorite Movie

Hmm...I watched LOTR as a ten year old, but I think I saw them over the summer.  Probably 'Monsters Inc.'

Now?  'Lord of the Rings'.  Particularly  'Return of the King'.

My Role Models

Other than my parents and Jesus, who it would have been for both ages.  As a ten year old, I ADORED Joan of Arc (French Peasant girl who became a warrior) and also Anne Bonny and Mary Read (female pirates).  Fantastic I know.

And now it is George Washington (for his morality and courage), Robert E. Lee (for his discernment and loyalty), Corrie Ten Boom (for her faithfulness and heroism), and Caesar Augustus (for his cleverness and perseverence.  Let's just forget about the whole emperor/dictatorship thing, shall we? ;)  ). I think I've mellowed with age.  :P

My Favorite Books

At ten, 'The Hobbit', 'Ella Enchanted,' 'Beorn the Proud,' 'Treasure Island' and 'Alice in Wonderland.'

At sixteen, 'Lord of the Rings,' 'The Hobbit,' 'Count of Monte Cristo,' 'The Blood Ship,' and 'The Iliad.'

My Favorite Hobbies

When I was ten I enjoyed reading, swimming, watching 'Liberty's Kids,' doing my school, playing pretend with my friends, walking to the park, and dreaming up grand adventures.

As a sixteen year old, I enjoy reading, running, skeet shooting, pistol, archery, watching and critiquing movies, avoiding my schoolwork as Joel Osteen would a martyr, hanging with my friends, and writing grand adventures.  (Hmm...perhaps I've not mellowed with age...)

My Favorite Food

Peanut Butter.

Peanut Butter.

My Favorite Song

'Any Which Way' by PureNRG, I think...

'Me Without You' by tobyMac.

My Favorite Personal Belonging

A stick I found in a beaver's dam on my grandad's farm.  It was all gnawed and smooth so I never got a splinter from it!  That stick could become anything.  A staff, a (pretend) torch, Anduril, it was awesome!

Probably my laptop or hard-drive with all my stories on it.

Other Stuff

Now, to list things that have changed in the past six years.  Gosh, there's been a lot.  Let's start family wise...

Six years ago, two of my cousins did not exist.  Well, one existed but he would not have been born for another few months.  So in six years I got two awesomely adorable cousins!

Six years ago, my grandfather was still here on earth with us.

Six years ago, both of my maternal aunts and their families lived nearby.

Six years ago, we were still getting used to having Derby and had not even considered getting another doggy yet.  (Yes, Derby and Charlie are family!)

Now let's move on to more general topics.

Six years ago, I had no idea I would ever write a book.

Six years ago, I was a Christian who based my faith on how much 'good' things happened to me.  My world had not been shaken and I had never questioned whether my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ existed.

Six years ago, I had glasses, crooked teeth, frizzy hair and didn't give a rip.  (Now, I have contacts, straight teeth, frizzy hair and still don't give a rip!)  (Way to go from deep to superficial, Kaycee...)

Six years ago, I didn't really like the name 'Kaycee' because it is a gender neutral name.  Now, I love the name Kaycee...because it's a gender neutral name!  ( looks cool.  Great for book covers!  XD)

Six years ago, my favorite Bible verse was Psalm 23: 6 'Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.  And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.'  I clearly did not understand that 'goodness' was a very different thing from 'good things.'  I am so glad that God has changed my heart.  I find it funny how, as ten year old, I completely ignored verses 4 and 5 from that passage....

My favorite Bible verses now are Galatians 5:1 'It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm then, and do not be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.' and Daniel 2: 20-23 'Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever, wisdom and power are his.  He changes times and seasons, he sets up kings and deposes them.  He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.  He knows what lies in darkness and light dwells with him.  I thank and praise You, O God of my fathers.  You have given me wisdom and power.  You have made known to me what we have asked of us.  You have made known to us the dream of the king.'  :)

(I added the smiley.  That's not in the Bible.  Well, it might be in the Message Bible...)

