Monday, June 24, 2013

Characters: Blanca Flor

There are several characters in SNKL who began as a throwaway phrase in the source material. Yusuf came about because Mudarra needed a guide through Christian Spain, and Justa blossomed out of Doña Lambra having "a single maid" at one point in the story. They both took on their own amazing (in my opinion, because they seemed to develop independent of my original intent) story arcs.

Blanca Flor, however, is all mine. I took her name from other medieval epics and her personality from the question: What would Doña Lambra and Ruy Blásquez's daughter have been like? The epic states that they had no issue, but what if the case was more that after the terrible things their parents did, no one wanted to be associated with them, especially by blood ties? If I do write a sequel to SNKL, it will be based largely on that tension.

Personally, when I think of a female between 14 and 25 years old, I don't see a fully grown woman, but in the tenth century, people did in general. We're coming full circle with the way teenagers dress and make themselves up these days, but that's another story. So I took inspiration for Blanca Flor's look from her mother, seen in this post, and in this gorgeous artist's fantasy:

Then I made a sketch with words to evoke when I described her for the first time. Hard to see pencil in the scan, but here it is:

I was going for the beauty of the mother, but full of kindness.

Here's how the description ended up, from the point of view of Mudarra:

He ducked behind the tree trunk, from where he observed a being who radiated so much brightness he hardly dared to keep watching her, and yet he couldn’t look away. As he stared, he distinguished two long braids the color of gold thread that pulled the hood from her head and whipped from side to side and front to back as the girl-woman changed her gait to suit her mood. Her mantle flew away from her body with each step like the wings of a giant bird taking flight. At her neck, an underdress of a fine, almost transparent fabric protected her fair skin from the blue wool of her tunic. The skirt, covered in embroidered whorls, danced stiffly atop soft leather boots. Mudarra thought he would visit a cobbler and have similar boots made for himself in a strangely practical thought that ran somewhere below the rapturous feelings the female caused in him. She distractedly passed the empty bucket from one soft-looking mitten to the other as she made her meandering way toward the riverbank. He had never laid eyes on anything like her.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Uses of Violence

The end of a really productive three-part discussion on violence in storytelling by David Blixt comes at an a propos time in the aftermath of the Red Wedding episode of the Game of Thrones series. It's well argued -- check it out!

I've never been sure why I was so strongly drawn to the story that is the basis for The Seven Noble Knights of Lara. It's violent, and I've never enjoyed stories that showcase violence for its own sake. So, it became my mission to present the violence in a way that would affect the reader deeply at the same time that it examines the conflict from both sides and humanizes the villains. Conflict is necessary for story, and a good story will show the conflict in all its subtlety and let the reader decide what it really means.

After all, this is not a new story. It's already been told in a formulaic and psychologically vacant way, so there's no point in retelling it unless I add value in the form of sympathetic characters with believable motives and emotions.

I began by trying to understand why the woman who apparently motivated the biggest violent act in the entire book -- Doña Lambra -- was moved to such outrageous and unbecoming behavior. Because I started with her, I fell in love with her, and deeply confused my beta readers and some people who read my first attempts at query letters and a synopsis. I also loved the proper "good guys" in the book, but the fondness I had for writing about Lambra skewed readers' perceptions of the González family in the wrong direction and failed to prepare them for the meaning of the gore to come. I've done a lot of editing and hope I've ended up with a nice, complex balance of characteristics and perceptions in both camps. Anyone can write a good hero, but a good villain is the mark of the great writer I want to be.

It's an epic story and I hope I've given each character the attention he or she deserves.

So anyway, if you liked or understood or enjoyed being devastated by the Red Wedding, The Seven Noble Knights of Lara has incidents that I hope affect the reader in a markedly similar fashion.