The Nameless One

Being in the mind of a writer is like living in the middle of an orchestra pit during Verdi’s Aida.  Music, beautiful despite all the shades of color, constantly swirls around you, sounding in your ears and lifting you to an entirely different plane, one where anything is possible.

Good luck staying in reality.

Ideas for stories constantly bombard me, scrabbling for my attention, pulling at my hair and clutching my arms.  And many times, these ideas are in the form of people, characters who need their stories told.

See, when I meet a character, it’s not an option for me to disregard them.  They deserve to live and breathe through the words I put together.  To me, they are real.  How could I deny a friend, someone I understand as if I’d known them my whole life, the chance to come alive?

So I collect them.  I have so many stories — and each story has many characters — that surround me, but I can only work on so many things at a time.  But that doesn’t stop me from loving my patient — or not — babies and getting to know them better.

One that’s been stuck in my head recently doesn’t yet have a name.  He needs one that isn’t from here, but I’m not that great at coming up with them.  So, here’s what he looks like:

He’s from a novel I’ve got under the working title, “What Unfamiliarity Does,” but it’s a lame name and it needs fixing.  It’s about three young adults who are brought by a man who’s a little mentally unbalanced to another world in deep political turmoil, and they are expected to fulfil the prophecy of peace returning to the land.  There are two divisions — those still loyal to the princess and the portion of people who have followed her corrupt uncle.

This little man right up there is basically the usurping uncle’s right-hand man.

Oh, and before I continue, I’m gonna be honest here: Ruki from the GazettE totally inspired him.  I needed a bitty person who was bad.  Ruki’s height and stage/media persona fit so well, and I love his little face.  He’s just Ruki, you know?  But while Ruki inspired my person, he has fleshed out until he has become whole.  The role he fills also was a huge factor in how he came to be.  He is needed in the story, and I think he’s a character who will constantly be full of surprises.  You never know what’s up his sleeve.

So, for all of us to get to know him better and because I am dying to spend more time with him, we’re going to have a Q&A.

Why does he not have a name?

Because he needs something exotic — preferably imagined, but nothing’s come yet.  The naming of a character is a huge process, and you have to make sure you’ve got it exactly right.  Mira.

Got it.

Well, now you see how my writing/naming/inspiration process works.  I have to have something spark it, and writing about him just did.  I wanted to name him after my friend Mirriam Neal, since she’s the one who introduced me to a lot of things that helped him come to be, and she loves Ruki as much as I do.  And jotting down random letter combinations inspires me, too.

So.  Mira.

Not exactly exotic or abnormal, but this is a guy we’re talking about, so yes, in a sense it is.  And now there’s no going back — he has claimed his name.

Sorry for the interruption — inspiration called.

Anyway.  Onward.

What would be our first impression of him?

Mira has an air about him that is distant and mysterious, yet there is a certain laziness.  Perhaps ‘lazy’ isn’t the right word … languid?  While he never gives much more than a passing glance, he takes in everything about you, and somehow, you know it.  You feel the danger of this man and know he cannot be trusted.

What does he think of himself?

He tries not to.  He does his duties, he shrewdly watches over everything around him, but he knows his shortcomings — and outright failures and mistakes — all too well to be comfortable with himself.  It’s one reason why insults hurt him much more than he shows.  For most people, the story is about them.  Each character, supporting or principal, is of the opinion that the story is theirs, and they’re right.  It wouldn’t be the same without them.  But Mira’s idea is that he is very much a supporting character in a play so grandoise the sets, the script, and even the actors will fall apart at the slightest touch.  He is a master of intrigue and manipulation, and he knows how dangerous this game is.

How does he treat others?

He seems very passive towards others.  He puts on a facade that is very apathetic, one that leaves the word problems to others and simply does the equation.  It’s a protection.  No one is able to get near him that way — his heart, his soul, everything is guarded by a silken film impossible to see through.

What are his goals?

The principal one is just to live another day.  He plays a very dangerous game and his desire to avoid losing is very strong.

What is his spirit animal?

Probably something like a jaguar.  Hidden in the trees, but a powerful predator.  You don’t know he’s there until he attacks.

Does he fight using words or weapons?

Mira?  Fight?  Yeah, right.  He stays out of every confrontation he can.  He’s one that likes to skirt issues, always taking the back-door approach.  If he had to choose one, it would be words.  He can talk his way out of pretty much anything, somehow pinning the blame elsewhere.

Is there anyone in the world he’s close to?

No.  He tries his best to protect others from himself and those that would hurt them.  And love would be a weakness — if anything went wrong, that person would be the prime target for his enemies.  He doesn’t want to make that choice between someone he cares for and his mission and beliefs.  In truth, he also doesn’t think himself worthy of love.  Friends, family … for their own welfare, he cannot have them.

How does he dress?

