Character Art

It was a joy (and probably therapeutic) to create some new character art for my Vree Erickson books. Below are the characters in the Green Crystal stories and the Luminary Magic ones.

The art is mostly graphite drawings that I ran through some computer programs to enhance the images. I did this because the gray-scale scans from my scanner often ended up dark and “muddy” looking. Brightening them via the scanner destroyed a lot of high-value detail, so I experimented with some art/photo enhancement programs until my copies passed muster and weren’t storage hogs.

First up is Vree.

Vree Erickson character drawings
Vree Erickson is the main protagonist of the Luminary Magic series of books

Next is her friend Nick from the Green Crystal series of books.

Nick Corwin character drawings
Nick Corwin is a main protagonist in the Green Crystal series of books

If you follow this blog, Lenny needs no introduction.

Lenny Avery character drawings
Lenny’s appearance has changed a lot since his creation 50 years ago

His twin sister Gaylene is Vree’s best friend. I think Devil’s Advocate is the best 2-word description of her.

Gaylene Avery character drawings
Gaylene is smart and musically inclined and deserves to be more than a minor character

Gwynessa is a Fae who becomes trapped in a green crystal pendant in the Green Crystal series of books.

Gwynessa Liriel character drawings
Gwynessa is the offspring of an Enwen Aili and a Rivvik Hiora, two kinds of Fae creatures that dwell in the woods and forests of Ridgewood

Last but not least is Vree’s cousin Whitney. She plays a major role in the Luminary Magic series of books.

Whitney Clark character drawings
Whitney is a Luminary witch and lives on Russell Ridge, next door to Lenny and Gaylene Avery

Thanks for joining me.

Revisiting Characters

Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations. ― Ray Bradbury

I was absent from my blog during May and most of June while I buckled down and continued preparations for the new and updated books I have planned for my Amazon KDP library. Part of those preparations is making sure my characters come across as people.

My stories happen in a place called Ridgewood, loosely based on places I have lived. Overall, the place is a straightforward small town in America where odd things happen to a select few. There is a plethora of history and information about Ridgewood at this blog, so go ahead and browse the archives.

I enjoy writing my own kind of fantasy fiction. My ensemble of characters is wholly my own creation loosely based on archetypes that attracted me as a reader. Again, there is a plethora of history and information about them at this blog, but there have been three significant changes I want to address.

  1. I have renamed Owen to Lenny and given the name to his kid brother. Lenny has taken on his old role and has the old persona of teenager Dave. He has a twin sister, Gaylene, who is Amy with a different name and family.
  2. Vree’s hometown is New Cambridge. She lives in Ridgewood when she stays with her paternal grandparents. Her parents are archeologists at New Cambridge University and are away from home often. Vree has no interest in archeology. Her paternal grandparents have the names Dave and Amy now and are not retired and living in Florida.
  3. Amy’s grandparents are Ben and Vera, the couple killed by a witch named Margga who has become Gianna. Ben and Vera’s last name is Russell, and Myers Ridge is now Russell Ridge.

My renamed cast has been a joy to place on stage and see them rehearse while I put them through the rigors of developing plot. As always, I let my characters develop the plot while I pay attention to the three main factors of characterization: the physical, sociological, and psychological. That’s all any writer needs to know to create characters that have personalities. Once you have that, then you understand how your characters approach and resolve conflict. And that means living with your characters, observing them while you put them through mock scenarios, and noting the results.

Vree is one of my star characters. She has been with me since I was fourteen years old. She has always been a shy, humble teenager.

vree-13-pencil-9x12-v6
Vree

No matter how much I try to change her personality, it stays relatively the same. I suppose this flies in the face of teachers of fiction who say that our characters must be different people after departing Act 1 and arriving at the conclusion of Act 3. How much change is rarely specified, but I cannot see her becoming an entirely different character when she rides her story’s denouement. I think any person whose personality changes that much during their story should be under psychiatric observation by the time it ends. That was a problem I had with many horror novels. The characters we got to know did not ring true when they became monsters.

Realism is an important aspect of good fiction. And just as in life, a person’s mode of thinking can change dramatically under the right circumstances. But a person with a healthy brain is not going to become someone with a different personality just because a book publisher wants it for mass market appeal and sensationalism. Abrupt change of character isn’t normal.

Every good story I have ever read has one major real aspect: Desire. The goal is to acquire something. The more unreachable it is, the difficult the task. The comedian George Carlin described acquisition as a football game. The goal is to acquire yardage to the end zone and score points to be ahead of the opponent when time runs out. Smart players achieve this by fooling their opponent, making them second guess their game plan, getting them to trip over their weaknesses. Everyone has desires/goals and we all have flaws to overcome in our efforts to get what we want.

All in all, a deep understanding of character is the key to creating better plots.

Thanks for reading.

Peace and love, everyone.

Vree’s New Journey [character development]

I am preparing to write stories about Vree Erickson and her friend Lenny Stevens again. Lenny is a character I created 48 years ago, named Liam Burkhart then. Vree soon followed.

