I’ve been struggling with Allie, my Main Character.
Here’s the problem: I’ve put her in a culture where women are the property of their fathers and husbands–and actually, men are the property of their fathers, and even fathers are the property (in effect) of their lords. Even the lord isn’t free, because he has an obligation to all of the people he controls. No one is free. So, I could think of two natural responses to being the daughter of the lord. 1) Accept it meekly because this is the society you were born to and you don’t know anything different. (yawn.*) 2) Oh, woe is me! I’m being forced into a marriage I have no choice in, and my life will forever suck, and I must cry now! (anachronistic if I take the feminist route, and way too angsty regardless.) Fundamentally, those two responses are usual. Anyone might have those responses. I’m not writing about just anyone; I’m writing about this character. Therefore, she must be unusual, different, and above all interesting.
But how can she be unusual, different, interesting, and believable in this situation? I can’t write myself (for example) into this role because I was raised in a family where I could be anything and anyone, and I got to make my own decisions. So, if someone told me I had to marry IG**, I’d laugh in his face and move on with my life. If that weren’t an option, I’d probably run away. Or agree, and then go about finding my own way to avoid it entirely. None of those options makes sense for her. (Possibly the third one, but …)
Allie started out being angsty, although I was making her be angsty about her younger sister*** getting married, in a protective “oh noes, it should be me!” way. But it doesn’t make sense. Allie is intelligent and not overly self-deceptive, so she has known her whole life that both she and her sister would be married off to whoever was most convenient and beneficial to her family at the right point in time. So her whole life she’s been inventing a plan for how to handle it. The plan might not be what actually happens#, but she has one.
But then I couldn’t think of what it would be. I couldn’t imagine a plan that was practical, realistic, and interesting. I went straight into angsty or feminist. Feminist is definitely anachronistic. So how can she be realistic, expectant, and still having a strong-and-interesting reaction to this news? It is directly related to the core plot of the story, so she must have a strong reaction!
Finally, I concluded that she needs to be Elizabeth Bennett. This is her society and it is what is expected of her, so she has been taught her whole life to expect this event. She is smart, though, so she doesn’t just accept any of this blindly. She’s going to be funny about it##. Sarcastic sometimes, snarky maybe, but mostly just seeing the funny side of the world–except when the dark side looks her in the face and says “boo!”. This works really well for me, except I’m having trouble integrating it into the character who appears when I think “Allie”. I have two separate images, and whenever I try to make them one, I feel like I’m forcibly overlaying one onto the other. They’re not sticking together.
This probably means I need to spend more time developing her character. Where has this humor helped her in her life–and when has it hurt her. How does she react to common things. How is she Allie with the humor, and not Elizabeth Bennett###.
* Actually, the more likely variation might even be accepting it and working hard to be the best wife possible. Still not very exciting, but acknowledges the fact that she’s likely to be an intelligent person with her own thoughts, not a brain-washable automaton.
** This is all I’ve come up with to call the guy she’s supposed to marry. It stands for “Icky Guy”. :-/
*** Incidentally, the name I tossed out for the sister was “Betty”. Betty is a nickname for my full name, Elizabeth. I’ve always despised all variations of the “Beth” part of my name, at least when applied to me, and Betty is one of the worse ones on anyone. So, the fact that this was what my subconscious gave me for the poor sister… tells me that my subconscious didn’t actually give a damn about the sister, and that we were wasting our angst. Fortunately I realized this 1500 words into the story and not several thousand.
# Hah, it definitely won’t be. I’m not going to make this easy for her.
## I need to stop trying to make my stories serious, anyway. It usually just comes off as pretentious. Funny is way more interesting from me.
### Furthermore, I’ve realized that I don’t have a plan for a Mr. Darcy–that is, a love interest–and I’m not sure whether that’ll work. Maybe he (or she…) will appear when he needs to, and it’ll just work.