Saturday, April 4, 2015

One Character Is Not Like the Other Character Because...

Since I like to write the same general type of adventure stories whether I’m doing science fiction romance or ancient Egyptian paranormal romance, I do have to pay attention to making the hero and heroine in each book different from the others I've written. Not all real life Special Forces soldiers are carbon copies of each other, any more than every businesswoman has the same outlook and knowledge…which holds true for ancient temple priestesses as well!

I spend quite a bit of time thinking about the character, in terms of their life experiences previous to the moments in time captured in my book. Why are they the person they’ve come to be, and how does that life experience shape the way they’re going to handle what gets thrown at them in the course of the book? I don’t make notes or keep spreadsheets (because that’s not me, folks) but I know enough in my head to write the person’s journey.

For example, in Priestess of the Nile, Merys the heroine is a bit naïve, does her best to keep some semblance of worship going at an abandoned temple.  It’s her connection to her late mother, and the one thing her unpleasant stepmother can’t take away. So her choices and the risks she takes stem from that situation. The love of Sobek the Crocodile God (in his human form) is everything to her.

 In the sequel, Magic of the Nile, her younger halfsister Tyema is now the high priestess of a full-blown temple, running all the associated businesses as well as the ceremonies.  Tyema was a victim of an
enemy attack on her village when she was young. When I first started working on the book I felt it would be unrealistic for her to have reached adulthood with no aftereffects from the terrible ordeal,  even though she grew up to take over the temple and runs its complex business affairs at the god’s direct command.  She’s structured her life to be in control at all times, as much as possible, to avoid triggering or even revealing the symptoms of her malady. The coping plan works for her until Sahure, a handsome, noble warrior, is sent by Pharaoh on assignment to her remote province. Complications for Tyema – good and bad – spiral from there.

Although Tyema’s anxiety is only one aspect of the book’s plot, the condition and the lengths she goes to cope drive some of the decisions.  The ancient Egyptians wouldn’t have understood an anxiety attack the way we do today, and they certainly had no idea how to effectively deal with it. “Cures” tended to be heavily based in magic and some fundamentally misguided theories of female anatomy.  Even Sobek, who takes care of the Nile and is a force of nature, doesn’t understand the struggles of his priestess. “She knows I watch over her - why isn’t that enough?”  the god asks in the novel.

Tyema isn’t magically cured by the end of the novel because that’s not realistic in any world, but she and Sahure have a better understanding of what she’s dealing with, and what she’s capable of.

I wish I had time today to talk about the research and thinking I did to arrive at the human version of the Crocodile God (what motivates him, what would attract him to a human woman, what’s he afraid of…) but alas, this week’s topic is done….so there you have my somewhat organix "think it out"  approach to developing and differentiating my characters.

April is National Anxiety Month, which is partly why I’ve focused on the issue today. I'm one of the 40 million people who have anxiety issues, mine triggered by a bad car crash years ago. My priestess heroine had few choices 3500 years ago, but nowadays there are things to be done if anxiety becomes a problem in conducting daily life.  For more information on anxiety, I encourage you to check out the National Institutes of Health “AnxietyDisorders” page. Don’t hesitate to seek help if you’re having issues that could be anxiety-related. Talking to your family physician is a great place to start!

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