Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Perfect Man

I tend to be wary of characters, and arcs, indicative of too much success. For writing, it's hideous to read a character the author clearly takes as a pet, protecting them from every evincing flaws, or failing at anything. Spartacus, of course, is prone to the Mary Sue treatment, and history really can't do much to contradict nor deepen the character. A writer could. But, often, really doesn't.

My own work suffered a good deal of danger of this syndrome, too. The king I took for my text is not known to have endured a defeat. His career has been considered plenty bloody - but always seems to be seen as a success. He went from power to more power, and ever increasing wealth and influence. His marriage is the stuff of legend, and his array of princes were, if not entirely "to modern tastes", certainly major successes as successors.

How to temper such a career. Well, don't make a point of his physical beauty. (Note/aside: I am not among those who considers DiCaprio to be Teen Beat dreamy. Ahem.) Temper some of his known victories, withholding even the character's own sense of personal glory in them. Make some conquests outright pageants, paid for and played out for spectacle, but involving manipulation more than might. Allow him his many mistakes. Make him fight believably with that beloved, steadfast wife. (And don't make her a paragon either; give her thin lips, medium-colored hair, and a nervousness of disposition.)

See beyond the legend. Give people something to hold on to.

THEN give him the sword, and send it through every enemy. Then give him the glory.

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