Category Archives: Characters

Character Count

Another post about her writing journey? Really? What’s come over her?

Yes, folks, don’t change the channel. I know I haven’t done a rant for a few weeks, but you know, this blog is called Writeaway so I do feel a little as though I am false advertising at times.

Anyway, for those of you who have followed this blog for sometime, you will know all the headaches and doubts I have about my novel in progress, as well as the great things I love about it. (Yes, I do; remember the A-Z from last year? There you go.)

You may also be aware that I consider myself to be a plot driven writer, rather than a character driven writer. Many blogs and writers will tell you this is the way to doom and unpublishable work, because if a reader can’t identify and root for the character they can’t give a damn about the plot. I’d agree with this (but only to a certain extent). I would argue there are plenty of adults who don’t worry about either so much. I haven’t read 50 Shades, but from what I can gather, neither the characters or the plot stand up too well, yet look at its success. Hmmmm. That old chestnut, hey?

So as always with writing and with regards to writing my own novel I have to put the blinkers on from time to time and not heed all the ‘rules’ and ‘advice’. As I’ve often said: yes, there are certain rules which need to be adhered to, but essentially I need to write what I feel is in me, and it so happens that my characters are not, as so many writers profess, “speaking to me in my head” or “taking over my life,” whilst I am trying to go about my daily business.  They are just not. It was in a previous post entitled “Losing the Plot” that I talked about this. I think of a plot first and characters come only when I start writing dialogue on the page. That’s just how it is for me, right or wrong, we shall see. It is why I have to ignore social media most of the time because there are a lot of writers out there spouting their advice as though it were gospel, and as any atheist will argue, that’s a load of tosh as well.

So, today I was turning over in my head what my editor may say about my characters (other than “why are they all named after motorway service stations or mash-ups of UK place names?”),  and thinking more so with regard to the question do the characters drive the plot or does the plot drive the characters? And then I stopped questioning myself and thought…”You know what, I don’t care, I’m just going to blog my thoughts on this subject.”

And this got me to  thinking about all the books I loved as a child and how plot won me over every time.

1) The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe. Most of the characters got right up my nose actually. Other than the White Witch and Edmund. Lucy was sappy, Susan and Peter as dull as ditch-water, talking Beavers and a fawning Fawn. Then there was Aslan and well, he was just a lion who sacrificed himself. That book was all about plot (and God and Jesus and stuff, not that I got that from it at all when I was ten)! But I don’t think CS Lewis spent an awful lot of time drawing his characters out. I could be wrong, but what I loved about that book (and The Magician’s Nephew – more so actually) was the plot. The story and the way it developed. Just the simple notion there was another land through a wardrobe or pools of water in woods or by putting on a magical ring. Cool.

2) Anything by Enid Blyton: Oh come on. The Famous Five? The Secret Seven? Plot, plot and more plot. The mystery was what kept me reading, not Dick or George or er…who were the other ones again? The Naughtiest Girl in The School only had me hooked because I wanted to go to boarding school and have a tuck box and go to the shop to buy stamps and write letters home. Elizabeth could have been Alfred for all I cared.

3) All Fairy Tales. All of them. Generic characters with the odd baddy to spice it up. (Rumplestiltskin anyone?) Why is it only the baddies who were any fun or actually the ones who drove the plot forward? (Incidentally, I worried that my antagonist is the one who drives the plot forward in Book 2 as oppose to Toddington. I’ll wait for the back lash on that little piece of literary rule breaking and rebellion, but as I’m, essentially, writing a fancy, long fairy tale, I think I’m going to just have the guts and conviction to go with it.)

4) I’d even go as far as to say Harry Potter himself is not the character who kept me reading that particular series of books. Professor Snape? Yes. Ron and Hermione? Yes. Wanting to find out out what magic spell they’d all learn next? Yes. Harry was, for me, quite bland, and although I cared about him a bit, it was more that I cared for the wizarding world and the effect Voldemort had on that and how they were all going to collectively defeat him. All the little plot twists and turns around Snape actually engaged me more than the main plot. And actually Voldemort’s back story was far more riveting than Harry’s.

But not only as a child has this been the case. As an adult I’ve enjoyed Agatha Christie novels and we know how her characters (at least the secondary ones) get accused of being two dimensional. Murder mysteries are, by nature, plot driven. It is the whodunnit? which keeps us reading, rather than the characters, I’d say anyway. I mean her detectives are engaging of course, and Poirot is my favourite, but Christie had plots first it seems, then character.

