Between the Philadelphia NaNo group’s midnight online writing kickoff and a lovely in person gathering at a local coffee shop Sunday afternoon, I closed out my first day of NaNo with a respectable 5,200 words. You might be hearing that, running some quick mental math, and realizing that I’m already past the Day 3 goal of 5,000 words. It sounds really impressive, but most of what I’ve written is meatless fluff and I’ve got a few no-writing days at the end of my month so I’ve got to get ahead early on.
Anyway, here’s a working sketch of one of my main characters, Ben. He’s come up before, but this is my first time exploring his formative years, the factors that shape him into the man he becomes. It’s been challenging to approach him as a fifteen year old boy after a few years of knowing him as a man in his forties. Teenagers are complicated!
This is a character creation questionnaire I’ve been tweaking and using for a couple years now; I can’t recall where I found the original but I like the way it makes me think of my critters.
Name: Benjamin Forrest Lacke
What are 10 adjectives to describe his personality? Make at least three of them negative:
Build/Height/Weight: Around 5’10 with a few inches yet to grow. Sturdy, athletic build.
Description of hair (color, texture, etc): inky black, coarse and lustrous, worn artfully mussed to the irritation of his house matron, headmaster, and father. When moved he cleans up well, but it takes a lot to move him.
Description of eyes (color, size/shape, etc.): cool light blue, piercing, with short dark lashes, beneath thick brows. Expressive when he wishes them to be, showing charm, affection, skepticism, and hostility, or else as unrevealing as stone. Prone to puffiness and darkness beneath his eyes, an effect of late nights of drinking and carousing. His default expression is one of cynical detachment.
Description of skin (color, complexion, etc.): Clear, unblemished fair olive skin, with a healthy glow, forever shadowed with the beginnings of a beard he can’t yet grow.
Any scars or tattoos? Some scarring on his knuckles from boxing and fighting.
Does he have a job? Student at Harkerow Academy, a task at which he applies the minimum effort. His professors don’t care for him; he is truant and disinterested, gets poor marks on his exams and is in danger of expulsion–something that would have happened already were it not for his father’s influence and generous financial contributions.
What does he like to do for fun? Foremost he enjoys anything that will cause trouble for his father–drinking, gambling, and antics at school designed. Beyond that, Ben is very active, enjoying physical contests like fencing, sparring, and sports, exploring Oryshian, sneaking out, creating mischief and hazing younger students (and occasionally professors).
Description of voice: Rich, deepening, with a strictness of language that ebbs and flows with circumstance to camouflage or make a point of eschewing his rank and breeding. His tone is calm and assured, can soothe or menace with ease. Ben can be boisterously loud or lethally quiet, but has a full, contagious, sincere laugh that endears him to people more than his sometimes prickly personality.
What are a few phrases he uses more than once? Ben is prone to casual vulgarity, as is unbefitting of a boy of his social standing.
What are some physical gestures that are particular to him (i.e. toying with wedding ring, putting hands on hips): He fidgets when he’s bored, drumming fingers on tabletops or tapping a pencil or mussing his unruly hair, until he realizes that while fidgeting annoys people stillness can unsettle them.
Overall health, and any health issues: healthy and sturdy, with a resilient constitution that allows him to stay out nights drinking and still function at school on only a few hours of restless sleep.
Athletic, or not so much? He is athletic, but prefers individual contests over team sports so his success of failure is based on his independent merit. His reflexes are good and his endurance is alright, though as with everything he would do better if he bothered to try.
How does he usually dress? Ben has expensive taste and likes fine things, but doesn’t care about fashions and fleeting trends. He favors classic dark colors and well-tailored garments of good quality,
How does he get around? He walks short distances, or will occasionally hire a carriage for a longer trip around town. for trips longer than that, horses.
What’s his home like? He lives in a dormitory provided by the Academy to house him during his studies. He shares his room with one other student (a casual acquaintance), and there are ten rooms like theirs in the building, with a shared bathroom facility, all overseen by a house matron. His room is well kept–he spends little enough time in it, preferring instead to be out of the school’s bounds.
Where did he grow up? The Lackes have an ancestral family estate outside the crown city of Cabann.
In a few sentences, what was childhood like? Ben as a child was inquisitive, prone to getting into mischief out of sheer curiosity. His grandfather was a beloved nurturing element, blindly affectionate toward Ben in spite of his flaws. His father attempted to tame him with a heavy hand and regimented schedule, insisting on military discipline and hours of training in horsemanship, fencing, and other skills to prepare his son to follow in his footsteps. Around twelve, Ben grows from mischievous to fractious and uncooperative, and by thirteen his father has had enough of his teenage rebellion and ships him to Oryshian for school.
What is his cultural or ethnic background? This is a source of major contention within the family–the Lackes have been followers of the old gods for centuries, but Ben’s father converts to the Thelemite faith as a political maneuver. Ben, being closer with his grandfather, worships the old gods but does so in private; this is one act of rebellion against his father that he will not commit openly, though if asked he probably couldn’t explain his reasoning.
Where did he go to school? Harkerow School for Young Men of Promise
What’s his home life like now? He lives in a dormitory, sharing a room with a boy too spineless to challenge his misbehaviors even though he gets punished right alongside Ben on the occasions he gets caught. In many ways he’s unhappy, but covers it with bravado and wildness.
What are his closest, most meaningful relationships? His closest friend is Caractus Lockewood, a boy he’s known since childhood. He has other friends and companions, but few he is likely to trust, and none that he would trust with an emotional confidence like he would rely upon Caractus.
Is he religious at all, and if so, how? Ben is deeply religious and very protective of that fact. the political climate makes his spiritual leanings unpopular, so while he doesn’t actively pretend to follow the Thelemite faith he does nothing to dissuade people from making the assumption.
Is s/he political at all, and if so, how? he cares little for politics, except to know that he doesn’t want to join the military like his father before him, and doesn’t care for the clucking debates of socialites and politicians.
Has he ever broken the law? Ever been arrested? Ben only heeds rules that serve him. He breaks rules and laws all the time, but rarely gets caught at it. When he does get caught, though, his father smooths things over to avoid besmirching the family name.
What is he scared of? (still working on this one!)
What is he annoyed by? zealots, boring people
What’s a good habit of his? he is generous, protective and loyal to his friends.
What’s a bad habit of his? he lacks direction and thrives on conflict.
How does he act when he’s really happy? easy, genial, charming, vivacious and generous
How does he act when he’s really angry? Ranting and fighting. Reckless
How does he act when he’s sad? Channels his sadness into contemplation or anger.
What kind of sense of humor does he have? Sarcastic, sometimes outright mean-spirited.
How smart is he? He’s more cunning than smart. His skills are practical, and he only pays enough attention to retain information if he thinks he’ll ever have a use for it.
How does he act at a party? Boisterous and engaging, Ben is a magnetic personality that people either love or hate, but either way he draws a lot of attention.
Favorite food, season of the year, type of music? He favors simple foods–meat and starch dishes primarily, nothing too fancy and not too many vegetables. Autumn is his favorite time of year, and he likes music but doesn’t pay much attention to the specifics.
What’s the worst thing that could happen to him? To be like his father
What’s the best thing that could happen to him? to find a calling, a purpose for his life that is his own.
Care to share some details about your favorite character so far? What are some questions that help you develop a well-rounded person?