He lives in the desert, but actually wears quite a few layers that he will take off or put on according to his mood and temperature.  He usually wears things in either black or red, but he does love fashion and color is certainly a part of that for him.  He loves accessorizing.  Necklaces, bracelets … rings are a favorite.  It rather makes him feel powerful.  And his hair always has volume, and he is quite partial to red lipstick.

What is his role in the story?

I want him to be a very prominent character, but so far logic and Mira himself are telling me that isn’t possible.  But while he may or may not be prominent in person (we’ll see who wins this war), his effect on the novel will be immeasurable.

Because … he’s a double agent.


Ha, ha.  That was your teaser.  And goodness knows I won’t be able to get to the novel for real anytime soon, so I’m kind of harming us all in this process.

So that was Mira.  He’s my baby and I love him.

Cheers!

Ana

 

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Liebster Award Tag

I love that name.  I have no idea what it means, but the German-ness of it is just so fun.

Anyway, I considered myself tagged by my dear friend Tracey.  She’s an awesome person, amazing writer, and hilarious friend.  Read her list: http://traceydyck.blogspot.com/2015/05/liebster-award.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TraceyDyck+%28Tracey+Dyck%29

(I have no idea how to make the fancy ‘click here’ signs, so please bear with me.  I looked it up and was even more confused than before).

Anyway, on to the questions!

1. What’s one of your favorite summer reads?

Oh, dear me.  I don’t really reread books, so this is a hard one.  There are very few things I actually revisit cover to cover, and it’s only when I feel a strong need to enter back into those worlds.  Those picks are a) the Squire’s Tales, b) an unfinished book by my friend, c) Harry Potter, and probably d) the Phantom of the Opera.  And right now I’m reading Najee: A Glimmer of Hope by Sarah Y. Westmoreland, and Shakespeare is good for any season.

The Squire, His Knight, and His Lady (The Squire's Tales) by Gerald Morris. $6.99

(Based on the legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight).

2. What’s your favorite way to cool off on a hot summer day?

My sisters and I developed a game we would play in our rather suburban neighborhood: fill a huge bucket with water, arm everyone with a plastic cup, and chase each other with the full glasses.  Hit your victim with the water, they’re frozen until someone else frees them.  You get soaked, but it’s so much fun.  And apparently wet long hair is not a good alternative to the water glass — I’m told it hurts.

3. What’s a combination of three authors’ “special somethings” that you’d like to emulate in your own writing?

Ooh, rough one, Tracey.  Great question, though!  Hmm.  First of all, Gerald Morris’ (the Squire’s Tales) humor.  His books are laugh-out-loud hilarious and the man’s wit is rapier-sharp.  I love Eloise Jarvis McGraw’s perfect balance between showing and telling, making you feel as if you are in the book.  And probably my favorite detail included in the books I love most is the realism of the characters.  If they’re flesh-and-blood, I have to love them.  They become my friends.  One of the best at this is Mirriam Neal, but Eloise Jarvis McGraw and Gaston Leroux are also some of my favorites in this area.

4. What music are you currently listening to?

Right now?  Or just in this general time frame?  Right now I’m listening to my sisters putting together a puzzle, and they’re not music.  They’re strange creatures.  Generally, right now I listen to the GazettE, but I do that a lot.  I’m also doing a project involving musical theatre, so I’m listening to more Chess and Aida (Elton John’s, not Verdi’s, obviously).

5. Which superhero (from either Marvel or DC) are you most like?

Tracey, are you trying to kill me?  No idea.  I want to be Spider-Man (not Spider-Girl, I will be Spider-Man), but as to whom I’m already the most like?  (And I really hope that was the proper use of ‘whom’ — Mom’s helping with the puzzle, and I’m too lazy to utilize her English-teacher skills).  I’d like to say I’m most like Captain America, since he’s one of my top favorite people ever, but probably Bruce Banner/the Hulk with maybe a bit of Natasha Romanoff/the Black Widow thrown in.  I try to be calm and kind, but my temper is something I struggle daily with.  And like Nat, I haven’t always been a perfect princess, but I still try to do my best.

6. What’s your favorite fantasy creature you’ve ever read about?

Chimera, hands-down.  Have you ever read the Treekeepers?  I’d always liked chimeras, but Ally completely solidified that.  I also love griffins, and dragons are cool, too.  Although my love of chimeras kind of got me into trouble — there was a girl when we just moved here that I was trying to be nice to whose name, while spelled differently, was Chimera.  I said, “Oh, that’s awesome!  They’re my favorite animal!”  My sisters told me later that my ‘compliment’ may not’ve been that welcome, seeing as we live in a deprived community where a chimera is a type of car.  I love where I live, but I can’t imagine a world without chimeras — it would seem so lonely, bleak, and sad.

Adorable baby chimera yawns its way into your heart

(It’s a baby chimera!)

7. Chocolate or vanilla?

Chocolate.

my thoughts exactly.

