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marguerite

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OK, here's my problem:

 

19-year-old guy, main secondary character/emotional antagonist, career soldier, party animal, feels sufficiently guilty about not saving his brother's life that he lets himself be dragooned into a political marriage that is supposed to end the violence between warring sides (not that he has much choice, given the time and place--nobody gives a hoot whether he likes the idea or not).

 

So, the wedding rolls around and he sees his bride for the first time--sort of, because she's hidden behind a veil. He's not supposed to talk to her (custom). They are the center of everyone's attention, but they can interact only with guests/family, not with each other in any meaningful way. And much of the time the focus of the novel is on her, since it's her story. So how do I bring his character to life?

 

I don't want him bored or resentful, which is dull to read. I have him talking to her brother, who was an army drinking buddy before their families got into a fight. And I have him thinking about her, as well as about what's going on, since he understands the context better than she does. What else would reveal his approach to life?

 

He can tell the girl's a babe, despite the veil, so that's interesting to him as well as a big relief. Plus he realizes there's a disconnect between how girl is presenting herself here and how her brother describes her, which also attracts him (mysterious maiden). But that's pretty one-note. And he's not an intellectual, so he has to feel rather than think.

 

Oh, yes, and the party threatens to explode at any minute. Think Romeo and Juliet if the Capulets and Montagues had tried to solve their problems by marrying off the leads instead of getting in their way.

 

Ideas?

Thanks!

Marguerite

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Hi M.

 

Did you see the movie Bachelor Party? Just kidding. Sort of.

 

You've already locked your emotional antagonist into being a party animal so let's throw some trouble his way and see how this career soldier deals with it. (Hey, it's Memorial Day!) Maybe he could kill someone at the reception: that's always fun. (Old rule of thumb: when the plot slows down, kill somebody.) Is there anyone around who is strongly/lethally opposed to this marriage? Another suitor perhaps? Don't worry too much about the details if the rival suitor is a through-away character. But will the murder be justifiable self-defense?

 

At least he won't be bored or resentful.

- T

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Hi M.

 

Did you see the movie Bachelor Party? Just kidding. Sort of.

 

You've already locked your emotional antagonist into being a party animal so let's throw some trouble his way and see how this career soldier deals with it. (Hey, it's Memorial Day!) Maybe he could kill someone at the reception: that's always fun. (Old rule of thumb: when the plot slows down, kill somebody.) Is there anyone around who is strongly/lethally opposed to this marriage? Another suitor perhaps? Don't worry too much about the details if the rival suitor is a through-away character. But will the murder be justifiable self-defense?

 

At least he won't be bored or resentful.

- T

Yes, this is helpful. Reading your message, I realize the hero is acting too passive for his character, and that's why he seems distanced. He's an act-first, ask-questions-later kind of guy. His cousin (who caused the trouble in the first place by killing someone) picks a fight at the wedding and gets chucked out on his ear, which is important because otherwise the heroine will identify him instead of believing him dead for the next six chapters (Bachelor Party meets Man with the Golden Gun? :ph34r:). But that leaves the hero wandering around the party doing not much of anything except what's required of him, which makes him seem pretty tame by comparison.

 

Since I made my post, I've tossed in an old girlfriend who isn't taking the arranged marriage well and an irate brother-in-law (who finds him kissing the old girlfriend), but maybe hero needs to get caught up in a fight, too. It should torture him a bit if he's forced to defend this girl he never wanted to marry in the first place, don't you think?

 

Thanks!

M

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Since I made my post, I've tossed in an old girlfriend who isn't taking the arranged marriage well and an irate brother-in-law (who finds him kissing the old girlfriend), but maybe hero needs to get caught up in a fight, too. It should torture him a bit if he's forced to defend this girl he never wanted to marry in the first place, don't you think?

Definitely get the hero caught up in the fight. But I have to wonder just how tortured he would be if he's forced to defend this girl he never wanted to marry in the first place? My guess is, not very. After all, he's projecting the image he, and everyone else, wants him to project. It would be different if he had a "one true love" stashed somewhere. (Maybe she snuck into the wedding?)

 

What sort of cake are they serving? Beautiful? Expensive? Does anyone fall in? :ph34r:

- Thoth

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Definitely get the hero caught up in the fight. But I have to wonder just how tortured he would be if he's forced to defend this girl he never wanted to marry in the first place? My guess is, not very. After all, he's projecting the image he, and everyone else, wants him to project. It would be different if he had a "one true love" stashed somewhere. (Maybe she snuck into the wedding?)

