Saturday, February 6, 2021

Character Development Strategies

 Ok I have read Karen Marie Moning's works a bit.  She's a new writer to the Celtic fantasy genre and it's always interesting to me to see how an author plans out her books.  She certainly has a detailed account to one of her male characters.

Going to let you see her technique which was hands down, what a well done character.  Although the book is romance, of which I rarely looked into but some do interest me with the plot and the best way an author expresses their craft in writing. It's a long post but worth the read. 


(SPOILERS if you’re not current on the books)
Bet that got your attention 😉
I knew, from the onset of the Fever Series, I would never take the reader inside Jericho Barrons’s head. However, that doesn’t prevent me from psychoanalyzing my own character. I’m fairly certain I’m the one who created him, not the other way around, although given his formidable powers, I suppose it’s possible that I’m the figment of his imagination. I analyze all my characters, and have elaborate portfolios on them.
Barrons came onto the page, a fully fleshed enigma, demanding I ask no questions, only follow him around and get to know him. Judge him by his actions.
I’ve heard readers say ‘Barrons changed’ over the series, as if that’s a surprising fact.
Of course, he changed. Nearly every character in the series did, with few exceptions. I would say Rowena remained precisely what she was throughout, but off the top of my head, I can’t think of any other character besides secondary ones who didn’t transform substantially. Even Jo was becoming different, growing, when she met her untimely and dreadful demise. Lor also changed, or perhaps he merely began revealing more of the raucous, good-hearted man beneath the Bonecrusher. Ryodan also changed, but less than Jericho Barrons. Ryodan didn’t have the same backstory. He’d been out in the world, living participating, protecting his family, being king of his domain.
Barrons had been solely focused on a single thing right up until the moment Mac came into his life, and even after. There’d been no life for Barrons. He was a man on a mission.
Since I never allowed the reader inside his head (with minute exceptions) the only way the reader had to gauge Barrons’s emotion was through the eyes of other characters in the books, and he’s an inscrutable male even to other characters.
A friend asked me the other day what I considered the inflection point in Jericho Barrons’s character growth, which was a simple question for me to answer but that she asked it made me realize it may have been more obvious to me than it was to the reader.
Jericho Barrons suffered what I imagine to be one of the most exquisitely painful, draining, debilitating states of existence of which I can conceive. He lived, in comparison, a tiny amount of time as a man, in a barbaric land, as a barbarian, before his induction into a never-ending hell that stretched for inestimable millennia without respite.
As a parent, every single day, for thousands and thousands of years, he watched his son suffer unspeakable pain, knowing it was his own fault his child was suffering. (To those who’ve asked, who the woman was that once was his sun, moon and stars, before Mac, it was his son’s mother. Before Barrons became what he is, he loved a woman deeply.) (Also, remember that the terrible torture and repeated killings of his son that turned the child into an insane version of the beast occurred roughly one year after the Nine became what they are, so Barrons has been trying to save or put his son to rest since one year after they became. His entire existence has been devoted to this cause. Barrons killed the man who did it to his son as well as the man's wife, no it wasn't pretty. He carries that and pays it forward.) He had to live every moment of every hour trying to deal with the fact that what he’d done, what happened so long ago, had not only stolen all hope of a life for his son, but condemned that innocent child to eternal torment, in his care. He couldn’t leave him. He couldn’t give him peace. He couldn’t save him. His child. The one who stared up at him trustingly, with all the love in his eyes.
And he’d failed him.
Each day Jericho Barrons lived, his son was in agony. He tended him, fed his uncontrollable appetites, kept him chained and caged, tormented day and night, while he searched obsessively for a way to—if not save him—at least give him peace.
As Barrons said, “Dying is overrated. Human sentimentality has twisted it into the ultimate act of love. Dying for someone isn’t the hard thing. The man that dies escapes. Plain and simple. Game over. End of pain. Try living for someone. Through it all – good, bad, thick, thin, joy, suffering. That’s the hard thing.” Barrons knows that intimately. His entire existence revolved around this problem. He lived, holding his breath, searching endlessly, acquiring all ancient artifacts in existence, studying crumbling scrolls, learning the dark arts, desperate to find a way to end his son’s suffering. It was his reason for being.
Into that life burst our Rainbow Girl and yes, she pissed him off. He knew, from the mural on his ceiling, she was important to him, that they had a destiny together but Mac 1.0 who walked into his bookstore was not geared to survive. She was a liability, another person that needed him. He was hard on her. He was tough. He pushed her, drove her, challenged her. He did everything he could to give her teeth and claws, and he succeeded.
