Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Strong Character Defined - Part 2 - Responsibility by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Strong Character Defined
Part 2
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Part 1 posts on Oct 21, 2014 with the following URL

We've been discussing Theme-Character Integration, combining two skills into one for a seamless flow into the Art of the Story.

And of course, since Plot (what happens) is meaningless unless it impacts a Character to create the Story  (the arc of how the Character changes under impact of Events), creating "appealing" characters is the main objective of professional writers.

The Character must be comprehensible at the starting point, the change in character has to be comprehensible during the novel, and the new Character has to be plausible.

Most Market Reports contain the specification that the submission must be about "Strong Characters" -- but editors never define what, exactly, a 'strong' character is.

Market Reports do not contain calls for "Weak Characters" -- so we have nothing to contrast it with.

However, the News is full of examples of Weak Characters, and of characters who do not "arc" -- do not learn from Events.

So we've been puzzling over this requirement of "Strong" characters -- a must in an action-Romance! -- and how to use a Character's attributes to convey thematic information without large info-dumps and expository-lumps. 

Gives a clue about how to define Character Strength and has a list of previous Parts.

We have discussed at length how to use current Headlines to generate novel plots, and here is yet another way to use current events as information (even when they aren't actually real-world information). 

Here is an example from 2014 of a show-don't-tell that a Character is WEAK.

WASHINGTON (TheBlaze/AP) — The Secret Service sent three agents home from the Netherlands just before President Barack Obama’s arrival after one agent was found “drunk and passed out” in an Amsterdam hotel, The Washington Post reports.

The three agents were benched for “disciplinary reasons,” said Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan, declining to elaborate. Donovan said the incident was prior to Obama’s arrival Monday in the country and did not compromise the president’s security in any way.

Still, the incident represents a fresh blemish for an elite agency ...
----------END QUOTE--------

You take a job (any job) and you are giving your Word of Honor that you will do whatever the job-description says, usually involving being a subordinate to a hierarchy above you.  Of course, being hired to BE the top of such a hierarchy is another thing, and we have to discuss "Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely" together with the old fashioned (but popular Fantasy premise) of Royalty running the world.

Now here's the definition of Strong Character you can use in a Plot.

A "Strong Character" keeps his/her Word of Honor.

For references, see Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover Series, and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's St. Germain (Vampire-Romance) series. 

These employees did not keep their Word of Honor to be vigilant at all times in order to fend off any threat to their package.  It doesn't matter that this package was POTUS.  What matters here is the Word of Honor.

Noblesse Oblige (illustrated in the St. Germain novels) is a related topic.

It means the obligations of being born Noble.

Being Royal or Noble -- OWNING LAND is the definition -- being the King of your Own Castle in the USA -- means being OBLIGED, or obligated, to provide certain kinds of protection to others. 

The way you get to be Noble is to keep your Word of Honor when you're just a hired soldier.  You distinguish yourself on the battlefield (or for non-combatants on the field of political maneuvering), and get Knighted.  Your children distinguish themselves and get awarded a Barony (Land and tenants), and their children earn a greater amount of land and tenants, etc.  How?  By prospering on the land they have been awarded command of (all Land belongs to the King).

So the heirarchy goes right up to the King who owns everything and appoints certain people to be custodians of the economy and of the safety of the Kingdom from invasion.

A great example of this is illustrated in the long series by Katherine Kurtz called The Deryni Series.  Like Darkover, border Lords are responsible for defending the Kingdom's border.

"Responsible" is the key word here -- "Strong Characters" fulfill their Responsibilities no matter what the personal cost.

And that personal cost is usually emotional (Love, etc. all the Romance ingredients).

No matter the emotional pain, no matter the personal deprivation (not allowing oneself to get drunk or "have a good time" with a willing damsel), the Strong Character fulfills all responsibilities.

But the writer can't just say "this is a Strong Character" and let that be the end of the matter.

No, it has to be illustrated, all encapsulated in SHOW DON'T TELL. 

And that's what this news item does.

The news item does not say these agents were of Weak Character.

It shows you what they DID (Plot) and indicates a story-arc for a character who isn't mentioned here, a character you can make up and write about, who did not LEARN FROM EVENTS -- who didn't "arc" within his own story.

Scan the news for other examples of Weak Characters, then see if you can find any Strong Characters who are being highlighted by the Media.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

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