Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Characters: Can't live without them

Adore them or loathe them where would we be without them. Our characters. The Lovedays frequently drive me crazy when they do their own thing and change the plot entirely. Yet that is positive as a novel is created through action and reaction.
In the new work in progress I have a different dilemma. The story has moved on to Bryn (Adam's ward) searching to discover his past when his memory returns and the adventures that follow. He is easy to deal with. But it also features Rowena the oldest of the Loveday children. She is the image of her mother, the scheming fortune-huntress Meriel shown on the cover here. She has her mother's cunning and beauty and from her father has inherited the reckless spirit of the Loveday men. But who is her father. She naturaly believes it is St John who married Meriel but there has always been a question mark hanging over her paternity as at the same time as St John, Adam was also Meriel's lover. The personality of her father is also her guiding force.
St John adored Rowena and could refuse her nothing. She was spoilt and her wilful nature has put her at odds with her family. When I began writing her story in the latest novel, I had real problems with her until I realised that actually I did not like this spoilt selfish brat. Major crisis here as she was to be the main heroine in the story and the reader must have empathy with her or they will lose interest in the story. I could make Meriel transparently evil as she was a secondary character and fed upon the weaknesses of others. This would not work with her daughter.
Putting my own prejudices aside and aware of Rowena's troubled childhood - abandoned by her mother, her devastation at the death of her father and feeling betrayed by him for the loss of her home and security - it was obvious that by the time she became a young woman she would be a complex character with many emotional issues to be resolved. She is also wily and secretive and to make her work as a character readers will want to succeed, I spent a week doing a complex character profile and realised that the only way Rowena would work was to allow the reader into her head in a very different way than I have used before. It is still in its experimental stage in the writing and like all early drafts it will either work or its back to the drawing board.
I do sometimes feel that today's teenagers are an alien race who dance to a completely different drum to their parents. Although the rules for them in Rowena's time were much stricter than today and the consequences far more dire if they were cast out of their homes, they faced the same problems we all did as teenagers in trying to find our way and hopefully achieve success without too much trauma.
I am hoping that readers will see in Rowena every generations need to break free and be true to themselves and that her story will truly be one that transcends time.


sheila said...

An interesting post, Kate. There were times when I wanted to slap Meriel and I certainly would not want to feel that way about Rowena. Meriel was a character you loved to hate. I am looking forward to reading about Bryn's story. I could not agree with you more about teenagers. I am sure we were perfect saints and so misunderstood ourselves by our parents.

kate tremayne said...

Thank you for your comment Sheila. I am sure our halos positively dazzled people when we were teenagers. I enjoyed your sense of humour.

Marilyn from USA said...

Kate, I was interested to read that you spent a week working on a complex character profile for Rowena. I am very impressed. It sounds like a lot of hard work. But then, that explains why your characters are fully fleshed out, believable, and so much like real people.

I once heard it said that there is some good in bad people and some bad in good people. I think that is so with your characters too.

Like Sheila, I wanted to slap Meriel. (But I suppose I'd have to get in line!) And yet, Meriel was kind to Gwen, helping her accentuate her best features which eventually captured the attention of Japhet.

Even horrible Harry isn't entirely unsympathetic. The reader can recognize that horrible Harry's behavior is, in part, the result of an abusive father and his low self-esteem. Yet, Harry showed his vulnerability in Chapter 12 of LOVEDAY REVENGE. In fact, I found myself quite touched by his need for Sal's acceptance, if not approval. It saddened me to read: "His fist dropped to his side. He would not strike Sal, but her rejection closed the only chink of softness that had remained in his evil and corrupt heart."

It makes one wonder about the far-reaching effects of kindness and love.

kate tremayne said...

Hi Marilyn, glad you liked the redeeming moment for Harry Sawle, I do try to put something in to tug the heartstrings and though it may surprise it will also be plausible and broaden your understanding of them.

Davina said...

I am looking forward to finding out more about Rowena. She has been a stroppy so-and-so up until now. Will her better nature triumph over her selfish side. She is certainly something of a wounded soul which will make her fascinating. I am sure with your skill, Kate, she will be the most memorable yet. I have loved all the books so far and you have never disappointed me.

kate tremayne said...

Lovely to hear from you Davina. Rowena is proving something of a challenge but I love complex characters and she has a lot to offer. She has great courage but her wildness will lead her into dramatic escapades on her voyage of self-discovery.

Marilyn, a Loveday fan, said...

Hi Kate, I just finished reading Chapter 6 of LOVEDAY SECRETS. This chapter hints at the nature of the teenage Rowena and the challenge that you express in your post. It makes me wonder if in your wip Rowena will experience some dreadful, dire consequence of her selfish actions. And, as a result, Rowena will emerge more mature and less incorrigible. Just like in real life. As a reader, it's fun to predict!

Then Marilyn said...

Much like what happened to Joshua and Japhet. After Joshua's duel resulted in the loss of life and after Japhet's imprisonment, both their lives took a dramatic turn. Will Rowena have to learn a hard lesson before she is transformed from her obstinate, spoilt, selfish ways? Inquiring minds want to know!

kate tremayne said...

Hi Marilyn

Rowena has learnt a few lessons in Conspiracy that make her realise what she wants in life and that she cannot get away with acting as she did in the past.

However these are stepping stones before she comes to the fore in the current novel I am writing.