Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Characterization in AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE, A Guest Blog by Barb Caffrey

By Stephanie Osborn

We're getting ready to start talking about a different element of modern storytelling: character. As she has a new book out, a book with strong characters and more than a hint of romance, I asked Barb Caffrey to write an additional blog article -- not just about how characters work in telling stories, but specifically about how HER characters were designed to interact in her new book, An Elfy On The Loose. Consider this as a kind of segue from Romance to Character Development in our Elements of Modern Storytelling series.


Characterization in AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE
Or, Why Bruno the Elfy Is So Much Fun to Write
By Barb Caffrey 
If you've read my novel AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE – or even if you've only heard about it a little – you probably are aware that my main character, Bruno the Elfy, is quite an intriguing character to wrap a book around.
Why? Well, Bruno didn't exactly start out as a hero-type. He's short: he's only three feet tall. He doesn't think he has any appreciable magical skills at the start of AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE, either, and this is a problem considering he comes from the magical race of Elfys – and all of them seem to have at least some magic. (Bruno doesn't realize the reason he doesn't seem to have magical talent is because he's been intentionally mistrained by the orders of the Elfy High Council.) And while he's young – the equivalent of a teenager in human terms – he thinks of himself as jaded, worldly-wise, and experienced.
Of course, many teens do the latter. And it's because of their lack of experience when teens think they already have experience that the story of AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE originally came to me.
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Actually, Bruno the Elfy came to me in a dream. I had just read an anthology about Elves, where the editor – whose name escapes me – said (my best paraphrase here), "These aren't your typical Elfie-welfie types of Elves. They actually do things."
And Bruno piped up with, "It's not like that!"
I noticed that Bruno was dressed all in black. And he proceeded to tell me earnestly that while the Elfys in his culture liked to rhyme (thus the nonsense term "Elfy-welfy), he, himself, did not. And while the Elfys in his culture liked loud clothing – the louder, the better – he, himself, obviously did not.
Then I found out he was trapped in a haunted house in California. He'd been sent there by the Elfy High Council, a rather mysterious bunch of people from another dimension I'd get to know (and mostly dislike). His teacher, Roberto the Wise, did not agree with the decision to maroon Bruno on our Earth, and was trying to get him back...but Bruno had met Sarah – a young, Human girl, and his eventual love interest – and Bruno didn't want to leave her behind.
Just knowing that much gave me an insight into Bruno's character. He's loyal, almost to a fault. He is a good judge of character. He doesn't know much about himself (as most teens or teen-equivalents truly don't), but he does know this: He believes in good things – love, friendship, and ideals.
And as I went on, I learned that Bruno is also a scholar – as Roberto's one of the foremost scholars in the Elfy Realm, that's no surprise. Bruno has a lot more magic than he thinks, something Roberto knew but couldn't directly tell him due to the wishes of the High Council. And there truly is a conspiracy against Bruno.
All of that helped me as I tried to figure out more about what Bruno's doing in that haunted house. Much less more about the diminutive and enigmatic Sarah, who surely must be a whole lot older than she seems – but why? And again, what's she doing there at all?
Many young men of whatever species would probably run away from Sarah, no matter how attractive she is and no matter how short she is – which has to be an attraction for Bruno, no matter how much he denies it – because there's something obviously wrong there. Sarah's parents are awful, and not just to her. They have trapped Bruno for no reason except that he's an Elfy and they apparently don't care much for Elfys. So you'd think Bruno would just want to get away from that whole situation, run to Roberto, and forget about Sarah, her dastardly parents, and that whole, strange, screwed-up house…
But Bruno doesn't do that.
Even though he's not a prototypical hero-type, Bruno believes in fairness. As Sarah has been kind to him, he judges her for what she is along with what she's done – and after Roberto's attempt to rescue him goes horribly wrong, Sarah does her best to hide Bruno from her family. That, too, works in her favor.
And as they get to know each other during this desperate crisis, they realize they have a lot in common. They both have magic. They're both a wee bit older than they thought. And they both believe in the same things – love matters. Family, no matter how screwed up, matters. (Though no one should suffer abuse. Ever.) And good can indeed win over evil, providing you're careful, smart and willing to work with others for the benefit of all.
But none of it – not one blessed thing – would work without Bruno. He is a fully realized, multidimensional character with likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, and seems like someone you might just know...that is, if he weren't so short. And it's because of this that you can buy into his adventures, you can buy into his romance, and you can buy into the fact that this young Elfy just might be able to save everyone if he just can figure it out in time.
That, to my mind, is why Bruno is so much fun to write.

Interesting, every bit of that, Barb. In fact, Bruno rather reminds me of one of the main characters from a true fantasy classic -- Frodo Baggins, of J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy. Short, diminutive male of a non-human race; not possessed of great magical powers, or really, great powers in general; trapped in a situation for which he didn't ask; yet responsible, loyal, and determined.

Folks, be sure to check out An Elfy On The Loose.

-Stephanie Osborn