Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Freedom, What Does Your Character Have? - Nov. 10, '09

In a broad stroke the word brings up patriotism, lack of responsibility, and such, but let's get down to a personal basis.

Freedom is one of those broad foggy ideas, but so much depends on the individual's upbringing, the environs, the society, culture, beliefs, fears, outside influences, triumphs and disasters.

A medieval serf follows the lord of the manor who is under the thumbs of the Church and the King, the latter two fight for who's greater ala Henry VIII. A king may marry a peasant girl, and raise her to the throne, but the other way was not so common until Elizabeth II.

If a character is free to follow her conscience, that depends again on what seeds were planted there--by family, by friends, and those from whom she learned. If the first love turns out to be a cheating bastard, that can be a motive for acting the same way. If parents overindulge in food, alcohol, recreation drugs, or any other excess, that implies acceptance (though by a limited few those few are immediate and have a huge influence).

Freedom to follow one's heart: will you love someone whom is accepted by your family, by your culture, by your species? An old saying: 'a bird may love a fish, but where will they live?' comes to mind.

What freedom is important to one may be insignificant to another: Joan is free to eat shellfish, but her immune system thinks otherwise and reacts with an allergic over-the-top response that results in hives the size of goose eggs, swelling of the throat and lungs and a very good chance of anaphylactic shock.

Danni is free to travel anywhere but she prefers to stay in her old cottage by the lake that her grandma owned. Danni spent every summer since the age of 4 there until three years ago when her grandma passed. Danni makes a healthy 5-figure income but doesn't feel the need to spend it on a place that is not loved as this is.

Freedom of speech also asks, behind the scenes, for a curb on the tongue, that no one yells 'Fire' in a crowded place,(without cause) or jokes about a hijack or other broad endangerment in an airport or train station.

Then there's the innermost feeling of freedom, of release: When Kari's dad passed, she felt a freedom that she hadn't had in decades. She didn't have to live up to his expectations, she could do what she loved to do--and that wasn't being a surgeon like him, or a lawyer like his dad. She wanted to open a shelter for greyhounds whose days after the tracks were short and severe. Once the bettors and trainers had gotten their money, and the dogs were left with less speed, there was no profit. Kari didn't give a damn about money, she cared about the beauty, the grace, and the need these throwaway's had. There was more joy in having these dogs come up to her and love her for caring, than in all the awards and social recognition racked up by the paternal line.

So...what freedom does your character need?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Character Limits - Nov. 09, '09

"I'll follow you to the ends of the earth!" Quoth the lover. So does the prince actually move one foot in front of another to track down his lady, or does he throw up his hands as a lost cause, not worth it, etc?

Limits: knowing them, overcoming them, stretching them, are all dramatic devices to keep the reader reading.

It's wearing out seven pair of iron shoes to find the one you love, as an ancient faery tale goes, (and it's a woman wearing these by the way. We can go into footwear, sexism, culture and those meanings another time).

Think about it--first, say normal cobbler-work transformed into metal. So half-inch soles, iron isn't as sturdy as steel, so we've a few less years to walk. Then there's the whole chaffing and bunions, the weight, lack of flexibility, they will dry fast if you're not dragged to the bottom of a lake if you fall in, they are useful for kicking out a fire--as long as you don't dance all night on the coals--metal does conduct heat. If the lady fair needs to kick some attacker in the groin--the recovery will be non-existant, so that's a perk...

Rate of wear--and are we talking holes and rust? Aesthetic dissolution--"Gee, my iron shoes need polishing and I still can't find a purse to match" is far from being held on with twine and stuffed with rags. Oh, say 25 yrs per pair, over lots of rocks, rust helps to degrade the metal and our heroine is indefatigable.

Plus there's the little thing of the wearer aging. Of course in a faery tale--life expectancy varies wildly, and quests last centuries as if to imprint the lesson on the seeker ad infinitum, ad nauseum. If she's still alive, and in fair health, by the time she finds the object of her desire, she's still hobbling at 200 or so years of age, and shows it...will she give a flying phoenix fart for the old beau? Is he still alive, and what of the intervening years? Is the fellow alive? Was he as true to her? Is he surrounded by great great grandkids squabbling over the kingdom?

Lots of options here--limits give us something to play with, and it can be traumatic or eye-opening, just don't let it be boring.

An omnipotent being--no age, no health issues, no need for sustaining atmosphere, no need of liquid or food--is changeless, and stagnant. One way out is that the being imposes limits on itself.

A chaos omnipotent character I'm working with can be any sex, any form, become smoke, fire, etc, pretty damn near invincible--but she--since the character is usually in a female form, has a fascination with mortals. She also has an agenda with other supernatural creatures, and while she knows much more than she tells, she is not all-knowing.

Most of her limits are self-imposed, for by knowing all, by controlling everything, there is ennui, boredom, lack of expectation, and without looking forward, for good or ill, why exist?

The rider on horseback must be cognizant of weather, of terrain, of the condition of the horse, of the hoped for shelter and provisioning when fatigue hits. Your thief can steal and steal--but he's going to run out of pockets to stash the loot, and if there's no challege in taking the artifact--where's the fun? Then there's getting rid of the stuff.

Finite limits for power, for essentials, for life, keep the character going to replenish those areas. It keeps the drama on the page.