8. What’s something you admire about yourself?

I don’t give up.  I come from conquering stock (William the Conqueror and Charlemagne on Mom’s side, Theodore Turley and the pioneers on Dad’s, just to name a few), and I shall make my ancestors proud.  There are times, of course, when I want to give up, but how could I live with myself if I did?  My life would come to a grinding halt, and I refuse to give in to those things that would like to stop me.

9. Which do you prefer: writing by hand or typing?

Because of the Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, I struggle with writing by hand.  Besides, I swear it was a form of torture my mother devised for us as children.  Because of my loose joints, my handwriting is really bad, and if I write for too long my wrists tries to attack me.  Which is why I can’t study math right now….

10. If failing was impossible, what would you do?

Everything!  I would be a heart surgeon, a pharmacist, live in college and speak fifty languages, I would take a walk every single day, I would fly, I’d become a mermaid, I’d become Spider-Man, I would be good enough to sing at the ROH (Royal Opera House), and most importantly, I would rid myself of all the mistakes I make once and for all.  I’ve mentioned that I have a real fear of failure, and something that kills me is my past.  I feel like I make so many mistakes and have so many flaws and can never make my Heavenly Father proud, but if failure was eliminated, those thoughts wouldn’t trouble me.  But honestly, failure is part of the eternal plan.  If there was no fear of failure, there would be no triumph when we succeeded.

The Amazing Spider-Man | 24 Unofficial Movie Posters That Are Better Than The Real Posters

11. What’s something God has taught you recently, new or rediscovered?

Best question yet, Tracey.  He’s teaching me about the Atonement again.  That no matter how many mistakes I make, I can be forgiven.  And He’s teaching me that He’s always there.  I can always rely on Him, even if it’s a small matter.  He wants to help me.  My biological father always told me how disappointed God was with me, so it means so much that I’m learning from God Himself that it’s not true.  I can become better, and I do have worth in His eyes.

Tagging time!

All right, I still am very limited in who I know in the blogosphere, so please, consider yourself tagged and give me the link in the comments!

But I do have to tag those I actually know: Shelby, Lody, and my new EDS friend Mandiix.  And Rana, I’m not sure what the rules are concerning tags, so you’re included.

And the questions:

1. Which Disney character do you identify most with?

2. What’s your ethnic background?

3. If you had your pick of the best cosplay materials in the world but could only choose one character to play, who would it be?

4. What do you think the greatest blessing in your life is?

5. What is your favorite physical attribute in yourself, and what is your favorite spiritual attribute in yourself?

6. If you forgot everyone in your life and your relation to them except for one person, who would that person be?

7. What’s your dream? (It doesn’t have to be something achievable.  Just something you dream of doing, every impossibility thrown out the window).

8. What are your favorite qualities in a friend?

9. What do you like to study? (It could be anything from Impressionist painting to the cultural impact of fleas).

10. What is your favorite word?

11. List all the reasons you’re amazing.

Cheers!

Ana

Stereotypes and Modesty

Modest is sexy.

It’s a fact of life.

Unfortunately, people so often are of the opinion that being ‘modest’ means wearing frumpy old-lady clothes.  Clothes that are so bad they have never been anywhere near the spectum of ‘fashionable,’ t-shirts that could double as tents, jeans that come up to your ribcage.

That opinion is rather sad, actually, because so often the cutest clothes are the ones that are modest.  The ones that speak for themselves and flatter you while still leaving things to the imagination.

Others also think that modesty is restricting, that it’s oppressive and keeps you from fully expressing yourself.  I think this opinion is twisted.  Our bodies are a gift.  Say you had a precious Ming vase, ‘kay?  Would you put it in your front yard to bleach in the sun and for every neighborhood child to trap dragonflies in?  No — you’d keep it on display in your house, probably in a special case to protect it.  Your guests would be honored to view it, to have the opportunity to marvel at its unique beauty.

Teen girls! You are valuable! Please read this article from a great website, full of resources for young and old!

We are each important.  You wouldn’t pawn off your gold watch for a bag of plastic bugs, would you?  We are of too much worth to sell ourselves like that.  We aren’t cheap — we are priceless.  It’s time society recognized that.  Instead, we are expected to show off our assets, let everyone know how ‘sexy’ we are, but really, that’s just degrading.  Society preaches respect and equality, yet both men and women are looked down on if we show an ounce of it for ourselves and our sacred gifts.

Something about many of the modesty lessons is the reaction of the opposite sex.  I hate it.  “You’ll help the boys by dressing modestly.”  “Don’t tempt the girls by sagging your jeans.”  Yeah, it’s important to help and respect those around you, but I think the true reason to dress modestly is for ourselves.  We need to show the world that we are confident without showing off, that we respect ourselves enough to keep those sacred parts of us away from the cheap, low-minded bidders prowling around with glittering eyes.

On redefining sexy: | 12 Stevie Nicks Quotes To Live By

(Quote by Stevie Nicks that I found on Pinterest).

