I've been breaking down my characters as I'm nearing the end of my first draft of Queen of Time. Without even realizing it, I've been weaving a consistency into all of my characters. It wasn't until I started getting into what made my characters "them", that I realized it.
Gwen is my MC. She is eighteen, living with a verbally abusive mother and new stepfather. She has a lot of chaos in her life. Her solution? Have things as tidy as possible. In a messy house, she always keeps her room clean. In a messy life, she lives by the rules. No illegal music downloading, no jaywalking, no stealing, etc. She goes from the petty things to the big ones. It's how she makes her way through life.
Arthur is my male MC. He's twenty-three, living with a detached father who spends more time ruling a kingdom than being a father to him, and his knights who rely on him to lead them. Rules are a part of his every day life. Enforcing the rules tends to mean him living by them. Only he doesn't always. He believes rules are only good until the point they cause you to compromise your beliefs. This is a point of contention between him and his father.
Merlin is the youngest physician in Camelot. After losing his home in Penrith, he's brought much needed help to the people living under the shadow of the castle walls. He is very intelligent and believes the technology brought to them from Gwen's world is something they shouldn't be shunning but should be grabbing on to. He does a lot of work with science in secret so he won't be called out for witchcraft. He believes rules are made to be broken. They were made by dull people with dull lives. The people who've added good to the world were all the people willing to go beyond, to risk everything.
I have several more characters but as you can see with the common thread here, they're one of a few kinds. Rule keepers, rule breakers, and the one's who take it rule by rule. They go to varying extremes and each person has a different reason for living life the way they do.
The reason I focused on rules is simply because it shows so much about a person. When I look at the people around me, a lot of their personality and ethics can be seen in their feelings toward "rules". When I say rules, I'm not just talking about laws. I'm talking about a moral code that people live by. I don't need to know it's illegal to murder in order to know it's wrong. The fear of punishment doesn't stop me from committing the crime. It's my own morals that would stop me from even contemplating it.
It's been a good thing for me to remember as I'm writing each character. When I write Merlin, I'm always asking myself how someone who enjoys breaking rules would react to a situation. It will hopefully convey his mischievousness.
I'm up to 112,000 words. I was surging a bit further ahead in word count but I deleted some portions this week and I had to work on my chapter for my critique group so I've neglected my manuscript for a few days.
I was reading a history of King Arthur, mainly the legends involving his death. I'm using a portion of them for the ending conflict of the book and going a bit of a different direction than I was expecting too. From what I've been reading, Geoffrey of Monmouth's works are the oldest dramatized accounts of King Arthur we have. In his works, Arthur succeeds his father at the age of fifteen after Uther's death. He then leads armies to defeat the Scots and the Picts (who by the eleventh century were Scots as well), conquering Ireland, Iceland, and the Orkney Islands. At twenty-seven, he sets out to expand his empire by taking over Norway, Denmark, and Gaul. Because Gaul is still under control of the Roman empire, it leads to a fight between Arthur and Lucius, emperor of Rome. Arthur wins but while he's gone, Mordred (his nephew in Geoffrey's works) takes over the kingdom and steals Guinevere to be his queen.
My version doesn't go a lot into the battles of Arthur and in my book, Uther is still alive and Arthur is an adult. Still, battles and the peace of the surrounding territories would've been a big factor in both Arthur and his knight's lives. I've certainly included more than I intended to when I first started.
I haven't done too much research into Excalibur. I know its original name was Caledfwlch (also called Caliburnus) and that its magical properties were a big part of several legends, including Arthur's pulling of the sword from the stone. While Arthur does have a special sword in my book which plays into the story a little toward the end (right now), it isn't magical. Everything in my book is explained by science.
I've never cared for history too much so to be doing research on a fictional legend from Europe is really outside of my comfort zone. It'll be interesting to see how this all works out!
- Anna Leigh