(As a mental exercise, take a moment to re-cast every scene between Mac and Barrons in the first five books with this: Instead of starting the scene from Mac’s POV, start out with Jericho Barrons, beneath his garage with his son. We can see the pain that draws his face taut, we see the grief and despair in his eyes. We know he flashes back to that desert, to his son’s trusting eyes, to his own failure. We know he divides his time between caring for his son’s rabid needs in a rather grotesque fashion and searching exhaustively for a way to save him. There’s a heaviness in Barrons’s heart that never lifts. He, like his son, will never be free. Then he goes to the bookstore and tries to deal with the woman who actually thinks birthday cakes and whether her nails are painted matters. Mac’s lucky he didn’t eat her. This all comes down to whether I, as the writer, permit you to know his backstory up front. If’ I’d been writing a romance, not only would I have given you more of his backstory initially, but I’d also have given you his point of view, binding your emotions and empathy to him. By never letting you into his head, I never bound your empathy to him.)
He had to grow Mac up fast in the single year that passed for them between Darkfever and Shadowfever when, at last, Mac gave him the way to end his son’s eternal pain.
Freeing him.
And Jericho Barrons exhaled for the first time.
And, as some of the terrible pain and tension rolled off him, he looked around, wonderingly, and realized he could finally do something the rest of the Nine had been doing all along.
Maybe even laugh. Care again. Without it resulting in only pain.
Ask himself what he wanted to do today.
Make love to Mac and not hear the endless howls of anguish from beneath the garage behind the bookstore. Give of himself freely and wholly.
Barrons was transformed by this event.
I love Jericho Barrons. He’s not an easy man. But he is rock-solid and committed. He’s done terrible things in the past and he exists as a beast that must meet certain needs. He walks a fine line with it, puts more good into the world than bad, and perhaps most critically, learns and evolves. As he tells Mac, there are some things you can never forgive yourself for (in the conversation about Jo) but you learn to pay it forward. He’s fiercely intelligent but brusque with his wisdom. Still, he can be gentle. Remember the scene when Mac discovers Dani killed Alina? And his Rainbow Girl time in the basement in the Dark Zone. That was hell for him. He wanted Mac to want him. And she didn’t. She wanted sex. Not him. In their suspended time of Pri-ya, she fulfilled his fantasies, rocked his world, rattled his soul.
Without ever once seeing him.
When you know who I am…let me be your man.
I’ve said from the beginning, what fascinates me as a writer is taking flawed, imperfect characters, throwing obstacles and challenges their way and seeing what they become. But also, throwing tribe and love their way and watching how that changes them, too.
Loving and being loved, finding your tribe where you fit, are accepted and valued, is one of the most transformative powers in the universe. It strengthens souls and softens hearts.
But it wasn’t over for Barrons yet. Mac had an inner demon that she would never rest easy until she’d defeated. Again, Barrons stood back and did all in his power to help a woman he loved achieve what she needed. With Mac, it often took painful truths to jam some steel up her spine.
Barrons will never be the hero who pops up as a knight in shining armor every time Mac needs saving. (Although, arguably, the only time he wasn’t Johnny-on-the-spot, he was dead.) He will be the man who teaches her all he knows to make her capable of saving herself or, at the least, to survive long enough for him to get there to help her. And together, they will thrive. He won’t be the man who says all the right words. But he’ll do the right things. He won’t always do the right things with finesse. He’s not perfect.
I had a vision, from the beginning, how I wanted Mac and Barrons to end up and, in KOSAL, I take them there. What a boring series it would be if the only person who changed and grew was Mac.
We live, we grow, we evolve. Those are the kind of characters I’m driven to write about.
The Fever Series suffered more than a few challenges. One of them is that it doesn’t comfortably fit within any one genre. It’s not romance, I didn’t write a book boyfriend. I wrote a difficult but infinitely rewarding man. I didn’t write a perfect heroine. I followed a woman from innocence to wisdom and chronicled her many mistakes along the way. It’s not quite fantasy, although the world building is fully fleshed, vivid and cohesive. It’s not really even urban fantasy. It’s an odd blend of mystery, slow burn love, transformation, how-to-survive-tough-times, fantasy with enough romance that it makes it a bit of a mess to pigeonhole.
Mac and Barrons are not, nor are they intended to be, an example of a perfect relationship. Their relationship is perfect for them. They bring out the best in each other. Not the worst, not the mediocre. The best. He’s right for her and she’s right for him, the way Dani and Ryodan fit each other, Kat and Sean, Christian and…well, you don’t know that part yet. I’m not holding any of my couplings up as a shining example of that to which we should aspire in our own lives. Love them or hate them, they are all gray characters, imperfect people, in an imperfect, fictional world populated by superheroes, assassins, dragon-like Hunters, Fae, druids, supernatural powers.