Another subject I’d like to touch on is stereotypes.  For instance, my style is basically that of a Japanese rocker.  I wear spiked boots, skull-embellished shirts, hip belts and skeleton-cameo necklaces.  As weird as it sounds, I almost feel most complete when my nails are painted black.  I’m usually in black and have a growing collection of spikes and leather.  But I’m always modest.  I live in a small town that wasn’t sure what to do with me when I first came, and that really confused me and made me sad.  I don’t try to be tempting and I strive to be kind and polite with clean language, but I was still rather labeled as a sort of rebel, an unwanted divergent.

I would even wear the nose-thing. XD

(Reita from the GazettE).

That’s one kind of stereotype.  When you see a girl with frills and pink lipstick, don’t label her as shallow and brainless.  When you see a girl with false eyelashes even longer than mine, don’t immediately conclude that she’s a tramp.  This is something I really struggle with, don’t get me wrong.  I’m one of those people that just naturally labels and judges.  But as I’ve gone throughout my life, made friends, worked at Subway, I’ve learned to see past the skin.  True, you don’t agree with the girl who comes in with her neckline down to her bellybutton.  But maybe she’s nice.  The young man with the scowl over there might be bullied and doesn’t know how to show that he’s not mean and rude, or maybe his attitude is a protection against those who wish to hurt him further.  Maybe the girl dressed as a hippie is beaten at home and the way she copes is by clinging to the ideals of peace.

Mormon chick, baby! ;D  This is the sweetest picture, too!

(Isn’t this picture perfectly adorable?)

This post is as much for me as it is for everyone else.  True, there are some folks out there that you instinctively know to stay away from.  You aren’t always going to want to be friends with everybody.  But we mustn’t forget that beneath the outer layer, there is a child of God, one that is precious in His sight and should also be in ours.

We should also notice our own worth.  Don’t beat yourself up over your mistakes — that’s what Christ’s Atonement is for.  We live, we fall, we get back up.  And we never do it alone.  We have the potential to rise above it all — yeah, it’s gonna take a long time to get to that point.  But who says we shouldn’t try?

Cheers!

Ana

(Sorry, I had to).

An Open Letter to Everyone

I’m proud to be part of a writing group whose members simply call it ‘the Pack.’  We follow the writer Mirriam Neal (our pack leader), and encourage each other in every endeavor we — either wisely or ridiculously — choose to pursue.  It’s through this wonderful group of girls that I met my best friend.  These awe-inspiring people have taught me the true meaning of friendship and unconditional love, even for those of us that are the most flawed.

We’re an odd bunch.  Any one of us will admit that.  And I think that unorthodox-ness sometimes makes us feel inferior, other, or unwanted.

I recently read a blog post by a very, very dear friend of mine.  The overall feeling I got was that she doesn’t see her full worth.  I look at her and see someone funny, beautiful, and wise beyond her years.  Her soul is inspiring, whether it’s making me giggle or see the world through the beautiful stained-glass window she has created.  She thinks she’s awkward and hard to love, but all the qualities that she thinks make her lesser are what I love most about her.  They make her who she is.  And if someone doesn’t love you for who you are … get rid of them.

I am here to tell you of your importance.  As I’ve come closer to Christ, I’ve truly began to understand the power of love for others.  I may not know you personally, but I testify to you that the qualities you have are not what make you inferior, but what make you special.  Perhaps you have a strange sense of humor.  Perhaps you like to read about neuroscience.  Perhaps you don’t get metaphors.  Perhaps you have difficulty around people.  I don’t care — you are special.  You, just by existing, make the world a better place.

Think about it: where would the world be without you?  I can tell you most assuredly that it would be empty.  Maybe the world would continue to spin, but it would feel the absence.  Have you ever seen the Christmas film It’s a Wonderful Life?  It’s one of my dad’s favorite movies, and I finally watched it last December.  It’s about how a man who feels everyone would be better without him is shown how the world would have been different had he never been born.  In the end, he realizes how many blessings he has, and what a blessing he has been.

You are a blessing.  Maybe you’re a social butterfly, maybe you’re Muslim, maybe you’re a survivor of abuse.  You are unique, wonderful, irreplaceable, inspiring.  I want you to look in the mirror and see what I could see: an amazing individual who deserves every chance.  Someone who is loved.  Someone who deserves to be loved by themselves.

Learn to love yourself.  I love you.  But most importantly, God loves you.  He’s given everything for you, and I want you to know that no matter what you feel, you can always turn to Him.  Maybe you won’t get your answer immediately, but He is there, His hand outstretched, just waiting for you to take it.

Don’t cut.  Don’t cry.  Know that there’s someone out there, even if she doesn’t know you, who prays for you and cares about you.  If a perfect stranger can do that, please do it for yourself, too.

With all the love in my heart,

Ana

(Read this adorable thing I found).

