Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Character Conversation: Dame Kate Carpenter

If you read my First Campaign Challenge flash fiction, you've met Kate a little bit. She provides the first-person narration in For Want of a Piglet. I created Kate a long time ago and as part of her overhaul I needed to make her a more standard heroine, in some ways.

Because a main character who suffers from your own depression isn't sympathetic. When I reread the original monstrosity, even I lost sympathy at certain points. And in general, depression is not a problem that people sympathize with -- paralyzing fear and doubt do not lead to things getting done. As anyone with depression knows.

But still, Kate needs an edge. I'm trying to make her more proactive, more "spunky heroine" (eyeroll) material, but I can't have her turning into a Mary Sue. Nobody wants a cookie-cutter "spunk."

Kate's reference, so far as appearance goes.
You were glad when that piglet died and the betrothal was called off. You wanted to get back to the Order and become the master physician's apprentice. Things are starting to happen, now, that you didn't expect. What didn't you want, out of all of this?

I didn't want anyone looking to me for rescue when I've little experience or enough strength in kir (kir is the magical essence of this world) for the task.

The first thing Master Parselev showed me was that healing's far more dangerous than it seems. Others believe that when the physician takes out needle and thread and cleansing charms, it's falling back for lack of kir. In truth, it's the safer route. For a reason, my master hasn't let me far from his side until now. Thus I haven't killed anyone in trying to heal them.

And you've been kicked out of the nest early, so to speak. You're afraid of failing. 

Forgive me for not wishing to watch a man die under my hands. And yet, my master said it must be me on this mission.

What happens if you fail? If you kill a patient?

I read my apprenticeship papers, as Father could not. They may dismiss me, if my potential proves to be lacking. Send me home.

What's wrong with home? (She looks away, pressing her mouth shut) Originally, your father had died by now, but if he hasn't -- are you afraid of him? I knew he was strict, but I didn't think he was violent.

Father would be angry, that's true. But more than that... I spent two years learning to read and write at the Order, and now two years apprenticed. There's hot food every night, I can read in the library whenever I like and when it's cold I can share a bed with Rika. They've given me new wool socks every winter.

For a peasant girl, it's luxurious.

(She looks miserable, though) Is it so wrong to want to stay? There's those who think I've no place drawing my master's attention, but most have been kind to me.

You haven't tried to deny you're a peasant girl, though. 

It was hard to hide, at first. And it still turns up at times. I'd never been on a horse, before the mission.

At least Sir Anders got you untangled when you fell off. What are you thinking of him, at this point? 

He's been honorable enough since he left off flirting. Sir Anders has his work, I have mine and there's little else to it.

And the prince? Are you worried that he'll tell your master about your failures?

(She swallows hard) I've done the best I could, and I hope he sees that.

I don't want Kate's fears to control her too much, but it will influence how she reacts to things that happen in the course of the story. This interview's brought up some new ideas for me, and I'm not sure how far she would go to protect her position for fear of being dismissed. Would she lie? Try to cover up mistakes? Balk rather than take a risk? Or, worse, take risks and then try to bury her failures? 

It's not something a cookie-cutter spunky heroine would do. Heck, I'm already trying to talk her out of it, but maybe I shouldn't. 

What do you think about "spunky" heroines?


Liz said...

Spunky: yes! I'm not into damsels in distress! I think Buttercup is a good reference though. She begins pretty cookie cutter but develops her spunk through experience and necessity.

Annalise Green said...

Spunky heroines annoy me. Not the spunky heroines themselves, who are always cool when the writer is 100% feeling them. Scout (To Kill a Mockinbird) and Ella (Ella Enchanted) are some of my favorite fiction characters PERIOD, not fictional females, just fiction characters in general.

But I think that writers these days - especially female writers - experience an unfair amount of pressure to make their characters *role models* all the time, which often means at the detriment of three-dimensionality. Because people are three dimensional and therefore not always spunky and sometimes they even let things like fear and doubt control them! Not to mention that even so-called spunky characters, or those role model-types, have to experience some flaw or low point so that they have something to overcome in spunky fashion.

Basically, don't worry about having to write to some paradigm of a spunky heroine, unless that's what you want to do. Write a three-dimensional female character authentic to your experience as a female, but more importantly, as a human being. Sometimes that means spunky. Often that means spunky.

But not always.

Anonymous said...

It can be hard to make your protagonist both proactive and vulnerable, and probably harder for a female character. I think you're striking a good note so far!

I'm pleased to present you with the Versatile Blogger award - further details and fine print available at http://kelworthfiles.wordpress.com/2011/09/14/its-blog-awards-time-again/

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