Then I got to thinking about stuff my little boy has read or is reading. He’s heavily into Roald Dahl at the moment and I’d say his books go on a 50/50 scale, including his short stories for adults. Tales of The Unexpected…very plot driven. Of course he does write some wonderful characters too…The children in Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, and Willy Wonka and The Grand High Witch. Miss Trunchbull. All fantastic characters.The BFG too is a great character, but I wouldn’t say all of his stories have great main characters. Danny in Danny The Champion of the World is for me, quite dull, yet I love the story itself.  Dahl actually is billed as “The World’s Number One story teller” and I think it is the stories and their plots which engage children most. The idea of winning a chocolate factory? Or of turning ducks into people and vice versa? The idea of a man who can see through playing cards to win a fortune and how he goes about it. It is Dahl’s “what ifs?” which engaged me over the characters (although obviously mainly very well drawn).  I certainly know the idea of The Witches all being teachers in disguise was just perfect! Oh and speaking of Roald Dahl. We’re reading The BFG at the moment and Dahl uses the “was  ….ing” thing LOADS instead of ed verbs. So quite frankly, I really, really, really won’t be listening to much of these “writing tips” anymore. It seems one sure fire way to lose your style and voice.

Also my little boy loves these books called “Dinosaur Cove” by an author called Rex Stone. They are typical chapter books for the 6+ age range, but oh! The amount of adverbs is akin to the number of hot dinners I’ve had and the two main characters are completely indistinguishable from each other. But my little boy LOVES them. Because, you know, dinos.  Also the plots are atrocious, but that’s what is funny. Kids will like books for all sorts of reasons that we as adults and especially us as writers baulk at!

Now, I’m not aiming for a series of ‘easy read’ chapter books or advocating the overuse of adverbs or inappropriate repetitive dialogue tags (grinned – Rex Stone, seriously too many ‘grinned Jamie, grinned the other one’) particularly as I’m writing a three volume middle grade fantasy novel. Of course I want my characters to have depth and I hope the main ones do, (because my character count currently stands at about 24 speaking characters and it’s really hard to give them ALL depth), but in all honesty, my book is not character driven. Probably because when I had the idea for the book I was twelve and had just finished reading The Narnia books. I like my characters though, but I had no idea who they were going to be until I actually started writing. Many of them just showed up half way through, unexpectedly. For Book 3, which I haven’t written yet, I need to introduce four human characters. Children. I work with children. I know children, yet I cannot plan for them at all. I don’t know what I want them to be like until I get them to meet Toddington (the main protagonist). Even Toddington had no real character to him when I first drafted. All my characters have developed as I wrote them in and found them talking. It is my idea for the plot and getting from point a to point b which drives my characters forwards and my writing, not the other way round.

And the truth seems to me, from my experience of children, is that plot is actually more important for most of them than character. That doesn’t mean you can’t have great characters, but do we need to sit and worry that every event which happens in the book is driven forward by the main character? I know in my book it isn’t. And if you watch children write a story they come up with a plot. They do. That’s how they are taught. That’s how their imagination runs. My little one wrote a story the other day. He couldn’t get all his plot ideas down quick enough, as he told me. He was so excited by the plot. It just so happened everything in the plot happened to a velociraptor named Speedey (with an ey on purpose apparently). Speedey was simply the vessel for all his plot ideas to go through. I know however, many writers say “Have a character, THEN put them in a situation, or situations.” But knowing what I do about children it seems to me, I think maybe we need to worry less about what adults think when we’re writing for children and see it from a child’s point of view. I’m not dumbing down my characters at all, I’m just saying I’m going to get ready to defend why they aren’t necessarily at the forefront of my thoughts when writing.

Yes, I am a novice and so am, no doubt, talking out of my backside. My editor will no doubt tell me a load of these things which are formulaically wrong with my book and will hate my characters for more reasons than that three syllable names are hard to pronounce. But I can’t help thinking back to those books I enjoyed as a child, and even now as an adult enjoy most. They are the ones where the plot came first. The characters have to be good, but for me they are not what comes first to my mind when reading or when writing. I do like a good story.

The End.

