Day 1: Character Development in the Novel

As promised for the release of my novel, here is your day one post to get you ready for the big day! Enjoy my friends! ~Adrianne

When I first started building the world of Lore, it was much less complex than originally anticipated. My work had been greatly inspired by Bill Whelan’s music for the stage show Riverdance. My original intention was to have the story follow three young villagers (one female, two male) who took a liking to a travelling storyteller, who was an enchantress in disguise. In the end, the enchantress would save their village from war and win the heart of the older male villager and they’d all live happily ever after.

Riverdance by Bill Whelan
Riverdance by Bill Whelan

It quickly became apparent to me that not all fairytales are that simple. I decided to develop the characters before pursuing much else in the line of theme.

The enchantress of the original story morphed into River, the guardian of her realm and queen of the gods. In the original story, the enchantress was young, light, almost emitting the golden heart of a child. As I began to develop a more solid, war-driven, plotline, I knew the little enchantress wouldn’t fit into the realm I was slowly starting to create.

The character quickly underwent a makeover and was given stronger shoulders to take on the weight of the world she would bear. River would be pensive and firm, but would grant mercy when appropriate. I also displayed this in her appearance as well. The enchantress would no longer be a young, blond beauty. I transformed River into a middle-aged woman with long raven hair with strands of gray, displaying that weight of the world and the wisdom and strength she gained through ages upon the earth.

Ultimately, I played with some of River’s former personality traits and gave them to River’s daughter, Rian. But as the story progressed, I realized Rian would have to give up those tendencies as well.

The older male villager of the original story quickly underwent his own drastic transformation. In the original storyline, this character would converse with the enchantress as though they were colleagues, pondering the world away as if it were there purely for their utter amusement and nothing more. On the other hand, this character would also find an attraction to the enchantress that had nothing to do with affection or sexual attention. More of a wanting to pick at the woman’s brain to see what made her tick.  As I thought this character over, it didn’t sit right with me. The question that I kept asking myself is how could someone converse so much with a person in this way and have/not have such feelings for them? Nothing I thought of made sense.

My solution to this question was to split the older male villager into two separate characters: Verselus, the wise, charming brother of River, and Cattaran, the inquisitive human seeking answers to his existence.

Not Verselus, but close!
Not Verselus, but close!

Verselus quickly became my favorite character in the realm to the point that all my social media screen names bore his name during undergrad. My mission with the character was to literally make him spew “wisdom beyond his years.” As a result, Verselus quickly took shape as a tall, thin being with silvery white hair (despite his younger appearance) and a smug grin on his face when it was appropriate. His voice would be that of a favorite professor who would lecture on about everything and nothing, having those around him hang on his every word. A bit like the character of Dr. Gregory House, but not a jerk and without the limp and Vicodin addiction. As a result, he became River’s second-in-command.

And Cattaran. This young lad ultimately made his way to being my protagonist, which really stunned me when it happened considering my focus had been on the story of the enchantress.  Ultimately, what ended up happening was that River/the enchantress became the goal while Cattaran worked to seek her out. The roles of these two characters had flipped.

What I needed to figure out was how to give Cattaran that push to pursue her in the first place. I made Cattaran go through a number of sacrifices in a very short amount of time. Slowly, each of Cattaran’s family members fall to henchmen of the antagonist until he is sent into exile. Left with nowhere to go and desperate to not have the same fate, Cattaran suddenly goes from a young man who lives a quiet life into an adventurer who must venture into the unfamiliar. Because of this, instead of living the life of an arranged marriage (put together by his mother), he instead focuses on survival and faith in that he can do so. In the matter of a few chapters, the character goes from someone who has his tongue in check to someone who has his tongue in cheek.

Just as stunning when it came to character development was how the female villager evolved into Dervish, the sprite granted mercy by River when she was saved from the end of the world. The original character was actually not someone I found all that appealing or attractive to the reader, but I knew I needed her for some kind of substance to the story. One of the reasons why the original “fairytale” story fell apart and became what it is now was because I turned her into part antagonist. The original character would complain and whine very often. What I ended up doing was making her someone who would protest with reason.  She doesn’t trust Cattaran for legitimate reasons that she states to anyone who will hear them. Is she a pain in the butt? At times, yes. But because of that, she feels real. The character ended up becoming more and more stubborn as writing went on, and the main reason for this is fear. Just as Cattaran is working to understand his past, Dervish is doing the same, and it is one of Dervish’s most maddening qualities.

My intent with that other male villager as I reworked the story was the send him away and never hear from him again. But alas, it was not meant to be.  As I worked on those first fifty pages, he jumped back onto the scene. I could almost visualize him with his dark hair pulled back tight, sneering at me as if to say, “You will never get rid of me,” meanwhile, casually playing with the dagger in his belt, just to prove his point. It became apparent that he needed a name and I dubbed him Ballant. But what to do with Ballant’s character? What would he say? What would he do?

As I asked myself this, I realized that Ballant wouldn’t need to say anything at all if I didn’t want him to. A fantastic punishment for his intimidation. Not to mention a fantastic plot point! And that’s the way I kept it. Ballant would’ve just been another character in the world of Lore if I had given him line after line to sneer through his teeth like a knock-off Severus Snape. But I knew he was too good for that and that would be an insane insult to the greatness that is the character of Severus Snape.

So I stole his voice. I stole it and swore I would never give it back. Ballant never says a word through the entire novel and I love it simply because it makes his actions as a character so much more stunning! Not exactly an easy feat considering that if River had an army, Ballant could easily be considered her Captain of the Guard.

This is a blog. Don't make blobs.
This is a blob. Don’t make blobs.

Character development can be a very time consuming process. Sure, you can sit with a pencil and paper, draw out a couple of figures and say that they will have these personality traits and this happened to them and this is what will happen to them in the future. But it takes time to develop personality, sense of being, reasoning, voice, et cetera for each one you create. It takes skill that without which characters begin to sound alike, blending into each other and just becoming a huge blog of a mess.  Some tend to speak to writers more than others. And the same thing can be said for readers as well.  I cannot name one person I have had a conversation with about the Harry Potter novels who hasn’t said, “It broke my heart when [fill in the name of the appropriate Harry Potter character] died.” To be able to do that is to hold the reader’s attention in the palm of your hand.

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