Those are the things that have changed.  Here are some things that have stayed the same...

I'm still blessed with a rockin family.

I'm still blessed to be homeschooled.

I'm still blessed to live in a fantastic city.

I'm blessed with the best friends a girl could ever hope for.

I'm blessed with funny siblings.

I'm blessed with awesome parents.

I'm blessed with a group of friends that I can call family.

I'm blessed to have a family that overlooks embraces my little quirks and lets me be me.

I'm blessed with super cool relatives who live both nearby and far away.  Either way, they'll always be close to me.

I'm blessed with amazing grandparents.

I'm blessed to be a member of a church.

I'm blessed with a hilarious passel of cousins and aunts and uncles.

I'm blessed to have parents who look after me, but who let me go out on my own and try new things for myself.

I'm blessed with two savvy gal pals, one who is the queen of editors and the other who is queen of book covers.

I'm blessed with the two most adorable dogs in the world.

I'm blessed with people who are willing to take the time to edit, help, read, critique, and encourage me as I write my novels.

I'm blessed with the knowledge of what I want to do when I grow up.

I'm blessed by a God whose given me all these incredible blessings plus so many that I would crash the computer if I tried listing them all.  I don't know why God chose to bless me with so much.  I don't deserve them.  I also don't deserve to be allowed to call him Father, and Jesus my brother and friend, or the Holy Spirit my conscience.  I don't know why God has saved my life, and I don't know why He would ever want to use me for His purpose.  But he does, and I will be eternally grateful to him.  I know I can't do anything in my own strength, but through Jesus Christ I can accomplish anything and everything He wants me to.

Yeah.  I've had a pretty rockin sixteen years.  Be jealous!  :P

I wonder what I'll be doing when I'm thirty two...?  O_O

Character Building: Part 2

Yesterday, I blogged about the first five characters I absolutely and totally fell in love with because of their character.  In this post, I'm going to examine what they all have in common and what I believe makes them great character.  I'll probably refer to all of them (except maybe Mara, since, sadly, she is pretty unknown) plus some other favorite characters of mine.

You know what, to make things simple, I'll just list the characters I will be referencing here...
  • Belle (Beauty and the Beast)
  • Thorin Oakenshield (The Hobbit)
  • Samwise Gamgee (Lord of the Rings)
  • Eowyn (Lord of the Rings)
  • Luke Skywalker (Star Wars)
  • Elizabeth Swann (Pirates of the Caribbean)
  • Rumplestiltskin/Mr. Gold (Once Upon a Time.  I thought about doing Belle, just for fun, but that might get rather annoying!)
  • Simba (The Lion King)

Let's find what they all have in common, shall we?

They either know who they are, or by the end of the story they discover who they are.  Strong characters need to be just that, strong.  They can't be having an identity crisis in the middle of an epic battle!  And if they are, they need to solve it by the end of the story!  Finding out who they are has to be one of sub-plots if they don't already know who they are!  I know this sounds confusing, but I hate movies with weak 'heroes' who aren't even sure who they are or what they should do.  (cough cough cough Cinderella...Gale, Peeta, Bonnie Silver, Aurora, Johnis, Silvie, Darsal, Billos...not that I'm pointing fingers or anything...)

I'm not saying to make perfect characters.  I'm saying to make strong characters.   Sure, they can doubt themselves sometimes, but they have to overcome that.  For instance, Belle asks her father if he thinks she is odd.  She doesn't dwell on the fact she does not fit in, and soon forgets her own problems when her father's machine starts working.  I like this scene because it shows how sweet and sacrificial she is, and also shows she is not wholly perfect.  She feels weird sometimes too.

On my list of characters, Luke Skywalker, Elizabeth Swann, Simba, and to some degree Mr. Gold all discover who they are through the course of the story.  Luke, in the last movie, finally decides that he is a Jedi, like his father before him.  Simba has to take his place as king.