8 Comments

Filed under Characters, Editing, Plot Development, Writing

A Memory Stirred.

The subconscious mind is a truly fascinating and wonderful thing. It never ceases to surprise me.

Take the last half hour, for example.

I turned the TV on whilst I was doing a spot of ironing. It’s the 30th anniversary of the Australian soap opera ‘Neighbours‘ this year, so this week there’s been a few programmes on about it. The other night I caught a documentary, you know one of those “let’s look back on the last 30 years, even though we’ll concentrate on its heyday of the late 1980’s/early 1990s” type ones. (No complaints from me there, as this was when I watched, so a pleasant trip down memory lane, thank you very much, Channel 5.)

Anyway today I caught a whole episode they were showing which I think was from around 1987. It was, for those of you who might remember, Scott and Charlene’s wedding day episode.

The infamous Scott & Charlene wedding shot.

Other than the fact that a whole host of nostalgic happy endorphins flooded my brain whilst watching, something else suddenly dawned on me. Something pertaining to the characters in my novel. Something which it seems may have been heavily embedded in my subconscious from all that time ago. From a TV soap of all things! I’m writing a children’s fantasy, adventure fairy tale, how does a TV soap opera I watched as a teen have any bearing on my writing?

Well it seems inspiration, conscious or otherwise, comes in many guises, and it was only from watching this today that it suddenly dawned on me where three of my characters may have subconsciously grown from. I’d certainly never made the connection before, but let’s not forget, the teenage mind is super powerful. Everything is embedded in there, for bad or for good. Every memory from that time is sharp. Characters appeared on that screen today I have not seen or thought about in 25 years and yet as soon as one appeared on screen, I was shouting out their names, as though I were meeting and embracing long lost friends I hadn’t seen since school days. I recalled them instantly and I’m not talking about major characters, I’m talking about the minor ones who appeared only for a limited time.

However, I digress. The full power of memory may be for another post.

No, this was a realisation about three of the main male characters. The young, main male characters. (Not surprisingly as a teenage girl, I paid most attention to them!)

Anyway in my novel Prophecy of Innocence, I have three young male elfling characters. There is the main protagonist and his two cousins. Watching Neighbours again from circa 1987, I realised (as I never planned my character’s personalities – bad writer *smacks hands) that these three characters I’ve created are the three young men from Neighbours. These TV character personalities were evidently so ingrained in my mind I’ve transposed them in elfling guise 20 odd years later! And there was me thinking my main protagonist was drawn from other sources. (Consciously he was, but this realisation has added a new element to my thinking about the writing process.)

More than their individual characteristics, I think it’s the relationship between the characters which may also have been drawn out of my subconscious.

So who’s who? (For those of you with a knowledge of Neighbours who might be curious…)

How many Neighbours do you remember?

Well Toddington Rainstone, my main protagonist, is clearly Scott Robinson, but with dark hair. (I have always pictured Toddington with a dark mullet-ish hairstyle oddly enough, but more a-la Michael Praed from 1984’s Robin Of Sherwood – told you I had more conscious reasonings behind my characters.) But, no Toddington is as the main character, the hero. He’s young and impetuous like Scott. I mean, he’s brighter than Scott, and doesn’t have a skateboard but he is basically, in terms of the trio of the Neighbours’ characters, undoubtedly Scott. I mean he’s even lost his mum at a young age like Scott, and the opening chapter sees him huffing and puffing, arguing with his father, much like Scott would with Jim. It’s weird how certain cultural influences clearly cement themselves in your brain.

Then to Toddington’s two cousins. Although their Neighbours counterparts are not brothers to each other or cousins to Scott, Orpingswad and Congleton Brigenhouse are, basically, Henry Ramsey and Mike Young in disguise. Orpingswad even has blonde, tight curly hair like Henry. He’s also the clown character, the joker, and often the butt of the other’s teasing, but with a heart of gold, just like Henry.

Congleton is the sensible, level headed one, just like Scott’s best friend Mike always was. The one with logical, sober advice, the one who’s always a little bit in the background. (Although Congleton does not ride a motorbike. Motorbikes have not made it into Trelflande yet!) All that’s happened with my characters is Scott and Mike have swapped hair colour! Oh yes, mullets rule in 1762 Trelflande apparently. (Or it seems the 1980s rules in my head…hmmmm.)

