My friend Sylvia Dickey Smith asked an interesting question on her fan page the other day. She was looking for insights into what brought your favorite characters to life for a workshop she is doing. I shared the basics of this story, but I thought I would expand on it a bit here. 🙂
If you have read much of my work, you will know how important the bardic archetype is to me. (After all, I am the Bardabee Poet.) I have main characters in two novels that fit this type.
When I was originally writing The Blood that Binds all those many years ago, there was something flat about the character of Stefan. He was full of heroic actions and noble sacrifices, but he seemed rather stilted. There were several of his songs scattered through the text, but they were poetic, not lyrical in style — a difference between “written in verse” and being “artistically beautiful.”
When I wrote The Lute and the Liar, Mordigan Bryre also had a song in the book, one he works on and adds to throughout the story. The difference was, from the very beginning, I knew that his song scanned to the tune of “Early One Morning”, a traditional English folk melody.
Suddenly, one night working the overnight shift at my previous place of employment, I had an epiphany. Having that song be something that the reader could relate to, learn to sing, feel connected to, was what made Digan feel so much more alive to me than Stefan, even though Stefan was my favorite. I remember writing an email to a friend absolutely incoherent about the impact this insight had on me. Making the song accessible had made the character accessible. This may seem silly, but when I immediately went and tweaked Stefan’s songs so that they scanned to specific tunes, the character began to take on life.
Stefan’s moods began to be defined by his music. From the thoughtful bittersweet “Down to the Sea” (Lavender’s Blue — though I hear it a bit slower in my head. ;)) to the “Ballad of the Stones” (Greensleeves). I even composed my own tunes to a couple of the songs — though I don’t yet have midis to link for those.
Stefan went from being a rather flat, stilted fellow to having depth and subtle bits of emotion shining through because I ceased to think of him as a “character” and began to see him as a “person” — and that came about from this one insight.
It may sound silly to some, but that’s the truth of it. Have you ever had a writer’s epiphany that took your work in a completely different direction than you originally expected? How did it change your outlook?
As for Stefan, The Blood that Binds was merely a stepping stone. He’s all grown up now, and a fully-realized character waiting to meet you with the release of The Luckless Prince.