Thursday, October 31, 2013

Interview with Stefan Capuchet


“The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.” 
~ G.K. Chesterton



Often when I come up with new characters, I answer a list of questions about them in order to learn more about them and have a record of important things like where they grew up and what they look like. I call this a "character interview." Here is an abbreviated version of the interview with Stefan Capuchet.
Stefan Capuchet lives in the mountains of the Golden State, a monarchy/dictatorship in which the queen punishes any "unstateful activities" with torture and death. With his brother, Loup (pronounced Lu-pe), he leads a band of rebels and outlaws. 

Basic Information:
Full birth name: Stefan Mikal Capuchet
Age: Twenty-nine
Story Title: Story is currently known as "fantases" for lack of a title.
Time period: Fictional
World: Fantasy

What do you look like?
Height: 6’
Weight: 200 lbs
Apparent age: Mid twenties
Ethnicity: Lower Golden State 
Hair: Dark Brown
Eyes: Black
Skin color: Fair
Scars: Small three cornered scar above his right eye
Jewelry: His father’s wedding ring on a chain around his neck.
Normal clothes: Black, loose-fitting, warm clothing, heavy cloak with a hood when it’s cold.
Weapons: Sword, knives, hand gun, rifle
Right or left handed? Right

Personality:
What is your most important goal? "To give the people of the Golden State a reason to believe that they can have freedom, to give them hope that someone is fighting."
What are you most afraid of? "I am most afraid of giving up. I have seen many men become discouraged and give up and I do not want to do that. I want to die believing in what I am fighting for."
If you were left alone for a day to do whatever you wanted to do, anywhere in the world, what would it be? "I would get into the Golden Palace and assassinate Queen Morra."
What does (or did) your mother wish you would stop doing? "My mother, God rest her soul, wished passionately that I would not fidget my hands when I am listening to people talk."
What annoys you more than anything else? "People who walk around complaining that they don’t know what to do when there is everything in the world to do."
What’s one of the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen? "Sunlight on the mountains across the valley."
What time of day is your favorite? "Sunrise."
What is the quality you most like in a woman? "I like a woman to have spunk and confidence in herself."
What is the quality you most like in a man? "Men should have passion and principle."
Where do you go and what do you do when you’re angry? "I usually tell the person off and then walk away to cool down. Then, later, I apologize. Sometimes."
What do you consider the most overrated virtue? "Caution."
Under what circumstances do you lie? "To my enemies, whenever necessary. To my friends, never."

Family:
What was your father’s full birth name? "Mikal Anderson Capuchet."
What was your mother’s full birth name? "Estelle Maria Brannet."
How many siblings did you have? Where are they now? "I have one younger brother, Loup. We work together as outlaws."

Relationships:
What was your parents marital status? "Married, of course."
Have you ever experienced the death of a loved one? "Both my mother and father have died."
Have you ever had a romantic relationship? With whom? "No, I’ve always been too much out here. Loup has a sweet, patient girl in the valley that he's going to marry someday, but the girls I like aren’t the kind to wait around." 
Are you friends with a lot of people or just a few? "Just a few. There are only a few people out here that aren’t common criminals."
Who do you like the most? Why? "My brother Loup. We’ve been through everything together."
Who do you dislike the most? Why? "Her so called “Majesty The Golden Queen” Morra Jesanova. Because she’s the queen. And she's evil."
What traits do you most appreciate in your friends? "Loyalty, dedication, and courage."

Occupation:
Do you have a job? If not, where does your money come from? “I’m an outlaw. My money comes from the rich, and it goes to those who need it more than I do. We have plenty of food and a place to live. We only need money once in a while.”
What is the most important thing to you politically? “Freedom!”
What do you consider your greatest achievement? “Kidnapping a high ranking official of the Golden State. We made the top commander of the Peace Guardians promise to never come past the Jacayah Ridge, in exchange for his return. So now we have a safe haven in these mountains. Not that we trust his promise, but it was still a great achievement.”
What is something you had to learn that you hated? “I had to learn to act like a Golden State official as a disguise. They’re such snakes. I hate pretending to be one of them.”

Beliefs:
What do you think is wrong with the world? “People have too many wrong ideas about what is right for the world.”
What religion would you describe yourself as? “Religion is not encouraged in the Golden State. I don’t know that any of them still exist.”
What is your relationship with God like? “I don’t know enough about him, and I don’t know anyone who does. I mean, people think things, but I don’t know anyone who’s sure.”
When was the last time you cried? “When we came upon a village in the Golden State that had been razed to the ground to make room for a new facility. They had piled the bodies ready for mass burial. There were children…and the soldiers that are supposed to be the Peace Guardians just kept doing their job. They didn’t care that they’d just killed a whole town full of innocent people just because they were in the way.”
What would you do to your worst human enemy? “Queen Morra? I’d shoot her dead.”
What is your idea of perfect happiness? “A world where there is freedom and everyone knows anything they want, instead of what the State wants them to know.”
What is your idea of the deepest misery? “Being so brainwashed that you don’t realize that you’re killing people, like those Peace Guardians.”
Where and how would you like to die? “After I see that we have done something. I don’t care how, but I want to see us make some difference. And I believe we can.”
What do you think happens to people after they die? “I don’t know. I don’t think anyone knows. At least, I’ve never met someone who does.”