This is exactly how I feel about you. (yes, you!!!) :: if you know the artist who drew this, please let me know as I'd love to give them credit. the site this links to searched but could not find the source and neither could I. xoxo

“Hello. What’s Your Deepest Secret?”

Danger lurks around the bend  I’ve always struggled with character development.  I would get a great idea for a book, put together a cast of characters, give them names, and they would just stare at me with blank expressions, somewhere in their minds accusing me of not creating them properly.  And, as much as I hate to admit it, they were right.

My novel Metamorphosis was my trial-run.  I’d written before, and while my technique was good, the rest was sloppy and inexperienced.  I was working on a novel that had inspired Metamorphosis, and getting bored of it and excited for my new project, I abandoned it and began to write Fraina, one of my principal characters.

She had initially started in my mind as a Mary Sue — yuck, right?  Then her hair got shorn, I saw her petite little mouth always set in this tough line, and I witnessed the lightning-fast, penetrating look in her grey eyes.  She became real.

(My model for Fraina).

So, I hadn’t had much experience creating my own characters well before this.  I had always loved stories, but I had never really finished a novel.  Not even close.  I can’t tell you how many notebooks and Microsoft Word documents are two pages long, the few paragraphs filled with such promise, then abandoned when I realized I had no idea what to do with them.  The best I had done was a historical fiction novel that I really need to get back to and the sweet, pathetic story that helped Metamorphosis come to be.  (They will both get their spotlight.  Eventually).  Then Metamorphosis happened.  I loved the idea, the characters, and no matter how hard it was or how confused I got, I kept pressing forward.

Perhaps there is magic in the world.  Because somehow, miraculously, all the frayed strands wove together into something that I never could have accomplished alone.  Now I know how important it is to get to know your characters before you start your story, but thankfully my team of misfits didn’t kill me as we struggled to come to terms with the others’ idiosyncrasies and shortcomings.  As I wrote, I came to know them.  Brunnhilde and I had a bit where I thought she should be regal and wise, and she wasn’t having it.  She’s regal, yes, but in a fiery, wild way.  She was underdeveloped because we were constantly fighting over who she was — it pays to listen to your characters, because the story became so much better after I admitted that she was right.  (Thank you, Shelby, for helping me with that).

(Reference to Brunnhilde’s wings).

But with as much as I learned, even in the beginning chapters of my book, I still struggled with knowing who I was writing.  I didn’t understand how to accomplish that.  I asked my sisters, my friends, and they all said the same thing: ask them questions.  In desperation, I emailed my friend Mirriam Neal and begged for assistance.  She sent me a list of questions she asks her characters, and I still wasn’t sure exactly how to go about this.

I had a brilliant idea.  (Okay, being Christian, I understand that most of my brilliant ideas have had a little help getting through my often-thick skull, so I am immeasurably grateful for a God who puts up with me).  I simply wrote myself into a scene with them.  I basically had my five protagonists in Metamorphosis covered, but I needed real antagonists.  I knew their names, their species’, but nothing of their souls.  Here’s an example of my interview with Quintessa, the Amazon:

Ana shrugged. “You basically tell me what happens and I write it down. Everyone controls their own fate – I just make it happen, being the writer. But I can’t do it properly until I’ve talked to each of you and gotten to know you better. I’d rather write you honestly and as you’d like to be portrayed. I don’t want to make a mistake, y’know?” She refrained from reminding them that they were the villains, and in order for them to seem as powerful and real as they were, she really needed to interview them. She gestured at Quintessa. “Let’s start with you, babe.”

            One elegant eyebrow curved upward at the pet name, but she waved her hand and her companions rose and reluctantly left the tent, staring over their shoulders suspiciously.

            Ana dragged Takeshi’s chair closer until when she sat down her knees would be but a foot from Quintessa’s. Pulling out her dad’s laptop, she lifted the top and opened Microsoft Word.

            “One sec,” she said absently, frowning down at the screen. “Let me write down what you look like.” Jotting quickly, glancing continually up at the regal leader of the Invaders, she managed to write:

QUINTESSA

THE EPITOME OF ROMAN BEAUTY, EVEN IF HER HISTORY IS GREEK (NOT LIKE SHE KNOWS THAT). HER FACE IS OVAL WITH A PLEASANTLY DISTINCT JAW, RATHER RECTANGULAR. HER NOSE IS FIRM, AND HER EYES ARE LARGE AND BROWN WITH THICK, LONG LASHES. HER EYEBROWS ARE STRANGELY ELEGANT, AND HER CURLY DARK HAIR IS BRAIDED DOWN HER BACK. MAN, THIS WOMAN IS TALL! SHE IS ALSO VERY MUSCULAR, ALMOST LIKE A JAGUAR. OH, AND HER LIPS ARE MEDIUM-FULL.

            “There,” she said finally, “I think I got it. Can you read?”

            Her eyes narrowed. “No.”

            Ana shrugged, secretly relieved. “That’s fine. So, let’s get on with it.”

