Adventures in NaNo-land – Remembering

November 12, 2012 at 2:01 am (fantasy, Links, writing) (, , , , , , )

In honour of Remembrance Day, I’m doing today’s brief posting on remembering. Memories can be an important part of character development. It shows that the writer has considered the characters’ lives beyond the scope of the story and it makes the characters seem more realistic. Sometimes it can be a matter of reflecting on a childhood event that impacted the rest of their life, other times it could be some other significant occurrence – a first meeting, a marriage, a birth, a death – but more important than the memory itself is the character’s reaction to the memory. Are they touched or does the memory leave them cold? Do they present the memory in a positive light or a negative one? Does it make them happy, angry, sad, anxious?

You don’t want to overuse this technique – the focus should be on the current events of the story – but it can be a handy means of presenting back-story and a tool for more complex characterization. In The Trading of Skin, Osku, the father of my protagonist,
Oaván, has been dead for over a year, but he still is having a profound effect on the family he has left behind. Their memories actually draw the dead man into the story, and he becomes almost as important character as the rest of Oaván’s family.

Here’s a sample of some of their reminiscing:

“I arrived at the sieidi when it was not yet dawn and I sent my free soul out to find him. I could do that then, because I wasn’t yet spirit-bound. I’ve never seen anyone so relieved to see me, telling me he was indebted to me and he would make it up to me someday. I told him his debt was not to me but to Laib Olmai, that I was but the messenger carrying the god’s salvation to him. That didn’t reduce his enthusiasm. Osku flattered me and thanked me all the way back to the sieidi.” Jaská laughed. “Imagine his surprise when he did not open his eyes to the young woman who had led him back, but instead to a large, ornery bear. He’s lucky I changed form right at that moment, or I might have been hungry enough to eat him.”

He must have been frightened,” Oaván said.

“No – quite the opposite. He was fascinated. He wouldn’t leave me alone, following me as I walked away from the sieidi, wrapped in my bearskin. He asked me question after question, even after I growled at him to leave me alone.”

“You could understand him?”

Jaská laughed louder this time. “Not really, that was part of the problem. Spirits speak the same language, but once we were back in the physical world, he could speak no Haldi and I knew very little of the dialect used in Anár. There were a few words in common, but not enough to grasp what we were trying to say. Your father was persistent however. He would not leave me be until we were able to teach each other a little of our languages. He followed me back to my den, and he insisted on coming back to see me. He would keep coming back until we could understand each other well enough that I could answer all of his questions. By that time, I don’t think it mattered to him what I was in my other form. He was smitten.”

Oaván knew the rest of the story with regards to their courting. His father had told him everything he had done in order to capture Jaská’s heart, leaving out the part about how she was also a bear.

“The following year, when the cold season was almost upon us and he knew I would be going back to my lair by the Meandash to hibernate, he begged me not to go. He asked me to come back to Anár to be his wife. I couldn’t say no to him then. I hadn’t been able to say no to your father since the first time he and I had been forced to separate, so I could return to the Meandash. I missed him so much during that time it felt as if my heart had been cleft in two, and a part of it still rested with him in Anár. I haven’t been that miserable until recently and even now I have you boys to bring me comfort. I didn’t have that then.”

“And that’s how you came to be here,” Oaván concluded.

You can find the full chapter, Chapter 6, in first draft at this link:

More tomorrow J


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