Now that the Fever Series is drawing to a close, I compiled a list of my favorite Jericho Barrons quotes. Many of them are my favorites because they’re just good advice about life. He was trying to teach Mac, wake her up, bring her to an equal playing ground. Feel free to add if I’ve missed any of yours. I may do this for other characters, as well. It’s intriguing to look back and see how far they’ve all come.
I’m sorry your pretty little world got all screwed up, but everybody’s does, and you go on. It’s how you go on that defines you.
You’re Mac. And I’m Jericho. And nothing else matters. Never will. You exist in a place that is beyond all rules for me. Do you understand that?” (I do, Jericho Barrons just told me he loves me.)
Sometimes, Ms. Lane, one must break with one’s past to embrace’s one’s future. It is never an easy thing to do. It is one of the distinguishing characteristics between survivors and victims. Letting go of what was, to survive what is. (God, did we all learn that in the Time of Covid?)
And this isn’t a Barrons quote but about Barrons…”Ancient eyes had stared at me, filled with ancient grief. And something more. Something so alien and unexpected that I’d almost burst into tears. I’d seen many things in his eyes in the time I’d known him. Lust, amusement, sympathy, mockery, caution, fury. But I had never seen this. Hope. Jericho Barrons had hope, and I was the reason for it. I would never forget his smile. It had illuminated him from the inside out. (This is when he realizes she may be able to lay his son to rest.)
And here we go. She’s bristling and my hackles go up. Bloody hell. I feel fangs coming on. Tell you what, Ms. Lane. Anytime you want to have a conversation with me, leave the myriad issues you have with wanting to fuck me every time you see me outside my cave, come on in and see what you find. You might like it. (That was total truth. Mac got in her own way quite often. I love her, but she had a lot of growing to do.)
Lose the pessimism, Ms. Lane. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Hope strengthens, fear kills.
You’re leaving me, Rainbow Girl.
If only love could be turned off. It’s not a faucet. Love’s a bloody river with level-five rapids. Only a catastrophic act of nature or a dam has any chance of stopping it – and then usually only succeeds in diverting it. Both measures are extreme and change the terrain so much you end up wondering why you bothered. No landmarks to gauge your position once it’s done. Only way to survive is to devise new ways to map out life.
The only question of any significant emotive content is: can you live without it?
Fear is more than a wasted emotion. It’s the ultimate set of blinders. If you can’t face the truth of your reality, you can’t be a part of it, can’t control it. You may as well throw in the towel and yield to the whims of anyone with a stronger will.
Mac is mine. You will never go there. You have a problem with Mac, you work it out with me. I am her shield. I am her second fucking skin. (This one just makes my heart happy, lol)
Of all the years, this one has been my finest. Fire to my ice, Mac. Frost to my flame.
I sometimes wake up to find he’s pulled me close to him and is holding me, spooned into my back with his face in my hair and, those hands that don’t speak like mine don’t speak move over my skin and tell me I’m cherished, honored, seen.
I didn’t want to hide the memory from you. I wanted to cram it down your goddamn throat. I wanted to force you to face it, to want it, to want me, to be willing to fight for what was possible between us with the same single-minded devotion as you fucked. Well, Ms. Lane, you’ve got your precious memory back. Will you throw me away now?
I’ve had a long life. You haven’t. You love your family. Go to another world. Find a…a husband— (he breaks off and that dangerous rattle starts in his chest yet, he goes on) Have children. Rebuild the human race. Live all those dreams you used to have. (She refuses, of course.)
When you know who I am, let me be your man.
Oh ye of little faith. Not for IYD. But you didn’t even try.
Women have been repeating the same mistake since time began: falling for a man’s potential. We rarely see it the same way and even more rarely care to achieve it.
One day you may kiss a man you can’t breathe without and find breath is of little consequence.
(M) Are we, like, having a conversation? (B) Did you just, like, ask me for advice and listen with an open mind? If so, then yes, I would call this a conversation.
Then there’s one from KOSAL that you haven’t seen yet:
B. You choose. Hero or villain.
M. You told me you’re not the hero.
B. Not the villain either.
M. What else is there?
B. A person that gets up every day and tries as hard as she can to live up to what she believes in. Aims for the stars. Misses sometimes. Tries again. Harder. With more commitment to protecting others and less selfishness.
Typical of their early relationship, this one makes me laugh:
B. The moment I laid eyes on you, I knew you were trouble.
M. Ditto.
B. I wanted to drag you between the shelves, fuck you senseless and send you home.
M. If you’d done that, I never would have left.
B. You’re still here anyway.
M. You don’t have to sound so sour about it.
B. You’re upsetting my entire existence.
M. Fine. I’ll leave.
B. Try and I’ll chain you up.