So there it is. Maybe it’s utter co-incidence, but I don’t believe so. I think most of the characters in my novel stem from my subconscious past. I’ve written in previous posts about how I rarely sit down and consciously THINK about characters and plot, but rather allow them to flow out a little more organically, before I go back and re-write and edit the heck out of them. This particular link makes me very happy with my subconscious though. They were characters I loved a lot. Hopefully my characters will be as loved one day.

Oh and footnote:

The title of this post is also a chapter title in Book Two of Prophecy. This, however, was not a subconscious co-incidence. 😉

 

2 Comments

Filed under Characters, Writing

Meet My Main Character Blog Tour

Thanks to Michael S Fedison at The Eye-Dancers for tagging me in this blog tour, where the focus is on meeting the main character of our WIPs. I have been following Michael’s blog since I joined WordPress a year ago and read his YA novel, The Eye-Dancers, around the same time. Not only is the book a fun ride through a parallel world, Michael’s blog is always full of thought provoking posts and he’s one of the nicest guys in the blogging world. Now he’s writing his follow up to the Eye-Dancers and I’ll look forward to finding out where the characters are taken next. Check out his blog here. Michael writes some great short stories here too, so do go and check them out here.

Now if you are a regular follower of my blog you probably already know all there is to know about my main character as I blogged about him  in the April A-Z blog challenge, but this blog tour brings a bit of structure to proceedings so hopefully I can present him to you in a better way. So here goes: My main character: .

Toddington

1What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person?

His name is Toddington Rainstone and he is definitely fictional! He is an elfling – a three(ish) inch high being – who lives in Trelflande – a world under the ground. Toddington is very young for an elfling as they can live up to a thousand years. When we first meet him in the prologue he is fourteen. The next time we see him he is eighteen, but for the most part of the book he is twenty-one years of age.  By the time we reach Volume Two he is twenty-five and in Volume Three, which brings us into the modern era he will be around two hundred and seventy years old! Elfling ages work differently to our own though; they never  physically age after the age of eighteen. They grow in maturity but at two hundred and seventy, although still reletively young, an elfling is highly experienced in their field of work and it is at this time they usually begin a family, although tradition has it they marry young and spend years without children.

2When and where is the story set?

The story is set in the fictional underground world of Trelflande, although there are many parts of the novel where the characters come up into our world, known to the elflings as “The Over-World.” The action for the Volume One is set under England in the 18th Century, at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. The trilogy spans nearly three hundred years and as I say, Volume Three will bring the elflings to modern day Britain.

3. What should we know about him/her?

Toddington is orphaned at age fourteen. As a result, he becomes obsessed with work and it is all he lives for. It goes without saying that he works hard. He has a creative mind married with a practical streak, and his work is in design engineering fungi products. He is headstrong and impetuous; not always thinking through the consequences of his actions, but at the same time he is a highly intelligent elfling.  He is self centered and often oblivious to the wants of other elflings. At times his single mindedness can lead him, and other elflings, into trouble but equally there are times when this trait saves them. He doesn’t like unnecessary emotion and tries hard to cover his own.

What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?

The Toadstool compound, which is situated under an ancient Horse Chestnut tree where he lives and works, is uprooted in a sudden and cataclysmic incident. His workforce is killed, he is injured and he has to flee his workplace. In time he and his community are forced to leave the place where they have always lived as more of the trees where they make their homes are uprooted, and the elflings are forced to find another place to settle. After the initial shock, this additional loss in his life makes Toddington determined to fight and he uses his  creativity and designing skills to help do this.

5What is the personal goal of the character?

Toddington’s personal goal is to avenge whatever it is which has destroyed his business. It was all he had left of his father and he feels now that all the work he did has been in vain. Prior to his father’s death Toddington’s goal was to be the first elfling to explore the Over-World, but instead he buried himself in work. Once the catastrophe hits, and he has no work to live for, his main focus shifts once more to having an adventure in the Over-World and he believes the destruction from above, as well as The Prophecy, gives him the perfect excuse to pursue his dreams.

6Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?

The title for Volume One is called Prophecy of Innocence. Volume Two’s working title is Two Tribes and the third volume has a working title of Return to Innocence. You can read more about Prophecy on the other pages on this blog or on my sister blog which is going to be for children.