I want to spend a bit of time on Elizabeth.  I simply love how she discovers who she is.  She spends most of 'Dead Man's Chest' going through an identity crisis.  I'm respectable, but I don't want to be, do I?  I love Will, I want to marry him, do I?  The compass does not work, does it?  Do I like Jack?  Is Jack telling me the truth?  No!  He's lying!  It's not fair what has happened to it?

Not to give away the movie (SPOILER) but at the end when she finally betrays Jack, he tells her who she is.  Sure, the kissy part is all gross and you feel bad for Will, but I just love the dialogue after she chains Jack to the mast to be eaten.  (Stuff in parenthesis I added, kinda like what I think she thought or meant.  You'll get it)
Elizabeth:  "It's after you not us. (Right?)  Don't you see, this is the only way!  (Is it?)  I...I'm not sorry.  (Am I?)
Jack (smiles): Pirate!

I'm sorry, I just love that dialogue.  With one word, Jack confirms everything Elizabeth dreaded, but subconsciously knew, about herself.  And if you notice in the third movie, there are no more identity problems with Elizabeth.  Sure, she feels remorse and doubt occasionally over what she did, but she does not struggle like she did in 'Dead Man's Chest.'

Also, her identity troubles are shown through the different outfits she wears throughout 'Dead Man's Chest.'  We first see her in a wedding gown, then dressed like a boy, then a more feminine version of the boy outfit, etc.

Characters need to know who they are.  Rumplestiltskin is always quick to inform anyone who asks that he is, indeed, the Dark One.  He knows exactly who he is.

One person who I feels needs mentioning who is not on the list is Regina from 'Once Upon a Time'.  Not necessarily because she is a good example of this, but because of some awesome dialogue from the episode 'We Are Both' of Season 2.  (Which happens to be all about the townspeople trying to sort out their identities figures)

Archie, the town shrink, also known as Jiminy Cricket, approaches a beaten Regina, trying to show her some compassion.

Archie:  Regina!
Regina:  What?
Archie:  Hey, I just, with the town now realizing everything and everybody getting a new start, I thought maybe you'd like to talk.  Sort things out, try to figure out who you are inside.
Regina:  (pauses for a moment, then leans forward scowling, but with a slight smirk)  I know who I am.  (queue 'evil queen' theme)

Nothin beats a baddie who knows he or she is bad, right?

All this to say, give characters a good, strong grasp on their identites.  Another rabbit trail rant, there are a ridiculous amount of fantasy novels with an all-teen character base, and ALL of the teens are either perfectly strong, mature, and confident, (and, might I add, WAY more intelligent than the adult villain) or they are all immature, wavering, and timid.  Both are obnoxious.

Wait a minute, Kaycee.  I thought you had an All-Teen quest group in Ember Flame who DID happen to beat the adult baddie!

Quite true.  Though I might point out that Caran IS an adult.  But the reason I name my books after my characters is because that's what that particular book is about.  'Ember Flame' was about Ember discovering who she was....Ember Flame.  'Hail Frost' is about Hail having to choose which side of him to be.  I think my characters are fairly confident and strong, but they have their doubting moments and they have internal conflict.  I mean, I'm a teenager.  I know how it is.  I have identity issues, which I am told get better with age.  I don't get them often, I'm usually pretty content in my list of identities   (Christian, daughter, sister, friend, writer, peanut butter consumer, and procrastinator.)  But sometimes, when I want to add or replace or move up in importance an identity (sometimes procrastinating takes precedence over peanut butter...those are what are commonly referred to as 'bad days.') I lack confidence and have to reassess what I am doing.

All that to say, I think I can justify my novels because of the struggles my characters have.  The whole story is built around it.

Whew, another long post done.  And we're just getting started!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Character Building: Part 1

So today I'm going to be talking about characters.  Characters are my favorite part about writing fantasy, or any genre for that matter.  But fantasy especially has a great chance of creating dynamic, intriguing, realistic characters that other genres just don't have.

In this post I'm going to give a little history of my personal favorite characters from my life and why I think that is.

