Character Building – Craven (part 2)

In the last post I talked about how Craven became who he was. How he ended up as an assassin. How he came by his name. What his background was, that sort of thing. If you haven’t read that post you can do so by clicking on this link.

In this post I plan to talk about how that history translates into his world view. How his past impacts his decision making, his values, and his motivation. These need to be consistant, plausable and relevant or his character simply won’t come across as real to the reader.

The story of how he became a member of the family demonstrates some key themes:

  • He isn’t cowardly – or at least he is capable of bravery when the situation demands it.
  • He is loyal to those who he cares about – he is willing to make sacrifices if it means the people he loves can be saved.
  • He understands that life isn’t always fair – even good people who work hard are not safe from trouble.
  • It’s better to be alone – a wife or family can be used against you.
  • He takes his responsibilities seriously – even when they might result in personal injury.

How then, do these combine with his upbringing to turn him from a series of events and circumstances into a rounded person? A real person with dreams, goals and a set of values. Here’s what I came up with:

Being of noble birth he would have a taste for the finer things in life. He would be educated, and well spoken, with a basic understanding of the proper etiquette. Though it would be unrefined since he was taken away from that life at a young age.

He is handsome, and is no stranger to female company. But he would never seek to form any long term relationships as he has seen first hand how they might be used against him.

Likewise, He doesn’t make friends easily, but when he does it is a strong friendship that is built on mutual respect and trust. Loyalty and honour are more than just words to him he values them in others as much as he models them in his own life.

Because he knows that he needs to be able to stand alone, he would have taken his training very seriously. His need to be self sufficient drives him to strive for excellence.

From here it is important that every decision Craven makes, everything he says and does, in the story is tested against these principles. They serve to underpin him as a character. If a particular situation arises where he acts contrary to these values (either by choice or because he is forced to) then there needs to be some consequence or anguish associated with that.

Readers can spot inconsistency a mile away. I am sure that we have all read books or watched movies where a particular character’s actions just didn’t make sense. Personally when I see that it knocks me out of the story being told and the world being created.

Bad characterisation can ruin an otherwise good story. Conversely, good characterisation can turn a solid plot into a great tale.

Now please, don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting that I am an expert in good characterisation – or that I can even do it particularly well. I am sharing with you the process I have gone through to create Craven so that I can give myself a chance to do it properly.

I just hope that I can translate this framework into something that readers will relate to when they see Craven in action.

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