Character Arch’s & What Do We Do About Them?*
I recently came across an article by Kyoko M entitled. Things The Dresden Files Taught Me About Writing. Well, being the Jim Butcher/Harry Dresden fan I am, I hopped over and read it. The gist of M’s post has to do with why Butcher’s ‘Dresden’ character is so likable – and I whole heartedly agree. Harry Dresden is your average ‘Joe’ who just happens to be a wizard and has as many hang ups as everyone else. Quite literally, the guy next door.
But here’s where I want to add my two cents worth – its the arch of Butcher’s character development that really does it for me. That and the fact Harry’s down hill slide into the dark arts isn’t because he chooses evil over good, its because he’s determined to do whatever it takes to save those he cares about – even if it means he pays the price. And lets face it, Harry always pays the price.
TRUE CHARACTER is revealed in the choices a human being makes under pressure-the greater the pressure, the deeper the revelation, the truer the choice to the character’s essential nature. Robert McKee
So what has this have to do with what I am currently working?
In The Remnant series, which is all about post-apocalyptic-dystopian Seattle, where the supernaturals out number the naturals, I love being able to explore multiple aspects of character development and the emotional/situational challenges they’re faced with. Those that are flawed and those who don’t know they are – like Sariel, and Count Moleach. With such a wide range of character types, I’m given an opportunity to approach each one just a little differently, blending motives and inherent species traits, with the cultural challenge of what happens when the monsters we’ve created, become our worst enemies?
Are All Character Arch’s The Same ?
What about about my Keys of Destiny series? Am I using the same approach in helping Serac, Ziana and Idduu search for the Tablets of Destiny, as I am in ‘The Remnant’s’ bid to get out of post-apocalyptic Seattle?
Yes and no.
Yes, my characters have challenges they are being made to face, and yes they will need to overcome many of them if they are to succeed in their quest. On the other hand, ‘Keys of Destiny’, unlike ‘The Remnant’, has its roots in history – namely that of the Patriarch Abraham.
Shocker, right? But true nonetheless.
Several years ago, while researching ‘covenants’ for a non-book I had intended to write (blame H. Clay Trumbull’s ‘Blood Covenant’ for my fetish on such things)I came across an interesting passage in the ‘Book of Jasher’ concerning Abraham and his great-great grandfather ‘Serug’ (or Serac in Akkadian). Long and short, it is the lack of information that actually gave me the idea of writing the story of ‘Abraham’ from a historical/fictional point of view, rather than a religious one.
Which also means I don’t have the same creative license in this novel series, as I do with ‘The Remnant’.
Why? Because religious-history, not me, has determined who the good guys and bad guys are, and how they got from point A to point B.
Or does it?
See, that was the question I asked when I began to write the story and realized the only thing the Christian Bible and Jewish text say about Serug and his grandson Terah is, they did evil in the site of the Lord. Not a single word about what it was they did that earned them that epitaph, or why?
Now remember what I said about Jim Butcher’s ‘Dresden’ character, and how Harry’s descent into the dark arts is because he’s made a conscious choice to choose evil over good, but rather, in his determination to do whatever it takes to save his friends, he’s made choices which have resulted in less than desirable consequences?
So what if Abraham’s great-great grandfather Serug’s epitaph ‘and he did evil in the sight of the Lord’, wasn’t because he set out to chose evil over good. But rather, like our wizard Harry Dresden, life and circumstance only gave he and Terah so many choices, and unfortunately, some of the ones they made, had less than desirable consequences?
As much as I love writing ‘The Remnant’ and all the creative freedom that comes with that particular genre, I find writing an historical novel, where I’m forced to stay within the guidelines of certain events and cultural truths, just as exciting.
So whether the stories we tell are based in truth or in fiction, we need to keep in mind that, even though all characters must have an arch in their development, how we approach it can be as diverse as the stories themselves.
Sharing the journey
*From Reigning Press January 2015 Newsletter – Writer’s Journal
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