            “I thought we’d already started,” she said coldly, obviously irritated at the inconvenience Ana was proving to be.

            Ana laughed. “Not formally, no. I have a few questions suggested by a friend and I few I’ll add myself.”

            “Which friend?” Ana could tell that what she really meant was, ‘what does this person know about me?’ She didn’t care about ‘which friend.’

            “She doesn’t know about you,” Ana reassured her, “but she’s got some good interview ideas. So, what do you like to wear?”

            A corner of Quintessa’s mouth twitched, as if she were hiding a smile. “And I thought these would be deep, probing questions that I would be seriously reluctant to answer. This is a bit trivial, don’t you think?”

            “Don’t worry, we’ll get to the difficult ones soon, babe.”

As a result of my interview with a Vampire (ha, ha, I’m so funny!) and other beings, I truly was able to know and understand these individuals.  Despite their villainy, I love them.  I know their — sometimes-questionable — motives, their fears, their joys.  They blossomed into real people, one that someday, could even be called my friends.  (Considering they nearly wanted to murder me for invading their privacy, I doubt that it will be anytime soon).

Very Takeshi. XD

(Takeshi, the Vampire in Metamorphosis and my friend Ashley’s husband).

But even with this technique, sometimes it’s really hard to understand your own ‘babies.’  An idea I had after getting frustrated with Marian’s complete lack of interest in the project she’s the protagonist of was assigning them each a song.  I grew up a dancer, so my second home was backstage.  I have three different categories: Disney, Broadway, and pop.  (Opera’s hard to work with because a lot of it is so specific to the characters and plot of its own production).  My naughty characters were each given a Disney song and lovingly forced to perform it.  I would write from each of their perspectives as they had to belt ‘Cruella de Vil’ and ‘Let It Go.’  I carefully selected the songs that fit each of the characters — ‘Be Prepared’ for Magar, ‘I See the Light’ for Nicky and (an older) Piper — and as they performed, seeing their perspectives, getting used to writing their individuality, I became closer to them and could understand them even more.  Even their rage and irritation towards me for making them do all this helped me get to know them.  (Really, I’m lucky I’m alive.  Hugo wants my head).  They even had ‘I’ve Got a Dream’ as the grand finale — it was awesome!  So right now we’re struggling through the Broadway category, and it’s just as fun.  And Hugo may or may not need a restraining order.

Stages of Choosing A Disney Movie to Watch | Oh My Disney...@Jennifer Edgington Curley I feel like this was a way of life when we wanted to watch ANY movie in school...

(This — this right here is the definition of magic).

These are some of the ideas I’ve had to get to know my characters from the inside out.  They have become completely real to me.  I feel like they’re my friends, like they’re my children.  I love them very, very much — simply for being who they are.  I am so proud I get to share my life with them.

I genuinely hope that if you struggle with character development, that you can find ways to come to know your people.  Perhaps this blog post will help, perhaps it won’t.  But I know that you can find a way that will be true to you, your writing style, and your characters.  They will be some of your best friends.

Cheers!

Ana

Continuation of “Box Five”

Yes, I totally did that on purpose.

For those of you who haven’t read the book, one chapter is titled “Box Five” and the succeeding section is identical to the title I just jotted down for this post.  So yeah, that was totally planned and I am very pleased with myself now.

This post is going to be about the characters and emotions of the novel the Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux.  (For disclaimers, etc. visit my last blog post).

The plot is amazing.  The writing is amazing.  It’s a great book.  But what really, truly sets it apart are the people the story revolves around.  Each is so real that it’s sometimes hard to believe the novel is a work of fiction.  My family has both been through and studied a lot of therapy, and we’ve always been fascinated by the intricacies of the human brain and soul.  The Phantom of the Opera is a study in human nature.  It’s not just a mystery novel — it’s exploring the soul.

Every character is vastly different from all the others throughout the book.  Raoul, for instance, is the only central character that grew up privileged.  I’ve noticed in my own life that those with wealth, prestige, famous parents, etc. usually take a while longer to mature emotionally — Raoul is a prime example of that.  He has a huge heart and is very brave, though I think often that bravery could be explained as reckless idiocy.  He never thinks before he acts, and he sees the world through rose-colored glasses that about halfway through the book you want to crush under your stiletto.  But he will go to any lengths to do what he deems right.

Christine is an angel.  She is everything I want to be.  I’m loud, stubborn, and struggle with my temper.  (Thank goodness for family that repeatedly talk me out of committing murder).  She is so gentle and loving and good.  She’s spunky and unafraid to be herself, but she is able to look past others’ faults and see straight into their hearts.  Her modesty and chastity are well-known, and she usually puts everyone else as her first priority.  She initially seems like the quintessential Mary Sue, but as you delve deeper into the character you find a fire burning in that sweet heart.  She gets angry, but it’s for very good reasons.  She knows what she wants and works towards it.  She is completely three-dimensional.  Her kindness is unparalleled, and while it sometimes clouds her judgment, her intelligence is still strong (while occasionally misguided).  By the end of the book, you respect and love her so much.  You feel blessed to have gotten to know that beautiful soul with all its quiet strength.

