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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Wait, Is That Cruella Deville?


I'm thinking out loud here so I'm warning you ahead of time- things could get scary. Very scary.

As many of you know, HATSHEPSUT: FEMALE PHARAOH is in the hands of my first round of beta readers. I'll get the full run-down in a couple weeks when we all meet together. However, my husband is also reading the finished book for the second time, now that it's all cleaned up. I've put him to the task of looking for repetitious words, phrases, etc. Last night he came to me laughing because Hatshepsut's brother/husband had been insulted six times in one page. Really, it was only five, but whatever. I guess that might be overboard.

But the brother/husband, Thutmosis, is the antagonist. He's the one wearing the crown while Hatshepsut is doing all the work. The novel is in third person, but that scene is from Hatshepsut's point of view and she's really tired of him being a punk.

And vicariously, I'm living through Hatshepsut. And I'm tired of him being a spoiled rotten brat.

But upon thinking about my husband's comments, he does have a point, much as I might hate to admit it. There's a fine line between making a villain a Disney caricature (I hate reading villains that remind me of Maleficent or Cruella Deville) or adding depth. I think I've done that in other scenes with Thutmosis, but maybe not enough. On the flip side, no protagonist should be a saint. I've focused most of my energies on Hatshepsut's development- she's by no means perfect. And I modeled her after Oedipus so she's kind of tragic. Kind of a lot. And she has a nasty temper.

As for Thutmosis? His redeeming quality is his love for his son and another wife, but that's at Hatshepsut's expense.

I'm rambling so I'll stop now. I guess what I'm getting at here is that every character needs flaws and redeeming qualities; it's just the ratio of each that determines whether they are protagonist or antagonist. Susan blogged on a similar topic the other day- well worth the read!

Do your characters possess traits to flesh them out or are you still working on them?

13 comments:

Amalia T. said...

This is a difficult question for me. The answer is yes and no. My biggest problem, is that a lot of the characters I play with are divine, somehow or other. Writing them is like walking a fine line between offending, and exploring. I think I've given them all unique voices--and by unique I mean, in their retelling, and unique between one another within the book, but at the same time, when dealing with heroic figures and gods, sometimes you get that one here or there who is either really brilliant and pure, or really evil and twisted. I like to think those are the people around the edges, and none of my MCs have that one-dimensionality, because if they did the books would be pretty lame.

Amalia T. said...

(One of those sentences up there was horrendously long. I apologize!)

Stephanie Thornton said...

I don't think I could play with the gods, even though I'm dealing with ancient Egypt where there were a plethora of divine beings to deal with. I've alluded to them big time, but never delved into their actually existing. I've enjoyed books like that in the past- Margaret George's come to mind- but I didn't want to go there.

So I'm impressed with your ability to deal with the Greek gods as characters, Amalia! :)

Susan R. Mills said...

Thanks for the shout out. It's all about making it believable!

Amalia T. said...

Stephanie-- they are a headache sometimes :) But I love them, anyway.

Amalia T. said...

(you'd probably be horrified to know what I did to Ra.)

Matthew Delman said...

My antagonists tend to be generally good people who went bats***-crazy for one reason or another (one is the jilted lover of a god; the other's wife was brutally raped/murdered).

Whether I write them that way or not is entirely up to the focus of the story. Of course, I also tend to keep the primary antagonist off-screen most of the time. Since they both have cronies that do most of the legwork, that's thankfully fairly easy.

Matthew Delman said...

Bah ... what I meant to say was "whether I write those backstories in or not depends on the focus of the main story."

Valerie Geary said...

My characters are full-fledged nutsos... now, my struggle: making them likeable and endearing as well as nutsos. :)

Bane of Anubis said...

In TLCC, the vamps are pure evil... wish I could make them otherwise, but it wouldn't fit (and, to a certain extent, I do like the pure-evil Emperor Palpatine style baddies, though, overall, I prefer the gray-area villains who have a shot at redemption.

Mary said...

My antagonist is very ambiguous. Sometimes she does nice things for people - and the horrors of her past may make people empathize with her a little bit.

Anissa said...

This made me laugh. I could totally see myself insulting someone six times on a page. Unfortunately for my MC, she'd probably be the one catching the insults.

Natalie Murphy said...

Good post =]

My characters are by no means saints, and I think I've developed them pretty well so far.