The first character I can recall going nutso over was Belle from Disney's 'Beauty and the Beast.'  I can distinctly remember when I first saw 'Beauty and the Beast.'  I was about five or six at the time, and my mom, my two aunts (her sisters) and I were travelling somewhere for something....I think it was a wedding.    We had hooked up one of those small TV sets in the back with a built in VCR player (anybody else remember those???) so I could watch movies on the way down.

Well, either Aunt Sam or Aunt Amy had brought 'Beauty and the Beast' for me to watch because I had never seen it.  I am not kidding, I watched the movie over four times in a row on the trip.  I can vividly remember mom looking back at my aunt and saying, "Seriously, Amy, if you are getting sick of watching this just turn it off!"  Aunt Sam had laughed when Aunt Amy had said, "No, it's fine!  This is great!"  So I got to watch Beauty and the Beast over and over and over again.  (May I add here that my aunts rock?  I bet my mom was getting sick of hearing 'Tale as Old as Time"!)  XD

*Sigh*, memories aside, I only recently decided why Belle has always remained my favorite Disney Princess.  And it actually comes from the same sort of answer I would have given when I was six.  She's the most like me.  To me, she felt the most realistic.  I could relate the most to her.  Of course, when I was six, I would have cited reasons like "She has brown hair like me," or "she likes to read like me" or "she has a horse and I want a horse!"  But I think people relate to characters who remind them of themselves.  Belle did that for me then, and, I am not ashamed to admit it, still does that to me now.

The second character I recall going crazy over (no, I promise I won't ramble on like I did for Belle) was Thorin Oakenshield.  I read The Hobbit when I was nine, and as I have said before, it completely changed my life.  Honestly, if I had not read the Hobbit when I did, I don't know if I would be writing now.  Anyway, I was in awe throughout the entire book just wondering how someone so epic could be so realistic.  I didn't know what it was when I was nine, but I think I had something of a crush on Thorin.  (Which I may or may not still have...)

I had never read or seen a character with such a nobility before I read The Hobbit.  I didn't really know what the word noble meant.  Now, whenever anyone says that word, I instantly think of Thorin.  He is one of the only characters I have ever read about with such an incredibly strong purpose.  He wants to regain his country and defeat a dragon, he wants to protect and lead his people, but he also wants revenge.  But his revenge is not the cold, self-serving sort of revenge that I knew about from, say, Maleficent or the queen from Snow White.  His was a fiery, unwavering, revenge, infused with raw emotion and thoughtful planning.  He hated Smaug, but not because of what Smaug did to him.  But what he did to his home.  It was a strange concept to me, and it is one I have never forgotten.

So maybe I do get a little rambly when talking about Thorin.  What can I say?  Fangirl!

The third character I found myself loving was Samwise Gamgee from Lord of the Rings.  Unlike my admiration and awe of Belle and Thorin, with Sam I felt (feel) a certain calm familiarity, a pleasant affection.  He was just so natural and normal, but inside he was just as noble, if not more so, than Thorin.  He did not want adventure.  He did not seek revenge.  He was simply Frodo's friend.  I loved how, though he had flaws, Sam was completely and totally loyal to Frodo.  I sobbed my eyes out as a ten year when Sam had to choose between leaving Frodo to Shelob and taking the Ring, or staying and abandoning the quest.  To this day, I'm still not sure what choice I would have made.  And that's pretty impressive that such a laid-back, "normal" character could work through it.

The fourth character I have become attached too (running out of synonyms for 'freakishly and absolutely love' over here!) was Mara from 'Mara, daughter of the Nile' by Eloise Jarvis McGraw.  While a relatively unknown book, it is excellent, and I highly suggest it for anyone.  Mara was unique because she starts out a very unheroic figure.  But she is still a strong character.  I love how she knew from the beginning who she  was, and who she should be.  She knew she was a slave, but she refused to believe that's what she should have been.  She constantly dreamed and worked towards becoming nothing less than a grand princess.  But then, of course, the ever awesome Sheftu got in her way, and then she was forced to re-evaluate who she was.  I loved watching her identity struggles and her personality was beyond awesome.  While totally not my genre, I read this book over and over again simply because I love Mara.