(Image credit to muirin007 at deviantart.  She’s amazing).

The only way I can adequately describe the Persian is “awesome.”  Seriously.  The man is amazing.  His bravery and compassion are wondrous to behold.  He’s very smart, and in another life probably could have been Sherlock Holmes’ rival in the detective department.  It’s almost hard for me to see him as the ‘daroga,’ the head of the government police.  He describes a little of what he’s seen in Persia, but mostly just alludes to things too horrible to repeat.  It’s amazing to me that a man with as much integrity as he has kept that position for so long.  It makes me wonder what was going on behind the scenes, whether the leaders were just waiting for an opportunity to boot him out of power.  When he saved Erik, he was promptly banished from his native country.  But the man’s bravery is shown as he travels to Paris to keep an eye on his old acquaintance.  He knows all too well what Erik is capable of.  He gets ticked off, what happens then?  The Persian puts it upon himself to keep Erik in check, often at his own risk.  He still has a lot to lose, but he puts it all on the line to ensure the ‘Opera Ghost’ and everyone else live in peace.  At the end, he puts his trusted relationship with Erik at stake when he helps Raoul break into the underground house to save Christine.  Still, Erik knows him as his closest friend, really, as I’m not entirely sure how to explain the dynamic between the two of them without using words that don’t exist.  Neither trusts the other completely, both hold grudges, but they still care about the other almost as friends.  I think this speaks volumes of the Persian’s soul.  He could despise Erik for so many reasons — goodness knows he has enough! — but still has hope that there’s something better in him.  At the beginning of the book, when Leroux writes about interviewing the daroga and is unsure of whether or not his tale is fabricated, he says that he “found out as much as [he] could about the Persian and concluded that he was an honest man incapable of contriving a machination that might mislead justice.”  That is a very accurate description of our daroga.  He does what’s right no matter what the consequences.  And even if those consequences are not in his best interests, he has no regrets because he knows he made the right decision.

Erik.  I feel honored to have gotten to know him through this book.  Having been through some pretty rough things myself, I’ve seen first-hand how one’s circumstances can change a person, even in ways you could never imagine.  Erik grew up feared by his family, used by his employers, and finally wound up hiding in a basement.  His mother gave him his first mask so “she wouldn’t have to see [him] anymore.”  He was hired to commit the worst crimes imaginable.  Don’t tell me what he has suffered hasn’t affected him.  He has been hurt more than I could ever imagine, and what he has become is a coping mechanism against all the pain he has experienced from the day he was born.

(Image credit to muirin007 on deviantart.  I told you she’s amazing).

Erik believes himself to be outside the human race.  He thinks what he does is justified because he’s not in any way related to those he comes in contact with.  In his mind, he’s a monster.  He hates it, but he’s learned how to use his ‘status’ for his benefit.  He’s done many, many horrible things, some contracted by a big-wig, some just because he thought it necessary for his personal gain.  By the time he arrived in Persia, he had committed many horrors, as “he seemed not to know the difference between right and wrong.”  I don’t believe that.  He’s not stupid.  But imagine after all he had been through, what more would he have known?  In his life, I would assume, all he had known was pain.  What you learn is what you teach, and he acted according to what he was used to.  Add to that the feeling of being apart, being inhuman, a monster, and one can easily see why he behaved the way he did.  I am in no way trying to justify what he’s done, but trying to see the man behind the mask.

(Image credit to muirin007 at deviantart.  Again).

Still, for all his crimes, his capacity for love never fails to touch me.  In Persia, he was given free reign.  He was encouraged to rip out all the stoppers to his genius, and part of that genius is an understanding of cruelty.  He should be proud of what he had done!  He gained power and prestige, and a semblance of acceptance.  Why wouldn’t he relish those memories?  But when the Persian reminds him of “the Rosy Hours of Mazenderan,” Erik becomes suddenly sad and claims that he no longer remembers them.  He prefers to forget them, he says.  He has the guts, but more than that, the heart to feel remorse for what was done in Persia at his hand.  Then there’s his caring for the Persian.  He could easily have been irritated — and I’m pretty sure he was — that he followed him to the Opera to keep an eye on him, but instead he went out of his way to greet and talk to him, and even spared his life.  Later, when the Persian had led Raoul down to his house, Erik could have been furious.  But instead, as he was dying, he came to speak one last time to his old friend.

Then there were his mother and Christine.  He saved every relic he could from his mother, despite the fact that she could never bring herself to love her own son.  She would run away when he would try to kiss her.  She feared him so much he learned early of his ‘monstrosity’.  And get this: French is his native language.  So why does he speak like a child?  Was his mother afraid even of his voice?  Did she ban him from speaking?  Yet he never speaks of her in anger.  When he talks about her, you see how much he loves her.  He always refers to her as his “poor, miserable mother” as if it were his fault she hated him.  It’s as if he views her as an angel incapable of wrong.

