Saturday, February 17, 2018

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Character Arc of a Warrior

Posted by on in On Writing
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Yes, I'm a Star Trek fan-girl. Have been since I was 10 years old and the original series started. As I've aged, I find I'm still entertained by the lives of the people who live in the 24th century and serve the United Federation of Planets. As a writer, I'm fascinated by the way the characters develop, especially those characters who begin as little more than furniture on the set. My absolute favorite character is Worf. 

worf1In the early seasons of The Next Generation, Worf was a very minor character who did little more than growl. He was always frowning, serious, and ready to shoot first and ask questions later. Of course, that didn't change much as he aged. After all, he is a Klingon. But he began to display other qualities that fleshed him into a fully-formed person who connected with viewers and made them care and even grow to love him.

Worf's main characteristic is his sense of honor, ruling everything, even his warrior instinct. It always seemed to me that this Klingon, raised among humans, was more Klingon than those raised on the home world. This became more obvious as we saw the growing dishonor practiced by those home-grown Klingons. It could be said that this sense of right and wrong was the result of the good people who raised him, humans Sergey and Helena Rozhenko. I won't go into Worf's history. You can find more about Worf's background at His human parents also encouraged him to explore his Klingon heritage. Helena even went so far as to learn how to make Klingon blood pie, which was the one thing he asked her to send to him. Momma's cooking is always the best, isn't it?

His demeanor was stern. Rarely did Worf smile and his usual first response was to fight. When told by Captain Sisko (Deep Space Nine) that they would be playing a baseball game against a team of Vulcans, Worf's response was, "We will destroy them." We expected this "duel to the death" type of reaction to any situation, so when he displayed his softer side, it was surprising and moving, but totally believable. Exactly what a writer wants to create. His initial sternness with his parents followed by a plea for his human mother to send him Klingon blood pie, his participation in a holodeck recreation of the "ancient west" with his son Alexander, planning his wedding to fellow Deep Space Nine denizen Jadzia Dax (she said he got "misty eyed" when talking about Klingon tradition), all these and many more showed a tenderness of heart that one would not expect from the Worf we first met on the bridge of the Enterprise. 

In creating a flesh-and-blood character, it's important to consider the little things. What is it that tells the reader, or the viewer in this case, that this is a real person? In writing lingo, these little things are called tags. A tag can be a habit, a quirk, a favorite expression, anything that sets a character apart. In Worf's case, one of his tags was his love of prune juice, in his words, "a warrior's drink." Another is his sash, that sets him apart from all other Federation officers. His hair could also be considered a tag. While most Klingons wear their hair loose and wild, Worf's was always immaculately styled. His original style looked like a helmet. Next came the "page boy" style, but my favorite is the longer ponytail that Jadzia managed to undo in their...ahem...holodeck training sessions.

So, when you're meeting your characters for the first time, make sure to find out where they came from, what they love, what they hate, what they need. Give each major character at least one tag that sets him apart from the others. The inner part of the character is more important than the color of his eyes or how tall he is. The inner part is the real person and that's the person your reader wants to know.

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Tagged in: Anne Manning
Anne Manning had to have been a Texan in a previous life. This time around, she got to the Lone Star State as fast as she could. When she's not writing, she raises herbs and trolls the Food Network for new and exciting recipes to use them. Her latest passion is learning about website design and adding fresh, interesting content to her website. Her muse, Calliope is contributing her own column to that effort.


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