Stefan eventually meets someone from outside the Golden State who is sure about who God is, and knows what happens when people die. That's all I can tell you.

Some of these questions I found on other people's character interview forms, some of them I came up with myself, and some of them come from personality quiz questions. It's a fun way to get to know a character. I cut quite a few questions from this one for the sake of keeping it short. Well, at least shorter than it would have been!


Monday, October 28, 2013

Home


"The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing — to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from — my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing, all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back."
C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces

A common theme in C.S. Lewis's writing is "the longing," the piercing ache that we experience when we see something so beautiful that it seems to come from another world. It is a longing for a home that we have not yet seen, but that we were made for.

Beauty is inspiring in the same way that it is painful. It makes us think of things that we can only imagine.

Also, it makes us realize our need for something greater than this world.
These are some pictures I took on a hike along a river in the mountains. It was beautiful. It was inspiring.
It felt like home.



Thursday, October 24, 2013

Editing for "Cheesiness"


 “But there is in everything a reasonable division of labour. I have written the book, and nothing on earth would induce me to read it.” ~ G. K. Chesterton

Sometimes the only thing that makes me edit my own writing is the fact that I don't want anyone else to see it the way it is. If it wasn't so embarrassing, I'd gladly hand it off to someone else and never read over it again.

Other times I think something is good, even enjoy reading over it, find it funny or appreciate my own characters from a year ago, or whenever it was, but the idea of anyone else reading it makes me cringe.
I think it's because they might think it's bad, childish, or worse, cheesy. I think that's probably my deepest fear in writing, to write something so unoriginal, so shallow, so stupid, that it merits the adjective "cheesy." Ugh. 
(Slang may not be good English but it can communicate attitude better than anything short of a facial expression. Some of it is so expressive that you can see the facial expression it is to be said with when the word is written. Words like glitzy, heave, klutz.) 

Tonight I was reading through some of the stories I wrote when I was younger. I wrote the beginning of a story called "How Blue The Sky" in 2009. It's about two kids, Donny and Cupid McConnor, who escape from an orphanage in New York, take a train out west, and end up hiking into an abandoned resort by a lake in Idaho, where they meet another orphan, Rosette, who teaches them how to live off the land. Cupid, my main character, is eleven years old. These days I don't write from the viewpoint of eleven-year-olds anymore. I've been guilty of growing up, I guess, and forgetting that eleven-year-olds aren't that different than me.

I revised "How Blue The Sky" a year later when I read it and was embarrassed by it. I don't remember all my motives for editing it so ruthlessly. I must have thought the beginning was too long winded, because I cut most of it. I must have thought something was wrong with Donny and Cupid's personalities, because I cut most of my character development scenes and replaced them with brief "telling" summaries. I must have decided that it was inappropriate for three children to be alone in the woods together, because I gave Rosette two younger siblings and made her brother the one who first meets Donny and Cupid. I must have decided that Donny and Cupid were stupid names, because I replaced Donovan with Daniel and Cupid with Colette. I must not have liked my plan for the future, because I dragged three more children in by force, literally kicking and screaming.

I killed it. 

When I was done "cleaning up," I was no longer interested in "How Blue The Sky." And looking at it now, I can see why. The edited version is sterile, the characters are cardboard cutouts, the plot feels stilted, rushed, and forced. I quit writing it and moved on to something else. I locked it in an archives folder and didn't read it again for three years.

I was 14 in 2009. I was having fun and writing what I wanted to read. I was 15 in 2010, awkwardly transitioning into a teenager, trying to figure out who I was and what I was doing and being frightened by the directions my own creativity was taking me. 

I was wondering what other people might think and deciding that what I had written was cheesy.
Maybe sometimes it is. Sometimes it really does need to be ruthlessly edited. But maybe sometimes the reason I don't want other people to read it is not that I think it is cheesy. Maybe it's because I think it's good. And maybe I need to let it stay that way.


And then swallow my pride and my fears and let other people read it.

Monday, October 21, 2013

On Writing For Children


“That is the one eternal education: to be sure enough that something is true that you dare to tell it to a child.” ~ G.K. Chesterton

In creating any form of art we run a terrible risk: that someone will believe what we say. 
Music, movies, books, paintings, photography, all say something about how we see the world. They reveal our inward compasses in a way that we could never express intentionally. And in the same subconscious way, we influence the inward compasses of others.
Whether we write a dictionary, an article, or a children's story, we are influencing the way people think and believe. Sometimes we don't know it, but we are making an eternal difference, for good or evil, in someone's life. 