Then he meets Christine.  She’s beautiful and broken, and I think a part of him wants to fix her.  She misses her father, and he jumps on his chance.  He becomes her Angel of Music, a replacement father-figure.  He loves her voice (he helped create it, after all), but what he really loves is her soul.  She is kind and compassionate with a love of music that he shares.  She is gentle and loving, and I strongly suspect that he believes her goodness will redeem him.  He feels whole with her.  He would do anything for her, but as he descends further and further into madness, that becomes dangerous.  He’s even stooping to murder and suicide, petty name-calling and being, as Christine says, “a drunk demon.”  But at the end, when the love of his life gives up everything for him, something in him awakens.  He has been shown kindness, kindness without expectation, and he sees the wrong of what he has done to Christine.  Crying, he lets her go, and it soon kills him.  It’s like his last ray of hope was snuffed out, leaving him with only the next life open to him.

(Image credit to muirin007 on deviantart.  Do you see why I stalk her?)

Erik is like a child.  Feeling small, he puffs himself into something bigger so he feels ‘okay’.  He wants his existence to be justified.  A coping mechanism I’ve used for as long as I can remember was being stuck in a child’s mentality.  It’s a protection against the horrors of the world and the bad things I’ve experienced.  With the help of my therapist, I’ve begun to grow up, but Erik hasn’t had anyone to help him out of that.  He is exceedingly childish often, which is by turns annoying and adorable.  For instance, after he finishes yelling at and threatening the Persian, he plops down in his boat and begins kicking the sides, impatiently waiting for a response.  He loves pranks, and is very proud of his genius.  He’s a big diva!  His child nature has protected him, saving him from not only the outward things that hurt him, but the inner pain he can’t escape.  In some ways, he’s as innocent as Raoul and Christine.  For all his lack of scruples and the horrible things he’s totally okay with (i.e. murder, torture, lying, etc.), he refuses to have any relations with Christine until they are married.  She says herself that as he was raving at her after she pulled off his mask, “I’d been able to judge the savageness of his passion from his frenzied way of looking at me, or rather his frenzied way of moving the two black holes of his invisible eyes toward me.  Since he hadn’t taken me in his arms when I couldn’t have put up any resistance, that monster must also have been an angel.”  He could easily have raped her at any time, or drugged her, or whatever.  But he had his heart set on marriage.  I think that part of his reticence to harm her in that way was part of his childlike nature.  He’s retained innocence in that field, and I think sexuality frightens him.  That, too, makes me wonder what he’s been through.  Was he raped?  Sexually assaulted in any way?  He’s protecting both himself and Christine by abstaining.  I really don’t think he understands completely what marriage is.  I think he sees it as having a friend he cares about more than anyone by his side at all times.  As he’s attempting to convince her into marriage, he describes what life with him would be like.  He wants a wife to take out on Sundays.  They would sing together until they were ready to die from pleasure.  He tells her she would never be bored with him, as he’s got countless tricks up his sleeve, not counting card tricks.  He shows her his skill at ventriloquism.  From the way he’s talking, in his simple language, there isn’t even the barest hint of anything other than what five-year-olds would consider fun on a playdate.  Not once does he allude to anything more.  That’s something that irritates me so much about the musical.  The song ‘the Point of No Return’ is basically a piece on wanting sex.  I think — I’m sure — my Erik would be appalled.  He was going to save himself and Christine until after they were married.  Good gracious, he nearly fell to pieces when Christine allowed him to kiss her forehead!  He had never expected that to happen, not ever!  To me, that is one of the most profound examples of love.  He would never harm her.  He never even expected to kiss her forehead.  He would never take advantage of her like that.  I want a man that respects me like that.  I learned that from my Erik.

(Image credit to sebassy at deviantart.  One of my favorite pictures of Erik and Christine).

Erik can be a true monster — I am not denying that.  But I would like to share this quote by Leroux found in the epilogue:

“Poor, unhappy Erik!  Should we pity him?  Should we curse him?  He asked only to be someone like everyone else.  But he was too ugly.  He had either to hide his genius or play tricks with it, when, with an ordinary face, he would have been one of the noblest members of the human race.  He had a heart great enough to hold the empire of the world, and in the end he had to be content with a cellar.  Clearly, then, we must pity the Opera ghost.”

(Image credit to muirin007 on deviantart.  So grateful for her work).

I learned so much from these people.  I can’t view them as characters.  They lift me up, teach me, and remind me what’s really important in life: love.  God loves us all.  We study a lot of near-death experiences in my house, and everyone that has ever glimpsed the other side comes back with the message that the most important thing in the universe is love.  Christ died for us out of love.  God lives to serve us out of love.  That is what the story of the Phantom of the Opera is about.

Love.