7When can we expect the book to be published?

How long is a piece of string?! I can’t realistically answer that. As a first novel, with no publisher on board as of yet, it could be six months or six years. My original target was last December. (But obviously that has been and gone.) Then I shifted that to this summer. However as I’m heavily involved in re-writes and editing still that hasn’t happened either! I’d like to think (fingers crossed) that by this time next year Prophecy Volume One will be out there in the world.

 

Now on a blog hop, this is the part where I should have asked others to take part, but I’ve had a hectic couple of weeks so haven’t quite got there yet. Apologies Michael.

So something slightly different: If you are one of my regular followers or friends and you’d like to blog about your WIP’s main character then please send me a message and I’ll tag you on here and re-post and re-tweet. Sorry to be unconventional folks but heh, you just read the above didn’t you? 😉

Thanks for reading as always.

4 Comments

Filed under Characters, Writing

Y is for… Youth

This penultimate Y post in the A-Z blog challenge journey through my WIP, ‘Prophecy of Innocence’ links back to two other posts. Firstly to C is for…Crystonal and Saturday’s post: X is for…eliXir.

To put you in the picture, if you happen to have only just stumbled accidentally upon this blog, Crystonal is a special magical compound made from crushed gemstones. Cinnabar (in old Chinese myths thought to be a main ingredient in the elixir of immortality) is it’s main ingredient. Crystonal is what gives the elflings (my little tiny inhabitants of the underground world Trelflande) longevity so that they live to be around 1000 years old. Or should I say a 1000 years young? Because…

A side effect of the crystonal is that it gives them a youthful appearance until  their death. Elflings are given a special dose of the compound at age eighteen and so, whatever an elfling looks like at eighteen, that is how they look at eighty and at eight hundred.

But ‘why’ I hear you cry? What is the point of that? Why have them looking younger? Surely this would cause an awful lot of confusion between generations?

Okay, well firstly to address the why: Aside from the fact  who doesn’t want to look young until the end of their days? (this is a fantasy story after all), there is a very good point to the crystonal having the effect of maintaining a youthful appearance. In fact it was actually one of the first things I invented in my world which links over to late on in Book 2 and more in Book 3. This is because the idea harks back to the very original beginnings for the story when I was twelve. It is actually vitally important to the plot that the crystonal has this effect. However, without giving too much away it is not necessarily important it has this effect of youthful appearance on the elfings. And that’s all I’m saying!

As for how do the elflings differentiate between generations if they all look the same age? Well this is done, firstly through their fashions. What? Yes, elflings have fashions. (Fashions also change dependent on the area of Trelfande they originate from you know.)

Secondly, although elflings all look eighteen, they do mature inwardly and gain wisdom as they age so this helps differentiate them. Finally the way they address each other denotes their differences too. For example the younger elflings will address their elders as Sir or Mr/Mrs followed by their surname

Similarly, the elder elflings may refer to younger elflings as, for example: ‘Master Toddington’, so they use first names instead of surnames.

Finally, elflings only call each other by the shortened version of their name if they are of the same generation. (For more see the W is for..Winklewell post.) It is through these rules of world-building the issue of all characters maintaining a youthful appearance is addressed.

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Characters, Writing

W is for…Winklewell

Okay, okay. Yet another crazy name to add to the A-Z blog post journey through my WIP ‘Prophecy of Innocence’. But wait. There is a slight twist on this one because Winklewell is not, I repeat not, named after any British place name or motorway service station.

And in that fact he and his wife, Clarentine, remain unique. He was the first elfling I named and in all likelihood he will need re-naming and this is why I chose him for today’s W blog post.

I have no idea where the name Winklewell came from or how it sprang into my subconscious onto the paper. If my memory serves correctly I think it was as simple as I typed it. His name were the first two words I typed for chapter one; I still remember the line now, though the line has long since been assigned to the recycle bin:  ‘Winklewell Snorsegrave smiled contentedly to himself.’ I believe I almost intended for him to be the main character out of all the elflings however if you’ve read my T post you’ll know how an why that changed as it did.

Anyhow. Winklewell’s name was where the three syllable thing started. I quickly noticed how the motorway service station names I’d chosen had three syllables too and then when creating new names I’d amalgamate place names I liked to keep to the three syllable rule. But Winklewell and Snorsegrave are both entirely made up, though not consciously. I didn’t spend ages thinking about it – more more like seconds.

