Listen to Your Characters

Author: Anastasia V. Pergakis // Category: ,


A few of the characters from my novel "The Faery's Tale" told me I had them portrayed ALL WRONG! (Notice I said a few, not just one -- a grande total of SIX!) So - I have had to practically start all over! Which is fine, the story is coming out a lot smoother and with more 'oomph' to it. I have no complaints - really.

Okay I do, but not because the story is coming out better. The worst part for me is having to delete GREAT scenes because they no longer work with the character personalitites. *sigh* Another thing is realizing that scenes I took out during the last revision (or the one before) work great and so they need to be edited and added back in!

The funniest part is that now that the characters are written the way they should be - the words flow onto the paper SO much easier. The first draft was HELL to write and now I see why! I've discovered it's important to do what you characters say - not what you think will sound good. I know I sound completely insane, but I'm being serious.

If the character first shows up in your head as being a goodie-two-shoes that discovers it's fun to be bad sometimes? LET HER DO IT! (I'm talking about my character, Letarri by the way). I of course did not do this the first go around and I paid for it dearly!

Here is an example of what I am talking about - this will also give you a clear indication of how my writing style has changed in five years (Yea I started this that long ago, quite writing for a long time, etc etc. I might tell the story later).

The followings scenes are with Princess Letarri and Prince Etharas Tryalis. He drinks quite a bit. The scene takes place in a tavern. Take a look at the difference in Letarri's character. (You can see that Etharas isn't really the same either - he's another one that told me I had it all wrong.) Keep in mind, the first draft scene, no matter how you look it, is HORRIBLY written!

First Draft Scene: (Exerpt from Chapter 7)

**The scene: Letarri is visiting Etharas's kingdom of Finnat (she's from Achatar). They head to the tavern with Etahras's cousin Echry for a few drinks before Etharas and Letarri have to leave on their journey**

“To the Kingdom of Finnat!” Echry said as a toast. Letarri toasted with her water without showing any sign of disgust. Etharas toasted and took a big gulp of his drink. It burned as it went down his throat but in a way it was comforting. Since last night, memories of his Mother had been running through his mind. Now he might have a chance to stop thinking about it.

Keltara, one of the barmaids, came up to the bar.

“How’re ya fella's doin’?” she asked.

“We’re doing great Kel. How are you?”

“As good as can be expected. I’m about sick of this place though. Too many drunks wantin’ to unite to me.” She rolled her eyes and walked towards the kitchen. She paused when she noticed Letarri.

"What happened to your clothes?" she asked.

"A cleaning accident," Letarri replied.

"Well, we can't have ya walkin' 'round like that. People might think you're from Achatar. Come on, I'll give you one of my old ones, that don't fit no more."

Letarri looked at Etharas and he nodded. Trusting in Ethara's trust of Keltara, Letarri followed the faery to the back of the tavern.

“I can understand why males would want to unit to her. She is beautiful,” Echry said.

“Your parents would kill you if you got involved with her,” Etharas said.

“True, but she’s still beautiful. Don’t you think so?”

Etharas only nodded. He finished his glass and ordered another. Echry had barely touched his drink.

Echry kept talking about Keltara while Etharas kept drinking. Letarri returned wearing a black dress and silently sat back down. She stayed silent not wanting to make Echry more suspicious about her than he already was. By the time Echry had finished his first glass, Etharas had finished six.

“What’s wrong with you? I’ve never seen you drink like this,” Echry finally said.

“I’m trying to forget my Mother,” Etharas said before he finished his seventh drink. He ordered another but this time a Facilis. It was stronger liquor than Caderis. This made Echry very nervous.

“Etharas, I think that’s enough. You can’t handle this much alcohol,” Echry said.

“Who are you to tell me what to do?” Etharas snapped.

Echry finished his second drink. He wished he could figure out what was wrong with his cousin. He was always the tough one. Etharas did not even cry when his Mother died. At least no one saw him. Echry looked to Letarri for help but she seemed just as lost as he did.

“She was so beautiful,” Etharas said dreamily. “You remember? She was so kind and compassionate. Why would anyone kill her? I wish I knew where they were. If I ever found out who did that to her, I’d kill them,” Etharas pounded his fist on the bar. Gilgaris took that as a signal for another drink.

Etharas drank it in one gulp and slammed the glass back down. Neither Echry nor Letarri knew what to do.

