Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Character Sketches with Strength & Honor

I love books set in the medieval era, in a time where ladies were treated like dirt, and men didn't bathe or brush their teeth. What, you say? Actually, that is a misconception. Well, at least in some instances. True, they didn't bathe as regularly as we do today and women held little power in the world, unless their husband/lord was away and she took over running the castle, but there were many women who rose to power and made a name for themselves.

In fiction we tend to gloss over the ugly, dirty part of the medieval era and instead focus on the valiant, alpha males, fighting to protect their land, their castle, and of course, their lady. It takes a man of strength and honor to be lord and it takes a woman of courage and strength of will to be the lady of such a lord.

I believe this is why I love writing medievals so much. I get to write strong, alpha males when in today's society we would call them arrogant and bossy. I get to write strong, feisty females,which is fine in today's society, but 800 years ago (give or take a few hundred), it was not quite as common.

My medieval is about a novice who escapes the convent holding her prisoner in order to expose her murderous stepmother. Disguised as a boy, she impersonates a squire to serve a knight on his way to a tournament at her home castle. He desires land of his own. She longs for a family. When secrets are revealed, hearts that have grown close will rend in two and lives will hang in the balance.

Here are my characters:
Jocelyn: Sent to a convent by her stepmother at the age of nine, Jocelyn longed for family, but became independent and self-assured. She was a curious child and a bit willful at times. Not overtly disobedient, but tended to get in trouble with that intelligent, curious nature. (Think Sound of Music).This type of personality enables her to do the unthinkable and flee the convent disguised as a boy and have the courage to squire for a knight. This strength gives her the bravado she needs to pull off her masquerade and confront her murderous stepmother.

The picture I found is one that looks like the Jocelyn in my mind, except for the eyes. Jocelyn's eyes are sky blue.

UPDATE: I just got an email from Kaye Dacus who sent me a NEW photo of Jocelyn WITH SKY BLUE EYES!!!! How cool is that!?!? Now isn't Jocelyn gorgeous? (I left the the brown eyed Jocelyn in so you could see the difference!) Thank you Kaye!!!!!!

Malcolm: The youngest of five brothers, Malcolm earns his spurs and makes the tournament rounds to earn gold to purchase land of his own. He is fearless. He is strong. He is sigh-worthy, if I do say so myself. He was taught to wield a sword by his father, a tough disciplinarian. It has shaped him into the man he is. Tough. Self-sufficient. He's focused on gaining his gold, but has an inner sense of honor that enables him to help those in need.
The picture that looks most like the Malcolm in my mind is Ashton Kutcher. Dreamy...though not quite as buff as my Malcolm.
Abbess (villain): A rather plain woman who lived in the shadow of her beautiful sister. She entered a convent and rose to the office of Abbess and loved the sense of power she held. She takes advantage of her position and uses church funds for her own comfort. She takes payment from her sister Helen (Jocelyn's step-mother) to keep her at the convent and out of the picture. The web of lies she weaves entraps her in ways she never dreamed.

Helen (villain): A woman who uses her beauty to get what she wants. She wanted to live the life of a grand, noble lady and found it in marrying Jocelyn's father. She sends the young heiress, Jocelyn, to the convent and pays her sister, the Abbess, to keep her there. She has developed plans to rid herself of her husband and enable her love interest to take his place. (there is a big plan which would take way to long to get into!) She is devious and in the end, a bit insane. Sometimes that drive, that passion for wealth and fame, can affect our hearts and our minds in a ways that can destroy.
I don't know how you come up with your characters and give them life, but I used character charts for mine. There were pages of questions that made you think about their lives, their families, things that happened to them in their childhood, etc. It made you build a life that makes your characters think and act they way they do on the page. You may never use or share what you have written in these charts, but it is a good basis for character building.
Here are a few links for some good character charts:

May your characters live long and prosper....er, except villains. May your villains fall flat on their faces.



Mia said...

Your story sounds so intriguing, Sherrinda! I love reading medieval stories where the heroine isn't just a doormat, so to speak, but a girl who knows her mind and is brave and strong ;) Although I think to live in that time period, you would have to have courage.

I do use character charts and worksheets. Usually not until I've written the first few chapters (I like the main characters to surprise me and tell me who they are before doing any plotting, research, character worksheets, etc.), but they are helpful in making my characters more real.

Mary Vee Storyteller said...

Sherrinda, I absolutely love this post. Your characters are intriguing, stunning, captivating. I can't wait to meet them in your book.
I like the ideas of character charts after I get started as well. It helps me to think about aspects I haven't considered. Most are never mentioned in my work, but provide that perfect insight that keep the story on track.

I find that the better I get to know my character, using whatever means, the more reality is infused in the story.

Pepper said...

GREAT post, Sherrinda.
I fill in character charts as I'm writing the story - if that makes any sense, though recently I've tried to do a few before hand.

I've also started writing a diary from my heroine's pov to really get inside her head and personality. That's been a cool practice. I just finished writing an entry for Sophia Quinn, my heroine for my supernatural novel - and it gave me lots of insight into her character.

I love this story - and we still have some chapters to swap. VERY SOON. like now.

Casey said...

LOVE the character photos! Oh sigh, such strength in them and your story sounds fantastic! Now when will the first copy become available? Hmmm?? ;)

Kaye Dacus said...

So glad I could be of assistance! :-)

Jan Cline said...

Awesome information and you sure picked pictures that tell the story of the characters.

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Mia, I find it soooo interesting that you start a story and then do the character charts! How do you even begin if you don't really know the character? Very interesting. I wonder if I should try it...and see who the character BECOMES. :)

Thanks Mary. I like the idea of knowing the background even though I don't have to share it all. I think it makes for a deeper character.

Pepper!!!! A diary!!! Now that is an excellent idea! Really! How cool is that? I still don't know how you manage to find time to write all that you do!

Casey, I must admit I did not have the photos until I did this post. I never thought to. But I think it is an excellent idea! In fact, I could take those and make a collage out of them using Walmart's special photo tools. It wouldn't cost but a dollar or two to have a print made of a collage! Then your characters would be ever before you. :)

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Kaye!!!! I am still so excited about Jocelyn's blue eyes! You are the coolest! Thank you! Thank you!

Thanks, Jan! I had fun picking them out. Well, it took me forever for Jocelyn because I never could get the right hair/eye combo. Grrrr..... but thanks to Kaye, I am SET!

Mia said...

~Sherrinda, most of my stories start with a single word, usually from a writing prompt. The inspiration for my WIP was the word lost. I let the word take me where it wants, and it's then I figure out if my MC is a guy or a girl, where the setting is, what genre it'll be, my character's personality and backstory, etc. Unusual approach, I suppose, but it works for me ;)

patti said...

Wow, I LOVE this post and need to do some searching today for a major but not protag. character in my book.

Thanks for dragging me over here!

Janna Leadbetter said...

Fascinating! I admit, this era and its circumstances I've only enjoyed on the movie screen, but your story has intrigued me. And I love the characters (and those you've chosen to represent them)!