And herein lies the problem. You’ll perhaps recall me mentioning in my V is for Villains post yesterday about myself and a friend laughing about Winklewell’s name? Well this was not so much the actual Winklewell part but more the abbreviation of it. It was not something I’d even thought about when writing the name a hundred times. Even speaking it out loud to myself when reading I didn’t think anything of it. However, it is often the case it takes another person to point out the bleedin’ obvious.

One convention or world ‘rule’ I have for the elflings is how they abbreviate each other’s names. That is, they shorten it to end in y and thus, a three syllable name becomes a two syllable name. Because let’s face it, if everyone you knew had a three syllable name, you’d shorten it. Besides, it doesn’t sound natural for them to refer to each other by their full names all of the time.

So for example Toddington becomes Toddy, Happendell becomes Happie, (conscious decision to not have y here) and  Edingworth becomes Eddy.

You can probably see far more clearly than I could where this is going with Winklewell.

Yes, I must have written Winky numerous times and never once made the link that winky is quite often used as a slang word for a little boy’s tinkler. (Despite my own little boy using the word frequently!)

So. Here’s the thing. Children will (hopefully) read this. But it is likely many children will make the Winky link straight away and won’t be able to stop sniggering to get to the point of enjoying the story. If Prophecy could be a book read only in the head I could possibly get away with it. But how many parents are going to want to snuggle down at story time with their children to have to read the word Winky over and over? (Not that it’s there every other page or anything, but still.)

Now, I have two options:

1) Change his name. Completely.

2) Don’t have anyone abbreviate it in the book EVER. (Middlewich and Shaftsbury as older and more serious elflings never have their names shortened so there is the possibility this could be a ‘rule’.)

But looking at option two I’m not entirely convinced I can get away with it. He has a wife and she is the principle character who refers to him as Winky (oh it just gets worse doesn’t it?) as does his best friend, Middlewich. But Winklewell is not an altogether serious character. he tells bad jokes and as the story progresses he acts on impulse so it suits him to have a nickname. However, now having just written this I think a name change might  be necessary.

I may well change him to Wetherby (although I had this name reserved for another minor character in book 2). Other than that I can feel another trawl through the AA road map coming on…

Thoughts? 🙂

 

7 Comments

Filed under Characters, General Rambliings, Writing

V is for…Villains

First off, villain is one of those words I can never spell first time correctly. So if a few slip by under the radar with a misplaced a and i, please blame my lack of proofreading.

Okay, so here we are at V on my trip though my WIP ‘Prophecy of Innocence’ and oooh I am rather looking forward to this one because, well it’s about the Villain. And as we all know villains are almost always the best fun to watch and, it turns out, to write.  Mwah ha ha!

For as long as I can remember I have always secretly rooted for the villain. Okay maybe not rooted for exactly, but always liked them more than the hero/heroine. I know I always used to think: “Oh for goodness sake, just for one episode let the villain win. It’s not fair the ‘goody’ always wins!  Some case in points of my favourite villains would be:

Skeletor from He-Man and the Masters of the Universe;

 

 

The Hooded Claw from The Perils of Penelope Pitstop,

 

The Sheriff of Nottingham, (the Alan Rickman version in the film as well as Nikolas Grace in the ITV 1980’s TV series),Vector from Despicable Me, Wile e Coyote (who in my opinion never deserved to have to put up with the smugness of the Roadrunner), Professor Snape from Harry Potter (okay so he’s just a side show rather than an actual villain but you are convincingly led to believe he is for a long time). Whilst we’re on Potter then I’d go also with Lucius Malfoy, then of course there’s Zod (not the new one for crying out loud!) and the creme de la creme of all villains – Darth Vader.