Letarri sat staring in amazement and worry. She felt sorry for Etharas but did not understand his need to drink so heavily. She never had the urge to drink away her Father’s memory. Yes, it did hurt her to think of him dead but she always tried to stay positive. She remembered what he was like instead of trying to forget him. She wished she could help Etharas but she did not know how. He was trying to deal with his pain in a way she did not understand. She felt the only thing she could do was to stay quiet and listen.

“When I was a child, my mother used to sing to me. She’d sit there for hours on end singing until I was asleep or until my tears stopped. She had the most beautiful voice.” Etharas’s voice broke and he ordered another drink.

Echry and Letarri could only listen. They did not know what else to do. Etharas was too drunk to listen to advice and too sad to laugh at a joke.

“I’m never going to get united. I wouldn’t want my heart broken like my Father’s. He walks around the castle in a daze. The idiot. If he’d never fallen in love in the first place.”

“Yes but if he hadn’t been with your Mother, you wouldn’t be here either.”

“Oh shut up Echry. What do you know? You still have your Mother.”

Echry was stung by Etharas’s words. He had known Etharas since they were young children. Echry felt the loss as well though he knew not in the way Etharas did. Playing with each other as children, both their Mother’s became important parts of their lives. Etharas was as close to Echry’s mother as Echry was to his. Echry could not understand Etharas’s pain though. Etharas was right; Echry still had his own Mother. Just as Letarri felt, Echry could not understand why Etharas would choose to drink his Mother’s memory away.

Etharas was starting to feel sick. The room was spinning, making him feel dizzy. In the next second, he fell off the barstool. The world was starting to fade and the last thing he saw before it disappeared was Echry trying to catch him.

Newest Scene: (Excerpt from Chapter 6)

**The Scene: In a tavern in Lastor, Nenal - a stopping point on their journey. Prince Cadmus Hykartis from Cydian joins the fun this time. I didn't put the entire scene this time, skipping to the important points.**

Letarri paused at the base of the stairs. She peered through the smoke at the patrons as they drank ale from large mugs, laughed or even yelled at each other.

She was not sure why she decided to come down stairs. She tried to convince herself that it was not the handsome Prince Tryalis. When her heart skipped a beat as her eyes landed on him, she knew her excuse was weak.

He sat at the bar with Prince Hykartis. They laughed with the bartender and the barmaids, completely relaxed. She wondered how two princes could fit into a tavern crowd so easily. They looked comfortable in the element as they joked with other patrons.

Letarri took a deep breath and forced herself to relax. She glided across the wood floor, cringing as she stepped on food, spilled ale, and who knew what else. She sat on a barstool next to Prince Hykartis. They turned to look at her with puzzled faces.

She smiled nervously at them but her mouth would not form any words.

“What’ll be little lady?” the bartender asked in a gruff voice. A cigar hung out of his mouth, puffing smoke into Letarri’s face.

“I’ll have whatever they’re having.” She motioned to her two traveling companions. The bartender stared at her in shock. “Please?” she added nervously.

The bartender continued to stare at her as he poured a golden liquid into a tiny glass. He set it in front of her then stepped back. Letarri picked up the glass and looked to the two princes.

Prince Tryalis put his glass to his lips, titled his head back, and swallowed the drink in one gulp. With all eyes on her, Letarri repeated the action.

She coughed and choked as the liquid burned her throat. The faeries around her laughed but she failed to see the joke.

“Feels good doesn’t it?” Prince Tryalis said.

Letarri smiled. “In an odd sort of way.”

“It hurts so good!” Prince Hykartis laughed.

“Prince Try…”

“Wait. Call me Etharas in a place like this,” he said looking around.

Prince Hykartis nodded with a serious look on his face.

“Etharas.” She licked her lips, tasting his name. She was not used to addressing royalty so informally. It was exciting to not follow the rules for once. She wondered if Rosyani ever felt this way when she would sneak out of the castle.

“Now what happens?” she asked.

“We have another drink! Shots over here!” Cadmus called. One of the barmaids poured them each another glass.

“Here we go.” Etharas raised his glass in the air with Cadmus and Letarri following suit. “To us and this insane journey that has been thrust upon us.”

They clinked their glasses together then poured the drinks down their throats. Letarri coughed once and quickly recovered. Etharas and Cadmus cheered.

“What is this stuff anyway?”

“Caderis. A strong liquor,” Cadmus explained.

“Strong? But I don’t feel any different.”

Etharas laughed. “You will. Just wait. You’ve never drank before have you?”

She shook her head. “Just a few glasses of wine at weddings and such.”

