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Monday, April 9, 2012

Defining People

First off, Happy Easter to all of you out there!  I never grow tired of celebrating that God's Son came down and lived among us, died for us, and was resurrected. 

I've been doing some thinking about defining characters this week.  Take for example, Trezl's father: Candel.  Who is he?  What motivates him?  He is a husband and father, but the main thing that defines him in my notes is his vocation. 

He is one of the most highly respected wizards in the elven society.  His job is to protect the city from outsiders by leading a group of wizards who magically keep the elven city hidden.  This group also employs a number of magical defenses should any invaders be able to actually find the city.  Trezl, of course, looks up to his father and aspires to be a great wizard as well.

When I think of Candel and write about him, everything comes back to this defining quality.  He's the "grand protector" and everything he does is motivated and related to this.  Now, he loves his family dearly, and tries to make time to be the husband and father he should be.  But his work overrides any other defining attributes in the end. 

I have been wondering if this is too one dimensional for the character.  Where does his personality come in to play?  How does that personality determine how he approaches his role and tremendous responsibility?

Related to this, I have been wondering if such a narrowly defined character will resonate with readers.  Our lives can be so fragmented today.  Can I even relate to a character like Candel?

I try and let my faith and my family be the overriding defining characteristic for the decisions I make, but my life is still pretty segmented.  I "do" a lot of things.  Would Candel?  What would he do to have fun?  Would he coach a little league team for Trezl?  How does he relax?  What upsets him?  What other questions should I be asking myself about him?

These are all questions I've been asking myself lately.  In the end, I think it is OK to create a character with one major defining point, but the more important that character is, the more details I need to be able to work out.  Trezl cares deeply about his father.  The readers should too, right?

A couple side notes to close:
  • I've been reading a series of "workshops" by Holly Lisle.  She's an author who started later in life and has become a full time writer.  She even creates classes on her website to help aspiring writers.  So far, I've really enjoyed the first book.  She's currently some of them away for free in PDF form (or 99c on Amazon for Kindle).  If you're interested in writing, I highly recommend checking her out:
  • I am putting a permanent link on the side of the blog to download the test chapter I released recently.  It should make it easy to find for anyone new.

Thank you all again for reading!


  1. I think vocation-centered characters like that work in general (I'm reminded of Beregond, Guard of the Citadel in Tolkien's "Return of the King," and even Arthur Weasley in JK Rowling's "Harry Potter" series).

    But if Candel's going to play a significant part in Trezl's psychological development/makeup, he might need to be a bit more well-rounded than that...

  2. Great examples! I agree with your assessment.

    I think it really depends on how important the character is to the story and their role in it.

  3. Development ideas:
    A.) Candel's magic-elf-security position is hereditary, and Trzel;s training/education/maturity therefore adds to the father-son bond in unusual/potent ways (could also be connected to Candel's father, etc.) -OR- B.) Candel's job forces him into some sort of Catch-22 position where he's forced to choose his family's safety or his community's (kinda like the old fable of the bridgekeeper his son, and the speeding locomotive).

    Just food for thought!