Conception of Characters: The Protagonist

The goal of this blog is to show the techniques I use to write a novel.  I want people to see in some detail how I plan to write this fifty thousand word novel in just a month.  I have learned over the last ten years  to keep in mind two major things:  rough drafts always suck, editing phase is most crucial.

A few reasons for me to blog this process: so people can see in detail how I create stories,  so I can organize all the elements that I have to pack into my brain, and also to be an inspiration and/or learning tool for some aspiring writer out there.

Dipso (or Thirst) was seeded in my brain a few years ago.  I’ve done nothing with it except for thinking about it.  I was too focused on finishing Flush to write anything.  It has been festering and is ready to come out.  All I had was a nameless character with a few basic concepts.

Since I’m writing in the way of literary fiction, character development is paramount.  I care very little about plot at this point.  The psychology of the characters will feed at plot at any given time so I needn’t worry.  I have a climax and that is all I need.  (Having a climax early is a very important tool that many authors use.)

My favorite tool for character development is a corkboard.

I will constantly be adding to these character sheets during the entirety of the book.  Your characters are like children, they need constant attention.  At times you need to guide them, but if you really put time into your characters, they develop a will of their own.  A well developed character can defy you inside your head (sounds strange and schizo this happens).

The Main Character

Baldur – The protagonist:  This is definitely the creation most akin to myself.  I’ve bequeathed a few major things that I know a lot about, linguistics and alcoholism.  They say “write what you know”, and I’m a firm believer in that.  Hemingway had what he called The Iceberg Method (or similar).  He believed you should know a lot about a subject and only expose the tip, crucial for literary fiction since it is so psychologically involved.

I tend to use names to help drive a story.  I decided to go with a Nordic mythological element for the protagonist.  I like using mythological and religious themes because they represent so much of a characters psychology.  Also, myth references help with vivid vocabulary when I hit a writer’s wall (a blog about wordlists will be posted later).

Baldur in myth has a few things that I will steal for my character Baldur:

  • A mother figure that willfully creates a near perfect child but with one inevitably fatal flaw (alcoholism)
  • Baldur means ‘brave’ so I will use this trait (linked to the word bold), also in Anglo-Saxon there is a derivation that means ‘shining one’ (this is a godly implication found in many myths worldwide) so I will most likely tie in some messianic element like that of Dionysus or Mithras
  • Baldur’s father is Odin so my Baldur will also have a father name Odin who is a Swedish expatriate ex-mercenary (another direct mythological name reference sounds weird but I’ll explain later why I’m doing this)
  • Baldur in myth prophesies his death and dies due to his weakness (mistletoe) which starts a chain of events that lead to Ragnarok, my Baldur will also die from his weakness (alcoholism) which set a chain of events that start World War Three
Other character traits:
  • Baldur was raised in the sailing tradition along with shipbuilding, both taught to him by Father Odin
  • Fear of flying and falling, he despises gravity
  • Overly nice and polite, refrains from using taboo words in any language
  • Unrealistic expectations with his love interest
  • Talks slowly and carefully, experienced language confusion because of his multilingual household, I got this idea from Zamenhof’s childhood (the creator of Esperanto) – as a child, Baldur’s teacher’s actually though him to be retarded because he had several speech impediments and used a mixture of vocab from English, Polish (from the mother), and Swedish (from the father)
There is much more that I won’t write here.  This is just a sample of what my corkboard page looks like.
Tomorrow, I’ll post about the parental figures, his mother Nastia, ‘real’ father Odin, biological father James Villard.
Once I have all the characters laid out, I’ll work on word lists to cover the motifs in the story.
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One thought on “Conception of Characters: The Protagonist

  1. Christina says:

    I am filled with excitement and anticipation. I also am thoroughly inspired by your writing techniques and methods. I look forward to reading and following your blog!

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