“. . . It’s not the stories – it’s the pain and the joy and the people who stay with us long after the stories are told . . .” John Geddes, A Familiar Rain.
To escape into the lives of the wealthy and glamorous, if only awhile, is the reason many of us like fiction.
It transports us.
Writing a novel embracing wealth, power, fame and the luxurious life styles afforded such riches; I wanted to cast the female protagonist as one who epitomized the ultimate in beauty, style, and sophistication.
Christiana Lynn Barrington was created from that perspective. The reader starts to envision the character from outward physical characteristics. She graces the room with her elegant five feet seven inch svelte and meticulously toned body, mesmerizing gray-green eyes, radiant skin, long thick wavy rich brown hair, and dressed in head-to-toe designer couture.
Refinement and pedigree carry her every move. She is a product of the best of both gene pools – her handsome intelligent father and gorgeous sophisticated mother.
Additional attributes are added. She’s fluent is multiple languages; pursues and enjoys swimming, tennis, skiing, power boating, traveling and reading. A pedigree education highlighted by Swiss boarding school and American Ivy League Universities, both undergraduate and graduate, charts her path to the corporate doors of Barrington Holdings International the family run multi-national conglomerate.
Soft-spoken, humble, gracious and warm hearted, for someone who “seems to have it all”, she remains grounded. Sometimes introspective and tormented with insecurities and self-doubt – “Constant self-examination plagued Christiana, as she tried to measure up, to meet, and to exceed all his expectations. She lived in the shadow of, yet in the likeness of, her father”.
Some of these qualities work to her detriment in the corporate setting as she is pitted against her egotistical billionaire father. Conflict and tensions are foreshadowed.
Accompanied by a picture (resembling my image of the character), I used the basic tenets: physical description, ethnicity, social class, family, education, spouse, residence, occupation, job skills, hobbies, recreation, personal qualities, health, tastes, clothing, culture, community activities, political affiliations, ambitions, fear, anxieties and personal philosophies, to design a blueprint to weave these distinctive details throughout the story.
To assure my character continued to have scope and depth, some of the concrete and symbolic character dimensions were revealed early in the storyline or at least foreshadowed.
Further character dimension was derived from conflict, personal stress, relationship tension as the story opened drawing the reader into the moment.
But not too much can be disclosed too soon.
Continuing the storyline, additional character details are divulged – quirky personality characteristics, painful setbacks or disappointments, meaningful and instructive experiences, and attitudes. Each character starts to become “lifelike” with distinct characteristics, painstakingly crafted with specific determinations revealed through words, thoughts, dialogue, body language and actions.
In developing, adding, defining or refining the character (s) I continued to ponder these questions:
- Has enough information been given to the reader to visualize the character?
- Does the character elicit emotion – is he/she liked, loved, disliked or despised?
- Does the character mature, change or evolve along the way or by the end of the story? Is it evident when change starts to take place?
- Do the most powerful characters show vulnerability?
- Do any allegiances change, terminate or get destroyed in the course of the story?
Even when we close or finish the book – the characters can live on and leave lasting impressions.
I welcome your comments and other ideas of designing fascinating characters. Thanks for reading.