The above statement makes it seem like I have written for a long time. I have not. I spent most of that time painting and creating art. Even then, I labored a good part of that time working jobs that paid the bills and gave my family and me food and shelter. I have always struggled commercially and financially as an artist. More so as a writer. But I still do it. Not for fame and fortune. I do it because it still drives me.

Vree and Lenny

Vree and Lenny still come and speak to me, whether I am asleep or awake. Sometimes they tell me of adventures that I end up recording and publishing on the Internet. Someday, those adventures may make it to the print market where people pick books from shelves. For now, though, I publish those adventures in the quickest medium I know.

Lately, Vree has been revealing new stories to me. She does this every year around this time. Winter is coming and I am going to be spending more time indoors. Now is the time to dust off the old laptop and write again.

The last story I published about Vree had her battling the ghost of a witch named Mergelda, also called Margga in an earlier version, which bloomed into a novel from a short story about Lenny and ghost dogs that I called hellhounds for dramatic purpose.

It was my first novel and I was excited to have reached that pinnacle as a writer. But it was not the story I wanted to publish. Or, more accurately, it was not the same story Vree and Lenny first told me, the one that made me rush to my laptop and spill out 100,000 words.

Since then, I have stopped rushing to write more stories. I have taken the time to listen to my characters and to take notes. Vree, who was once an only child 48 years ago before she became the youngest of triplets in the novel, is back to her old self. She is 13 again and dealing with the loss of her father. He died when lightning struck him. The lightning struck her too and changed her—she can hear someone’s thoughts when she is close to the person. And the lightning burned down her home, forcing her and her mother to move to Myers Ridge, a common spooky place in my stories.

Vree can also see her father’s ghost. He appears to her as a friendly apparition. He was a spirit in the novel, but Vree argues with me that he is a ghost. “We cannot see spirits,” she says. “We can only sense them. We see ghosts because they hold to the light they had when they had a human body. We don’t see spirits because they let go of the light.”

I do not know what the light is, but I am sure Vree will show it to me. She has already told me that we are beings who embrace light, and that we fear darkness. “Darkness is the absence of light,” she says. But I question her for more information. Is darkness a void? A black hole? Negative energy?

“Darkness is no light. Exactly that. Nothing more and nothing less.”

I can tell it is going to be an interesting winter with her. I hope she and Lenny show enough of their world and themselves to me that I may produce a new book in the spring. A book that stays true to my characters’ revelations. And a book that will satisfy them and me after all the edits are done.

Creating Oppressors and Villains In Fiction

I just finished reading a how-to-write-like-me book recommended by a friend who, like me, wishes to become a published writer. The wonder-tips I gleaned from the essay made me consider that I may need to increase the meanness of my antagonists to a 90 score or higher on the Downright Meanness Scale.

We all know mean people. They are overly bossy or controlling, physically aggressive, exclude others, talk about popularity, make threats, keep secrets, say “Just Joking” after being mean, have mean friends, and do not respect authority.

Being mean makes you stupid. I tend to shy away from mean, stupid people.

Good natured at heart, I gravitate to likeminded people who don’t attack others. Good people get ahead in life by transcending violence.

Good people build great things in life, including relationships, and are driven by a spirit of benevolence.

When I write stories, I tend to give my bad guys bigger nice sides than bad. I simply find it difficult to imagine someone can wake up seething malevolence, remain mean all day, and go to bed that way, 24-7 all their life.

This type of life nagged me during a chat with a fellow writer. She had seen an article at MSN about sleazy landlords. Those who know me well know I have rented from probably the world’s sleaziest landlords. I scorn these oppressive ne’er-do-wells who class themselves—grandly in many cases—by their yearly earnings, which is money for nothing, and have the audacity to put down their tenants for being either unfortunate and poverty stricken or people who opted to rent instead of owning property. These landlords appear to have no laws to keep them in check, so they do as they please, which often isn’t maintaining the property they own. The ones I know blight our society with their ineptness, greed and downright laziness.

After I rattled off some quick curses aimed at all sleazy landlords, my friend suggested I imagine these lowlifes gathered together in a police lineup whenever I create my villains. She said, “Imagine each one as a spouse, a coworker, or boss. How does someone live with that sort of person and not pity them?”

True. But how can even these lowlifes score 90 or higher on the Downright Meanness Scale? Is anybody, whether awful landlords, bosses, senators, or rulers of the empire, really that bad?

I cannot imagine anyone with little enough humanity in their hearts and souls to better their ways. Even while they gain fortune and power and sink lower in corruption and sleaziness, I cannot fathom them becoming monsters.

Monsters easily score 90s on the Downright Meanness Scale. But monsters are not human … not in my book, and certainly not in my stories.

However, despite my beliefs, the daily news reminds me that humans can become monsters. Plenty of writers write about them. But not this writer. I like that my bad guys have bigger nice sides than bad. They may get angry and kick the dog, cheat on their spouses, and double-cross the tenant renting from them, but they never score 90s on the Downright Meanness Scale.

Still, I’m a writer. I need to write mean spirited characters into my stories if I want be a published author. I won’t enjoy putting myself in oppressors and villains ill-gotten shoes, so I’m certain my good guys will play bigger parts … to keep me from exploding with contempt!