Sunday, June 27, 2010

Character Notes, Part 1: The guardians

I was reading a friend's story this morning before church and found that occasionally she would excerpt her character notes when discussing her stuff. Just for fun, I decided to do some of that here. It also helps that I haven't had my USB drive since Friday, when I left it plugged into my computer at work. So this is the extent of my writing for the weekend.

So, I'm starting with the guardian group. This includes the authority figures of the book for the most part, but I'm going to focus on my own fantastic five--David and Sarah Mack, Lynn Barrett, Leticia Serrano and Andrew Farragut.

David and Sarah, obviously, are Ella's parents. I approached her relationship with them from a slightly unconventional (or conventional, depending on how you look at it) standpoint. I think one of the things that exemplifies this is a conversation with Katey that I had. I was telling her about a part of the book where Ella has to commit an act of faith by leaving her parents for a time. I was talking about how they know where she is going, but not what the end result is. Katey stopped me and said "She TOLD them about all of this? I like that!" Ella has a very open relationship with her parents; she wants to maintain trust with them because they have given her a lot of leeway in her upbringing. Some people might have exploited that, but she appreciated the amount of trust that they were showing her. Of course, David is a teacher at her school, so she can't get away with much anyway, but the point still stands.

Their relationship in the book also hinges on irony because the entire plot is woven out of certain deceptions on both parts, whether intentional or unintentional. Ella wants to keep her parents informed of what she intends to do, but hesitates to tell them the fundamental facts about her activities. They demonstrate a great deal of trust in her, but we find out midway through that they have been withholding critical information about what happened the previous summer. They all are lying to the people they trust and who trust them for the sake of protecting each other.

I also see David and Sarah in a slightly idealized way. They remind me collectively of the father in the parable of the prodigal son. It's not that Ella is wayward or misbehaving, but her friendship with Michael leads her to do things that they do not approve of at times. They don't turn a blind eye to her activities and priorities, but they are very forgiving of unforeseen consequences. One of my favorite conversations of the whole book takes place on Christmas Eve, when Ella is about to leave and her mother makes sure that she does so with the knowledge that she can always come back. It is important to all three of the Macks that she knows where her home lies.

Lynn and Leticia are a set of opposites. Lynn, like Alex, seems to be perfectly genuine and has Ella's best interests at heart. Like Ella's parents, her entire relationship with the main character is marred by crimes of omission. In Ella's parents' case, it's a crime of leaving out their knowledge of her magical abilities. In Lynn's case, she is the most honest of the enemies. She only claims to be a friend and to have been on Ella's side, but the rest of their relationship is a healthy friendship. She is critical in helping Ella. A major theme of this book is that there is too often something profoundly screwed up in the best of relationships.

The entire book stemmed from this conversation in The Matrix Reloaded:

Neo: I suppose the most obvious question is, how can I trust you?
The Oracle: Bingo. It is a pickle. No doubt about it. The bad news is there's no way if you can really know whether I'm here to help you or not, so it's really up to you. You just have to make up you on damned mind to either accept what I'm going to tell you, or reject it.

Lynn's mentoring is a great thing with sinister origins. On that level, it is comparable to Ella's relationship with Alex.

Leticia, on the other hand, is the most honest of the allies. She started out life as Lindsey Morgan, a friend of Lynn's from New York. But when I got to the scene where Ella was to meet her, an El Salvadorenan spitfire who reminded me of Hermana Portillo emerged. In her opening scene, she reminds me of Hermione Granger, which makes her a good counterpart to Ella, the Hermione Granger of the entire series. She is committed and loyal, but unimpressed by fame or legacy. She does have strong fighting tendencies, but her priorities are defensive rather than offensive.

Andrew is still on the same page, taking a strong role as a guardian. He is, if anything, a more stalwart hero type than any of the other guardians. In fact, I look forward to writing more of him the most because his role in the book changes rather drastically from Book 1 to Book 2. Leticia will evolve as well, but I think that Andrew accepts a duty that is not his and which is not pleasant by any stretch of the imagination.

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