When I used to watch Batman as a child (the 1960’s TV series of course,) it was because I adored the villains. I absolutely LOVED The Riddler and The Penguin in particular.  I watched this series and all these other movies/shows I’ve mentioned or read these books because I was captivated by the villains. These villains just seemed to have more personality than the heroes. They had all the best lines, the best costumes, the best voices, the best everything.  I’m sure I could go on with more examples of villains whom I loved.  I was the kid who didn’t shrink into my seat when the villain came on in the  Christmas Pantomime but instead relished every moment they were on the stage. Perhaps my list of villains here are almost pantomime or it could be the heroes, who are their nemesis,  are just a bit too ‘wet’ for me. Because of course in real life, and in literature & many other films rather than comic books and fairy tales , the villains are sinister and downright scary and not to be laughed at. I’m not going to root for Sauron or Voldemorte or Hannibal Lecter because they are the epitome of true evil and do not have those comic villain elements to their character. But the the Lex Luthors of the world, now they, I really love. And as I’m writing, essentially what could be classed as a fairy story, I guess my villain will come into the vein of those I have mentioned.

I cannot tell you much about my villain as it will spoil too much of the plot. But suffice to say he is to me quite wonderfully wicked. I love it any time he pops up whilst I am writing my WIP because I know I am going to have a lot of fun writing him.

He actually does not appear until the final quarter of Book 1 as you will recall if you read my O post, it is humans (or Oomans as my elfling characters refer to them) who are the main antagonists for a long time. However, unbeknown to the elflings there is a more dangerous threat lurking among their own kind but it is not until Book 2 that they discover the full extent of this and suffer the consequences of the villain’s actions.

Like most good villains, mine has an ego the size of the moon, has delusions of grandeur and of course to go with it a despicable plan to elevate himself to greatness.

He sweeps about in a long coat made entirely of peacock feathers, and carries around a sceptre type walking cane which has an amethyst sphere perched on top. He speaks to everyone as though they are a little dim witted and keeps more secrets than MI5 and the CIA put together.

Like all good villains he cares for no one but himself and the realisation of his goals, but like all good villains he does have a reason behind his treachery and dastardly deeds. His morality may be different to everyone else, but it makes absolute sense to him. He is not being evil for evil’s sake. There is a motivation to his actions but it is only throughout Book 2 we discover exactly what these motivations are.

My villain’s name is one of my favorite things about him. The name actually changed from the original name I gave him after chatting with a friend about my weird obsession of naming my characters after place names. He didn’t suggest a name for the villain as such. We were actually discussing another character Winklewell Snorsegrave at the time. I was laughing because saying it out loud made him and I laugh (yes we’re so mature). Anyway he just said something like: “Shaftsbury, there’s a funny place name. You could use that” and I had a light-bulb moment because my villain’s original name began with W too and I’d already got to thinking two three syllable W names who have to interact in scenes may get a little confusing for  the reader. And so suddenly Shaftsbury Trailstar was born. Well the Trailstar part was already in place but I just loved Shaftsbury* as a name for a villain. After all he does shaft quite a lot of people (to use a colloquialism.)

*Shaftsbury pronounced with the ‘a’ being the longer ‘ar’  phoneme rather than the short ‘a’ phoneme. (I don’t know why this is important but it is.  It’s not how I speak, I would say it with the short a phoneme but the more “Queen’s English” a suits his character better.)

So there you have a short introduction to my villain. I’m sorry I couldn’t give a way more. Even giving a way his name is probably too much. Then again, by the time I ever get around to publishing, things may have changed!

 

3 Comments

Filed under Characters, Writing

T is for…Toddington

So, we’re back to the A-Z blog challenge today and already we’re up to T in my walk through my WIP “Prophecy Of Innocence”.  I can’t quite believe I’ve gone this far and it’s nearly the end of April already. Phew.

So what or who is Toddington?

Well let’s start with what is Toddington? If you are in the UK and type ‘Toddington’ into Google, the first thing which will spring up is “Toddington Services.” Yes, Toddington is another motorway service station. (You’ll remember my love of motorway service station names in my first post A for Annandale.) This time the service station in question is situated on the M1 in Bedfordshire, the same county as Luton co-incidentally, (see the L post Lutonia for more). This is actually a happy co-incidence for my WIP and not one I planned at all, but I cannot reveal why as it would be a wee bit of a plot spoiler.

