Everyone has an opinion and blogging has provided everyone an avenue to express their opinion - or I wouldn't be here, right? That does provide an invaluable store of resources for the writer. I've been at this for nearly fifty years. As with my cooking, I like to check other recipes against what I have been doing to see if there can be an improvement. Blogs from other writers provide a wealth of suggestions: 1 cup of 10 things of this, a pinch of 3 things of that, a quarter cup of 6 things of the other. It can become confusing, but by watching for basic threads a writer can pick and choose how to better develop and proceed with their story. As I am focusing on the characters at the moment, that is where I will plant my feet.
Previous discussions looked at building the physical characteristics of a character without looking too hard at the inner person. The character arc stresses moving a character along, progressing from point A to B and maybe beyond. Usually that entails improvement, like boy changes attitude to get girl, girl gains strength to defeat monster, rotten gets worse. What the writer wants to avoid is creating someone who is too perfect - the way they look, the way they act, always being in the right place at the right time, doing the right thing, and never losing his hat (like in the old B-grade horse operas). Characters, like real people, should have motives and goals and be multidimensional.
Looking over a huge list of writing suggestions is like staring at a library shelf of books on how to make chili. (Four feet of 150+ books and everyone containing 50+ recipes.) However, one blog caught my eye when it suggested that the writer should shown the main character in conflict at the very beginning. I am fanatical about openings. They should pull the reader into the story right away. I will discuss that in more detail in a later blog, but wonder if in A Pirate's Legacy: Order of the Brethren, have I done that while introducing the characters? (As a reminder, this is a work under construction, so it is fluid.) The story actually starts during a dark and stormy night. I love messing with editors and nay-sayers. The first couple paragraphs describe a dream as it occurs. While the story itself is in the past tense, this dream is in the present tense, at least for now.
Mariah isn’t sure where she is. It’s dark. Perhaps in the beach house, or on the beach, or in their bedroom. That doesn’t matter. It is her husband’s smell, his strong arms encircling her body, his lips gently caressing her neck. She hopes it’s on the beach. That’s where all their children have been conceived, and it is time to have another baby. Then there is movement behind his broad shoulders, something coming toward them, cloaked in black, indistinguishable. It grabs his arm and begins pulling him away. Her hand locks onto his other arm with a tenacious grip. She will not let him go. Not again. He looks at her and smiles. She fights to resist, but knows it’s useless. Releasing his arm, anger fills her breast.
The apparition hands him a sword. It’s broken. Her husband gently takes her chin in one hand and kisses her upon the lips as tears stain her cheeks. As her husband and the spectre begin to disappear into the blackness Jean-Paul runs to his father and takes his hand. She tries to scream, NO, but the sound is drown by the explosion of cannon fire. They are lost in a sea of blinding light until seeing a body laid out on a table. It is covered by a white clothe, only the feet exposed, bare and motionless. She knows those feet and screams.
Mariah awoke with a start, her hand immediately reaching out to where her husband lie. He wasn’t there. A brilliant flash of light followed by deep, rolling thunder rattled the house as the dream continued to weigh heavily upon her mind, clouding reality. Breast seething with anger and pain, her heart pound as the cold perspiration of fear caused her to tremble. It was only a dream, but a terrifying dream. Not finding François where he should lie caused her heart to beat harder and faster.
She called out, but the loud, cannon-like crack of thunder muffled her cry followed by more flashes of lightning. A figure silhouetted by the white light stood at the iron railing looking outward. It was her husband, feet apart, hands behind his back as rain pelted him and the wind whipped his nightshirt. Mariah relaxed a little. He did that whenever a storm buffeted the island.
It had been three years since he was last at sea. How filled with joy she had been upon seeing the ship return. How filled with fear as only Hassan, Alessandro, and Filipe came ashore.
“He has gone to France to see his grandfather. He will be home in a month’s time,”Alessandro said, but that didn’t lessen her disappointment.
The three were very different from when they left to rescue Hassan. It was now Prince Hassan who bore himself more erect, Filipe more confident and mature, Alessandro no longer the lonely, widowed soldier, a beautiful Arabian girl clutching his hand. His wife.
François returned changed as well, feeling more at peace knowing his surrogate family accepted him, but not changed in the habit of standing upon the veranda, reliving the times he remained upon the quarterdeck holding fast to the wheel, piloting through tempests ensnaring his ship. François spoke some of his adventures. She knew he missed that life while doggedly holding fast to the commitment to sacrifice whatever the sea offered to stay near his family. The dream continued to haunt her though, as she watched him until the storm moved on and the rain and wind subsided.
The opening two paragraphs describe a dream. We all have them from time to time. We learn of Mariah's love for her husband and desires for the family, and a threat to that life. Some people put great store in the meanings of dreams. A bit of research into the meaning of dreams incorporates hidden suggestions of what may come in this story. Also, we see that François has a strong attachment to his family, but also to his past.
Unlike previous stories, the opening or hook, extends for several paragraphs. Some external reviews will see if this works to keep the reader's interest. The idea is to introduce the main character, François, as more than a two-dimension. He lives the life of a gentleman plantation owner devoted to family with ties to a pirating past that won't let him go.
In this story I want the characters to carry the story. In that, it is important to introduce conflict, both internal and external, be sure the character isn't too perfect, that he has motives and goals, and is realistic by being more than two-dimensional, and progresses.