Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been working primarily on two WIPs, one of which is my never complete novel following a high queen through murder, plotting, war, love and lust. And it’s been an interesting journey, trying to decide how my main girl Xoe is going to think and behave. She’d bounced between being a rebellious non-queen to an ice queen all the way to a bastard who somehow ends up on the throne. But in all that uncertainty, I’ve gathered a few tips and tricks for establishing your royal characters. Take a look:
- Establish how the line of succession works – history has proven how delicate a position a royal family, and a nation by extension, can be in without heirs. Even if your king and queen are hated by their people and peers alike, everyone wants to know who’s next in line for the throne.
- Establish a royal family history – meaning, at least have an idea of what’s been going on in the palace for the past 50 years or so, even if it only comes through in backstory. The same way Martin wrote about the Mad King in A Song of Fire and Ice gave the perfect sense of tension and a badass reputation to Jaime, so too is your royal family’s history important.
- Create the government around them – it’s fair to say that most kingdoms aren’t run by a single person. Whether it’s spies, underlings or other powerful people who make up additional governmental offices, give your ruling body some depth, and make sure that for every character/position you create they have at least three specific functions.
- Be detailed with their physical location – their castle, the city around the castle, the cities around the primary city, the landscape for miles in every direction. These are all things you will need to have drawn out (mentally, at least) and established for your own reference while moving around in the story. Try not to fret about your terrible drawing skills; remember these things are only reference points for you.
- Give them real world problems to be addressing – even if your story is completely fantasy there are still basics that every civilization will be concerned with: do we have enough food?; is our shelter adequate?; are we vulnerable to becoming sick?; are our creature needs being met?; are we at war?; do we have the things we need and the things we want? It’s the leader’s job to worry about all of these things.
- Create almost dual royal characters – despite the demands of being in charge, somewhere inside your queen is just a woman, and even as marginalized as she likely is (think Cate Blanchett’s end portrayal of Queen Elizabeth in Elizabeth) she needs a little bit of voice. She’s got strengths and weaknesses you can use.
- Show the ways your royals are vulnerable – and, in theory, could fall from power. There’s nothing like a little threat to motivate your characters.
- Leave your royals alone – kings and queens are all well and good, but it’s the players around them who are going to hold the real intrigue. A royal’s motives are going to be pretty straight forward (even if s/he doesn’t share them with the public) but courtiers, ambassadors and politicians are bound to have plots on top of plots.
- Forget to create the web of political intrigue around them – and on the same note, work on those plots on top of plots. Everybody’s got a goal, and the world is too big for those goals not to crisscross and be contradictory.
- Go for the stereotypes – things like the rebellious princess or the dashing, save-the-damsel prince: leave them out! Everything a royal does is magnified ten fold, so their characters flaws are going to be magnified to a point that can be painful to read. Choose those characteristics carefully.
Photo credit: http://tinyurl.com/nosoayx