(No, I hadn’t planned on making this a series, but after reading another of Sherwood Smith’s books, which was mediocre, other than the diversity of characters, I started thinking of the same diversity in Crown Duel, and this post was born.)
While Crown Duel is an amazing example of working one’s worldbuilding unobtrusively into the narrative, it is also a good example of characterization. To demonstrate this, let me introduce you to the main cast of Crown Duel.
Meliara, Countess of Tlanth: Mel is determined, proud, and resentful, yet fully able to care for others. She has a painful sense of her own lack, and works to better herself and increase her knowledge.
Bran, Count of Tlanth: Meliara’s brother is outspoken and carefree. He’s honest about his limitations and laughs his mistakes off.
Vidanric, Marquis of Shevraeth: Shevraeth is seen somewhat as an enigma, perhaps because of Meliara’s dislike of him. He has a sense of humor and is willing to make continued efforts to be friends, even if the other person does not appreciate his efforts.
Russav, Duke of Savona: Savona is a flirt, yet he is kind and goes out of his way to help others.
Nimiar: Bran’s fiancee is gentle and unwilling to speak ill of anyone.
Tamara: Tamara is a flirt with a purpose: gaining the most powerful bachelor as her husband. She is proud and cold, and hates anything that gets in her way.
Flauvic: Nicknamed “the Flower,” Flauvic is solitary, yet adept at social maneuvers. He has political ambitions, but hides them well.
Can you see how Sherwood Smith has made each character distinct from the others? As authors, I think we can all agree that this is necessary to write a good story. Little girl writers tend to do this by focusing excessively on the appearance of their characters. If this character has black hair, and this one has brown, and that one blonde, then this last character has to have red hair, because no one else does. Older writers, however, tend to realize that while physical difference is important, difference in character is even more important.
So, then, we’re careful to write characters with fleshed out personalities. They even have reasons and backstories for being the way they are. But then, and I speak from experience, sometimes we find ourselves stepping back and seeing fully fleshed-out, backstoried…..clones.
And that can get confusing to the readers. How can they keep the two suspicious gentlemen separate, let alone the three gentle ladies?
But, but! I need two suspicious men! You see, they feed off of each other and encourage each other and…..
Fine. But how can you differentiate between the two suspicious men so that your readers can tell the difference? If you look up again at the characters from Crown Duel, you’ll see Russav and Tamara, both of whom are flirts. Yet one is kind and one is cold and poisonous. And this allows the reader to differentiate between the two. I suppose it helps that one is male and one is female too. 😉
Give your readers a memorable cast of characters. Give them different personalities that set them apart, especially if they need to share a characteristic for a plot point.
You never answered your question about the suspicious men. And what about the ladies?
Well, see, I don’t know the answer yet. Those were my characters.