Cadmus chuckled and elbowed Etharas in the side. “Oh, this will be interesting.”

--------Skip---------

“This country is amazing! Love the manner of dress,” Etharas said watching the barmaids walk about the tavern. Letarri looked too, taking in all the green skin that showed.

Letarri knew that the pattern of beads in the females’ hair stood for something but she could not remember exactly what. Their dresses looked like something she would only wear for her husband in the privacy of their bedroom. A tight fitting band covered their breasts and not much else. Some of the females had strings of beads hanging down from the band to cover their stomachs while others had sleeves or straps. The skirts were merely a band around the waist with four wide strips of fabric handing down to their ankles. Every inch of their leg showed when they walked. Letarri noticed that many of them purposefully would show their legs while they stood or sat, talking to the patrons.

“Oh yea, it’s a beautiful thing,” Cadmus added.

“Hey that’s not…” Letarri suddenly felt like an explosion had went off in her stomach. Warmth pooled then spread throughout her entire body. Her skin tingled causing a sloppy smile to cross her face. Her arms felt heavy and sluggish and her brain slowed to a crawl. Is this what they meant?

“That’s not what?” Cadmus chuckled, elbowing Etharas.

“Umm...that’s not…fair. I think.”

They laughed and put a hand to their sides as if they ached.

“Not fair? You don’t like the males’ dress here?” Etharas smiled.

Letarri scanned the room again. All the males were shirtless, wearing only tights and a loin cloth.
“That’s not the point!” Her gaze continued around the room while her companions laughed. Her sight landed on a hairy, fat male. His stomach hung over his waist band. He belched then scratched himself. “Ew! No, it’s not fair!”

Cadmus and Etharas continued to laugh, gasping for breath.

“Good thing we don’t dress like that uh?”

“Why not? Scared to?” Letarri giggled.

Etharas’s eyebrows shot up. “Me? Scared? Look it here little lady. I am not scare of anything.”

Letarri leaned forward, using the bar for support. “Then I dare you to travel all day tomorrow wearing..um..what they do.” She hiccupped.

“Oh! A challenge!”

“If I have to, then so do you!” he countered.

“Deal!” Letarri reached her hand across Cadmus to shake hands. Etharas smiled wickedly and spit into his hand before reaching out to take hers. She snatched her hand away before he could grab it. She stared at him for a few moments in disgust before she spat into her own hand. “Cadmus is our witness.”

A small voice in the back of her head said she was making a big mistake. Over the noise of the tavern and the fog in brain, she barely noticed it. She was having fun and did not want logic to ruin it.

--------Skip---------

Etharas’s side hurt from laughing so much. He had not had fun like that in many years. His hands shook from the adrenaline rush that he got from it.

He kept his eye on the door looking for Letarri. She was so naive and innocent. He could not help but want to dirty her up just a little bit. Her hair was perfect every time he saw her. His fingers itched to muss it up.

Her eyes were really what caught his attention. They sparkled with a hidden secret. Her eyes missed nothing that went on around her, taking in every detail. He wondered what she thought about when she looked at him. That sparkle in her eye hid her thoughts though. He might just have to cheat and use his telepathic power to read her mind.

He smiled mischievously. He would definitely have to cheat and he would have so much fun doing it.

Do you see the amazing difference!? The best part is, since I didn't give away the whole thing about Etharas' mother in the same scene, I can put in another scene later on! And as you can see, it just READS so much better! I mean the flow, the structure - oh my gosh. Seriously, I cringe everytime I read that first draft!

My advice for the day - LISTEN TO YOUR CHARACTERS! They are usually always right!

2 Responses to "Listen to Your Characters"

Dawn Embers Says :
March 8, 2010 at 3:55 PM

This is great advice and I agree for the most part. It is rare that I don't listen to my characters because it is their story and not my own. However, I have one instance where I will not listen to the character because he is wrong and will ruin the entire book. In my first nano attempt that is on the backburner for now, the president's son character all of a sudden decided he wanted to be out. No no no... that is the whole story with him coming out at the end. I had to fight him over that and let him be out to some and act a tiny bit more obvious but he does not get to be completely out till the end.

Crazy characters!

J. D. Brown Says :
March 9, 2010 at 12:35 AM

I completly agree, Herley, and this is the number one peace of advice I awlays give my fellow writers; Know your characters! Love them, speak with them, sleep with them (uh, not in a *weird* way) know your characters like you grew up with them! They are your best friends! Let them dictate the story to you!

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