The fifth and final one I will list here that I have gone crazy over is Eowyn.  I never really understood and appreciated her until my second or third time reading 'Lord of the Rings.'  Sure, I thought it was awesome that she killed the Witch King, but I was way too focused on the awesomeness of the other characters to really hone in on her personality.  Eowyn does not speak much, and when she does, it is with such a reverent eloquence it is hard to peal back the layers to discover the adventurous, spirited girl beneath the cold outer layers.  Eowyn longs for something greater than herself, she longs to be great.  She loathes Mordor, and loves Rohan.  Aragorn when he first sees her calls her a "daughter of kings."  It took me awhile to unpack what exactly that meant.  I mean, yeah, she was the king's niece and he had basically raised her, and yeah, her dad was the son of a king.  So yeah, she literally was a "daughter of kings."  But it means so much more than that.

Eowyn was born to lead.  She was born to inspire.  But with Mordor and Isengard caging them in, who was there to inspire?  Who was there to lead?  Despair began creeping in upon her, and she struggled to press it down.  It does not cease to amaze me how close her story came to being tragic.  Her people are dying, her uncle loses his mind for a time, her brother is banished, a creepy pervert is stalking her, Saruman betrays them, her cousin is slain, the man she loves does not love her back, most of their army dies at Helm's Deep and she could do nothing to stop it.  The following scene from The Return of the King is one of the most moving and shocking to me.  I'll tell you why after:

When the light of the day was come into the sky but the sun was not yet risen above the high ridges in the East, Aragorn made ready to depart.  His company was all mounted, and he was about to leap into his saddle, when the Lady Eowyn came to bid them farewell.  She was clad as a Rider and girt with a sword.  In her hand she bore a cup, and she set it to her lips and drank a little, wishing them good speed; and then she gave the cup to Aragorn, and he drank, and he said: "Farewell, Lady of Rohan!  I drink to the fortunes of your House, and of you, and of all your people.  Say to your brother: beyond the shadow we may meet again!"

Then it seemed to Gimli and Legolas who were nearby that she wept, and in one so stern and proud that seemed the more grievous.  But she said:  "Aragorn, wilt thou go?"

"I will," he said.

"Then wilt thou not let me ride with this company, as I have asked?"

"I will not, lady," he said, "For that I could not grant without leave of the king and of your brother; and they will not return until tomorrow.  But I count now every hour, indeed, every minute.  Farewell!"

Then she fell on her knees, saying, "I beg thee!"

"Nay lady," He said, and taking her by the hand he raised her.  Then he kissed her hand, and sprang into the saddle, and rode away, and did not look back; and only those who knew him well and were near to him saw the pain that he bore.

When I was in fourth grade, I was a bit of a feminist.  (Ya know, girls rule, boys drool?  Yeeah, but hey, I was nine!  Besides, it would have been weird if I had liked guys back then. )  I used to not like this scene, because I thought it made Eowyn seem weak and women should never seem weak!  Quite frankly, it offended me.

But then I realized.  That was the point.  The desperation Eowyn felt at being stuck in Edoras brought her to her knees.  She wasn't throwing herself at Aragorn.  She wasn't shirking her duty.  She felt like she had no duty, and she felt useless and cast aside.  And it brought her to her knees!

I say her story could have been extremely tragic because, if she were not so strong, I would not
have been surprised at a suicide.  But as the story unfolds, we realize just how stern and incredibly strong and able Eowyn is.  I think her strongest moment comes when she drops everything and cast aside her dream for valor and honor and glory and instead embraces her love for Faramir.   They are so perfect for each other.  That's probably why Eowyn/Faramir are one of the few romances I actually enjoy reading.  It was a fairy-tale ending to what could have been a very tragic story.

So there you have it!  And this is just Part 1!  >:)  There is so much more where this came from....get ready!