Creativity with Snow

Overwork GIF by Carlotta Notaro


             Let today be the day. Snow is falling outside our North GA home and keeping warm in the kitchen, got the Hobbit & Lord of the Rings soundtrack going to keep the creativity going.  Got some hot tea

A couple of clips to enjoy.

What is your favorite thing to write or paint to? 

The Phantasm at Orly


France, during the Hundred Years War

Captain Rodrigo led a small force of mounted knights and pikemen through a forest vale, uneasy at how fast the mist had settled in. Since the English had the upper hand at the moment, his men were available for a side mission to a hamlet called Orly. The Frenchies were drawing courage from a local saint, one whose bones must be taken to England for bargaining. 

Even the horses sensed something unnatural in the gathering fog. It overhung the trees, where a watery sun kept pace through a yellow miasma. Rodrigo took solace from the rattle and clink of armor and spears. The clumping hooves of the horses could trample anything that got in the way. Anything of a physical nature, anyhow. 

Sergeant Weare, the foot leader, dashed toward Rodrigo, who signaled a halt. "Captain, the pass is blocked by a giant bed."

Some of the knights chuckled. 

"A bed?" Rodrigo scowled. "Then remove it."

"It. . . .it isn't really there. You can see right through it."

"You're fog-addled, Sergeant. Return to the point." As they neared the decrepit monastery, clinging mist began to saturate everything. Torches sputtered to life. Presently they came to the phenomenon. 

Sir Davies raised his visor. "Look there--it is a bed, with an old lady upon it!"

"The peasants had a drawing made," said the sergeant. "On her death bed. She lay covered to the chin, wearing a shawl. Tis the selfsame image!"

"A drawing come to life?" Rodrigo sneered. "Show them how little regard we have for their witchcraft."

The sergeant reluctantly trotted through and back again. He clasped arms as if frozen. "Tis the very cold of the grave in there. The horses will surely shy from it!"

"Then we'll defeat their strategy. Dismount!"

Pikemen fell back to tend the horses as the knights clattered forward. 

The old lady sat up in the phantom bed with a piercing howl, mouth stretched into an inhuman maw. Horses went mad with fear, barely restrained by the struggling pikers. 

Rodrigo  couldn't afford to be stranded here without the animals, but he had a mission. "Flank the thing! I want those bones!" Knights remounted their skittish chargers while pikemen pressed forth through trees and low shrub. 

The sergeant's experience was typical. A wispy figure arose as if hinged at the ankles. Crazily, that was more fearsome than the specter itself, a lost soul damned by some bizarre torture. It lurched at him with the same unearthly wail and distended jaws. The sergeant backed away, tripped, splashed down in a rivulet. All around, men jabbed at nothing; ghostly hands reached to curse them with numbing cold.

"I yield!" the sergeant shouted at his tormentor. 

The phantom pitched forward, face down, and melted into sodden leaf cover. Pikemen staggered back to the road, some supporting stricken comrades.

Rodrigo glared at the giant bed, whose occupant reposed once more. "The field is yours, foul spirit!" He signaled withdrawal. "I foresee we shall someday have this land. But not all of it. . . ." 

Thursday, February 4, 2021

What Is An Interesting Character?

 If there's a story equation, it looks something like this: Person plus Desire minus Obstacle = story. Desire is the easy part, as we all yearn for something or other. It's defined by your story world, what it dangles to pull your protagonist along, be it revenge, romance, adventure, materialism, belonging, and so on. Regardless of genre, there's a pitfall equation: Dull Person = Who Cares? Fortunately, the menu for assembling a compelling character is as big as the Dallas phone book. 

Why do we care?

Gamers know the fun of assigning traits to a character and then piloting him through the game world. Reading is similar. We watch the person grow, tsk at his mistakes, emphasize with his joy and misery, judge his oppressors. It's a vicarious way to satisfy the need for adventure, and a good yarn will even teach you a few things, depending on the author's area of expertise. 