Stories that children are going to read are perhaps the most important to be careful about. I don't mean that stories for children should skirt the difficult subjects. It's not so much what is written as how. I can't tell you how many times I have read a book I loved as a child and have realized something that went completely over my head when I was eight was actually something deep, dark, and difficult. Often the parts I found uninteresting, or just didn't like, are the parts that speak to me the most now. Whether I liked the book or not, the way in which things were written about, the way the author treated subjects, the world view they embraced or the attitudes they eschewed, have shaped me and who I am. 

After reading Little House on the Prairie, I played "going west in a wagon train" and valued ingenuity and hardiness. Make Way For Ducklings taught me about family and the kindness of strangers. Katy and the Big Snow said that quiet, unassuming hard work, perseverance, and dependability could save lives. 
My parents were very careful about what we read, especially when I was younger. As I got older they let me make my own choices, since I was reading faster than they could keep up with, but by that time they were confident that I could recognize the moral compass of a book and use my own judgement. 
Several years ago I read a story about Cleopatra. When I got to the end and read the epilogue I was shocked and saddened to find that she grew up to have affairs with multiple men and went on to commit suicide. In the book they treated it like a historical event that was perfectly normal, but I knew from what I had been taught that it was sinful, and a tragedy. The incongruity between what I knew to be true and the book's attitude towards Cleopatra's adulthood disturbed me and I developed the habit of checking the epilogue on books that I wasn't sure about, to see if I wanted to give them my mind and emotions for several hours. Because my parents were careful about what I read as a child, I was able to be careful for myself as I got older. They knew that I would absorb something of the author's worldview.


Children are books themselves, in which everything they see is written. They assimilate everything around them without effort and without realizing it. To be an adult around children is a tremendous responsibility. To be the one who answers the questions they ask is an even greater responsibility.
When writing for anyone, but especially for children, I want to be sure that I am supporting truth. I want to be sure that their impressionable minds will be led towards the Light. I want to be sure that what I say is true, because I am daring to tell children. Because they will believe me. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

I Met King David

"Write about what really interests you, whether it is real things or imaginary things, and nothing else."
C.S. Lewis

I think one of the best parts about writing is the way it allows you to experience things that you've never done. Times in history, places in the world, settings and events and battles that you could never experience in real life. It's like reading, except better.


About two years ago I started writing a story about David, the shepherd boy who became king of Israel. One of the things that inspired me to write the story was noticing how there seemed to be something special about David that was obvious to people who met him, something that drew people to him. Everyone who met him loved him.
 I wondered what it was like for Michal, Saul's daughter, who became David's first wife. I started writing from her perspective, the daughter of a king who was drifting away from the God that had anointed him. She's young and naive, but she knows there's a shadow upon her father, the father she's always idolized, and his house. Even her adored older brother Jonathan. She's lonely. She's proud. She falls in love with David, but she will always be the daughter of the king.

I studied First Samuel as I wrote and the first thing I noticed was that I had always had the chain of events wrong. I thought that David's first encounter with Saul was when he killed Goliath of Gath at Shochah. I was surprised to see that David had been serving Saul as a harp player for some time. Maybe he got sent back home when Israel went to war, and his father sent him out right back out to the sheep where he started. No wonder he jumped at the chance to get off the farm and see some action.


Jonathan was my hardest character to understand. I've always liked him, but I realized as I studied First Samuel that I didn't understand him. I know he was David's best friend, that they were like brothers. I know he was brave; in 1 Samuel 14, he and his armor bearer routed an entire camp of Philistines and gave God the glory for their success. So where was he when the entire army of Israel was shaking with fear at Goliath's challenge three chapters later?

Israel in modern times.
I don't have the answers and I'm not finished writing. I am continuing to study the Bible and try to understand the people written about in First Samuel. It's really fun, because not only do I get to know all the details of David's story, I now feel like I know him. Even though my story is written from Michal's perspective, it's about David, and when I read the Psalms, or Kings, or Samuel, it's like reading about a friend. David, Michal, Saul, Jonathan, Samuel, have become people to me. I would never have gotten to know them if I hadn't written about them.

To read part of this story, click on the page called "For The Love Of David"!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Welcome, friends!

Hi!
I'm just starting this blog and I'm still working on my thesis or manifesto or whatever the "about this blog" page is going to become. I know this blog is going to be about writing, and fighting the greatest battle, but I still need to coalesce my thoughts and feelings about it into something coherent.
Please wait and pray with me as I see how I can form this blog into something that will encourage young writers like me, and bring glory to God!
Thanks :)
~Sara-Anne