Anyhow, unlike the M5 and M6, my regular motorway haunts, I have only driven down the M1 once. It was back in 1999 when I was in my first car, a 1991 Vauxhall Nova 1.1 litre hatchback. I had been driving 3 years by then but was still a relative novice on Britain’s motorways, having avoided them for some time. (You’ll recall my previous anecdote in my M post of getting lost round Bristol for refusing to brave the M5). This drive was an even less pleasant experience as it was on a day where the rain pelted down none stop and the spray off the road was so bad, visibility was reduced massively. I had had trouble starting the car that day but eventually it had decided it was ready to go and so I set off south heading for Woking to visit a friend. I subsequently broke down on the M25, with a burnt out coil and had to call recovery. Anyway I digress. I do not recall Toddington services on this journey. In all likelihood I didn’t see it due to the rain. No, my knowledge of Toddington services comes solely from traffic reports on BBC Radio 2. Toddington services is constantly mentioned. It always seems to be snarled up. It is always busy or there has been an accident around there. I heard the word Toddington so much I did often think “that would be an ace name for a character” and lo and behold…

Who is Toddington?

Well Toddington is my main protagonist. Toddington Rainstone to give him his full name. Toddington is an orphaned, work-obsessed, progressionist elfling, impetuous by nature, yet resourceful. His work obsessed nature is actually a character trait based on two ex-boyfriends of mine. One of them is completely aware of this as I told him, so I don’t feel bad about sharing that. In fact he was quite flattered at the time. (He might not feel that way if he ever reads the book, but as a self-confessed ‘not much of a reader’ I’m hoping he won’t.)

Toddington Rainstone © by R. Blaikie

 

Toddington’s occupation of design engineer (he designs and develops products made from toadstools) came about because one of the aforementioned exes was a design engineer, though obviously not of fungi based products! So that’s where that came from. The idea for Toddington to make ‘stoolbrellas (elfling umbrellas made from toadstools) came, I think subconsciously, from the fact I used to work in a factory which made umbrellas when I was a student. I certainly didn’t plan that. It just happened. (I think regular visitors may be getting a sense that not much of this book was planned at all… and you’d be right!)

Another thing I didn’t plan but which was completely co-incidental, was that although Toddington’s main personality flaw (and strength) is his work-obsessed nature and that this was based on two of my ex-boyfriends, both of these men lost their fathers at relatively young ages. Toddington too is orphaned at 14. This is not a plot spoiler, it forms the basis of the prologue but it explains much of Toddington’s ways. I certainly didn’t plan this, but perhaps these things lurk about in the subconscious more than we know.

Toddington is, I believe, the elfling who provides a mirror for us to hold up to ourselves. On the one hand he is fighting against the threat posed by the Oomans and their desire to progress their world, in spite of the impact it may have on others, yet it is Toddington who is the one elfling above all others who desires progression for the elfings themselves. He is, like many of us humans, a walking, talking contradiction (although he is only a two inch walking, talking contradiction).

I also have a confession to make at this point. Originally I had no main protagonist. (*Gasps of horror!) This is because I had the idea for a plot about a group of elflings. I didn’t consider the need for a main character or a character arc. I didn’t know these things were basic requirements for a novel. Oh you see how naive I was when I began this journey. (Though in The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe, where this all began, there are 4 children, rather than one main protagonist and that worked. But I am not C.S Lewis and so this is at least one of the reasons why the first draft was so diabolically bad.) However as I wrote, Toddington  naturally emerged as the central character and so during editing and re-writes I went back to the drawing board and spent a lot more time fleshing him out, giving him goals and developing his strengths and his flaws. As a result,  I now feel Toddington is pushing the plot forward rather than him being pulled along by the plot. Which is how it should be. This is how life should be I guess. We are the characters and we develop our own plot. We shouldn’t leave the plot to develop us. (Sorry, wow. That was rather deep.)

I actually really love Toddington. (Thank goodness as I have to write him a lot!) He’s got his flaws but although he has a lot of rubbish stuff happen to him, he doesn’t let it get in the way of aiming for what he wants to achieve. If this were a book for adults I might allow him get a bit more depressed and despondent about stuff than he actually does, but kids need a hero and I hope in Toddington I have created one. I think now he develops well as a character who you do end up rooting for (no pun intended).

I know two readers, who read early versions of the WIP, said to me: “Nooooooooooo you can’t have that happen” at one point when it’s clear he’s not going to get his own way. The children who have read early versions of the WIP picked him out as their favourite character and this was before I’d even properly developed him as the main protagonist.

I’m looking forward to continuing with developing his story more in Books 2 and 3.

And I hope those of you who ever get to read Prophecy Of Innocence love Toddington Rainstone as much as I do.

4 Comments

Filed under Characters, Writing