Where do we get ideas?

Life experience is a good way to make a character authoritative on some subject you've studied or practiced. Books, movies, TV, and games have a way of resonating through scenes that reach you at a personal level. People you know are a great resource, but should be confined to speech and personality; their mark on the story is up to you, and they'll be called on to react in ways they probably wouldn't in real life. Fictional characters are often built around a single trait. Seinfeld gave us the eccentric Kramer, shallow Jerry, and insecure George. 

Choosing traits

Maximize the impact by tailoring these to create the biggest driving force. In fantasy, a low-born person who yearns for forbidden knowledge might be unexpectedly virtuous. Can he or she handle it without being corrupted? Naturally, the elites will oppose it, and you can even through in some Inquisition types to up the danger level. Let's not forget villains. They'll seek to exploit fears and insecurities, pit their strengths against those of the protagonist. He'll either grow or suffer a setback. There's also the matter of too much of a good thing, like generosity and curiosity, recipes for exploitation.

Is there a magic formula?

Not really. The more universal the appeal, the more people can identify with your hero. Most writers have a personal vision for the protagonist to fulfill. It often leads them to a niche market, which can be more satisfying than taking a shotgun blast at the market with a clone of Superman or Harry Potter. Genre is a good place to start. In a squalid city of thieves, your guy must be stealthy, streetwise, a fighter, and able to rationalize breaking the law. He's also a stickler for the clan code of honor; it's a good idea to create a situation that requires him to go against it. 

That's the basic idea, and a good way to hone skills is by doing fan fiction. Established characters leave you free to practice prose, description, and dialog. It works, being tested by experience. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Little Sister (Conclusion)


Previous  having recovered her mace with help from fairies, Stheno faces a battle with ogres.

Though the fairies pressed their attack, they lacked the firepower for dealing with ogres. The giants were too dumb to appreciate the subtleties of fairy music; they swatted away explosive stars; and Chianna couldn't use a starburst spell to blind them, since that would spoil the gorgon stare.

"Enough of this oafish delay." Stheno unclipped her mace. "I summon. . . .me!" She transformed into a giant floating head. But the ogres were slow to petrify owing to their small intellects. When all four finally succumbed, Stheno transformed back, dropping from the tax on her reserves.

"Presumptuous cretins!" She sat among wildflowers, surrounded by stone gargoyles. From across a bridge came two men, one of them having dark skin. "A Numidian."

Pete bristled. "Why does everybody say that? I'm from Cleveland."

"No you aren't," Ed said. "You're just tired of being the emissary from Planet Soul."

The other members of Team Dan arrived. Dan counted on the hovering fairies to assure the gorgon they weren't enemies. "We're glad you're all right, Miss. You probably know about your two sisters and the maces they're bonded to."

"I do, Leader Man." Stheno fixed her eyes on a trio of approaching dragons, and her serpents began to rise.

"Wait!" Zena came from behind and placed hands over Stheno's eyes. "Those are our dragons. They're here to recover us from the mission."

The serpents relaxed. "You may unhand me, Sword Girl."

Bonnie put a nervous hand to her neck. "Those eyes are looking right through Zena's hands!" 

The gorgon returned the mace to her sash. "I have seen how capable you are. There is the matter of a jealous goddess, and what she has done to me and my sisters."

"A goddess?" Ed shook his head. "That's a tall order, and we don't come cheap. You got an account with us?"

"Hold on,"Dan advised, seeing how the girl wasn't amused. "Consider working with us until you catch up with this goddess. It'll be profitable for us all."

"As you say, Leader Man. My first task is to free my sisters."

Unnoticed, Bonnie carefully draped a dress fold over the Mace of Medusa.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Sunday Creative Reel

 Image may contain: plant

Good afternoon fellow writers and artists,  hope it's been a great weekend so far.  Got my personal workspace up, and as I thought of a bonsai tree which would be nice to keep up over the years that would be ideal.

We are moving in a few weeks so it will be an idea for the new house.  I found a mini rose for some inspiration next to my outline.   Bought some new U2 music to churn out songs. It's that kind of day today as it's cold, rainy and overcast.   Still getting over a sinus issue.  Hard to work when not feeling chipper.

What are you working on today? Or is it a day of rest for you?  Working on a couple scenes.  Somedays I'd like to work faster but this is all I can do at this pace. 

Working on a painting? Graphic design?  Have a question? Ask and it will be answered by someone in the field with their expertise.  Have new ideas for the blog?  Let us know about it so it can grow. Have a great Sunday.