 

What sort of cake are they serving? Beautiful? Expensive? Does anyone fall in? :ph34r:

- Thoth

You're right. He would be doing more of the same.

 

He doesn't have a true love stashed away; he doesn't believe in love (until my heroine comes along and knocks him off his feet, but she hasn't had a chance to do that yet). Old girlfriend is chopped liver as far as he is concerned; she feels differently.

 

So he gets into a fight, which ticks off his dad no end, but dad can't throw son out or there will be no wedding. And his inner conflict is ?

 

What would needle a guy like the young Jim Kirk enough to make him get involved in a fight at his own wedding? A suggestion that he had taken the coward's way out? An insult to his mom (seems wrong somehow)?

Thanks,

M

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If you don't mind my saying so, you may have made young Jim Kirk's life too conflict free. Sure, he has guilt. But for conflict he must choose between two (or more) things. If his honor is important to him then can marrying this girl dishonor him somehow? And does the old girlfriend have to be chopped liver? Kirk would never throw away a perfectly good female (even if she were trying to kill him).

 

Worst case scenario: you can entomb him at the center of a dead world with his old girlfriend and their bastard son.

Kaaaaaahn!

 

Enjoy.

- Thoth.

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If you don't mind my saying so, you may have made young Jim Kirk's life too conflict free. Sure, he has guilt. But for conflict he must choose between two (or more) things. If his honor is important to him then can marrying this girl dishonor him somehow? And does the old girlfriend have to be chopped liver? Kirk would never throw away a perfectly good female (even if she were trying to kill him).

 

Worst case scenario: you can entomb him at the center of a dead world with his old girlfriend and their bastard son.

Kaaaaaahn!

 

Enjoy.

- Thoth.

:ph34r:

 

Good point. Maybe that is the problem, in a nutshell. I have thought much less about Jim Kirk's conflict than anyone else's. Hmm.

 

Girlfriend would need a significant overhaul to make her not chopped liver (which could nonetheless be a good idea). But there should be something; you're right. I just have to figure out what it is.

 

Going off to ponder. Glad I started this post. It has been very helpful.

Best,

M

 

P. S. This is my 1,500th post, at last!

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Does he have a rival military person (airforce vs navy or w/e) who wanted to marry the girl instead of him? Could you bring his guilt about his brother out somehow at the wedding? Perhaps he find out the girl he's supposed to marry had actually met his brother before? Maybe his father says his brother never would have gotten in a fight or that his brother would do this willingly instead of having to be forced into it? Flashbacks?

 

Hope it coming along well for you!

- J

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Does he have a rival military person (airforce vs navy or w/e) who wanted to marry the girl instead of him? Could you bring his guilt about his brother out somehow at the wedding? Perhaps he find out the girl he's supposed to marry had actually met his brother before? Maybe his father says his brother never would have gotten in a fight or that his brother would do this willingly instead of having to be forced into it? Flashbacks?

 

Hope it coming along well for you!

- J

Hi, Julia:

Nice to hear another point of view. Some of these things aren't possible under the circumstances (I probably muddied the waters a bit by giving the most general description possible of my problem, since I didn't want to share too many details of my work in a public forum). By putting your suggestions and Thoth's together, though, I think I'm closing in on a solution.

 

What I've gotten from the discussion so far is:

1. The best way to reveal my hero's character is by showing him acting/reacting in real time.

2. Ergo, he needs a plan for how he's going to cope with this wedding—even if it's just getting roaring drunk and flirting with every woman he can find—that doesn't depend on him merely going through the motions and fulfilling his parents'/society's agenda.

3. Since thinking on his feet is his strength (and his weakness), something has to happen at the wedding that gives him an opportunity to react quickly—preferably with negative or potentially negative consequences, because the last time we "met" him that ability almost turned the tide and saved his brother.

 

So, given that the wedding is already a powder keg, I'm thinking that he is walking around minding his own business when someone (perhaps the irate brother-in-law, to heighten the tension and prevent me from having to introduce another character) insults the dead brother that hero feels guilty about not saving. Now he has to choose between defending dead brother's honor and maintaining the fragile truce which is his only reason for agreeing to marry. (If he blows up the truce, more relatives will die.) After he and the brother-in-law duke it out, not only will both their parents be furious with them but the bride's ambivalence, which is already considerable, will grow as well, leading to lots of lovely future conflict.

 

And if hero also experiences a certain yearning for ex-girlfriend, who although emotionally chopped liver has the virtue of simple acquiescence (the bride takes a knife to him the first time they're alone), so much the better!

Thanks to you both,

M

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