Sunday, June 19, 2022

Astrology, Sex and Character Savvy (From The Backlist)

Here at Supernatural Underground we love the new but sometimes we love looking back through our backlist as well, including this fabulous post from Kim Falconer (who some of you will also know as AK Wilder of Crown of Bones fame.)

Astrology, Sex, and Character Savvy

We all want characters that are vital and authentic. Believable. People we can fall in love with, cheer for, or shrink back from in fear. They must be ‘real’ enough to grow, change, love, shock, express ideas and have minds of their own. When all those ingredients come together, magic happens but how to get there? What makes a character come to life?

There are different ways to approach character development but my go to technique is astrology! In my novels, I’ve give my characters actual horoscopes. If I’m ever uncertain of how they might behave, I check their chart. Moon in Pisces? Disappear! Sun in Aries? Advance with sword swinging! Mercury in Libra? Discuss it with everyone for quite some time before deciding what to do. Astrology is a wonderful way to get inside a character’s head.

The horoscope tells me what makes them tick—their limiting beliefs, past patterns, core values, darkest fears and authentic goals. It answers questions about how they dress, their likes and dislikes, how they act under pressure. It can even give me hints for physical traits if I’m at a loss. Aries sun? Red hair, scar on the face. Sagittarius Moon? An old hip injury but great legs. Gemini Mercury? A stutter that only shows up under extreme duress. The horoscope can also help me see where my people, and creatures, will grow through the choices they make and the challenges they face. It also has a lot to say about their love life!

Take the ascendant, or rising sign, for example. It’s the sign that was on the eastern horizon at the moment of birth. It has long been associated with how we take action and initiate anything from journeys, fights, ideas to sex! When it comes to romance and intimacy, the rising sign gives great inspiration. Consider how each sign on the ascendant would 'make a move':

Aries — Pounce! Usually little or no warning.

Taurus — Surprisingly sensual, though ardent. They selectively fail to hear the word ‘no.’

Gemini — Much talk before action. They seduce with words—sometimes quite eloquently.

Cancer — They retreat, you follow. Not opposed to emotional manipulation and/or allure.

Leo — Beware of public places, unless you like such things! Boldness, flash and glam!

Virgo — Seduces with atmosphere, candles, music, tantric manuals. Everything just so.

Libra — Wine, dine, listen and engage until there is nothing left between you but the erotic.

Scorpio — Seduces with their eyes. Always, the eyed! Thirty seconds or less and you’re a goner.

Sagittarius — They promise the world, and usually deliver, metaphorically at least.

Capricorn — They buy you things. Excellent taste. Always first cabin.

Aquarius — They use the element of surprise—often surprisingly well. Much dialog.

Pisces — Enchantment. Their very being is an aphrodisiac. Poetry optional.

Astrology helps me write characters that ring true and that’s the sweet spot, the place where I close my eyes, watch the scenes unfold and type as fast as I can.

~ Kim Falconer


Sounds great, doesn't it? We sure hope Kim keeps 'em coming! 


About The Author:

Kim Falconer, currently writing as A K Wilder, has recently released Crown of Bones, a YA Epic Fantasy with Curse of Shadows coming out in 2022.

Kim can be found on AKWilder Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Throw the bones, read your horoscopes or Raise Your Phantom on the site

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

What Makes A Hero? #4: Courage

I believe I may have said I was going to look at "3 C's" in terms of What Makes  A Hero?—in which case I definitely misspoke, because how could that question possibly be answered without examining the part played by courage?

What makes a hero?

You're so right: it definitely can't be! So having looked at The Call, Circumstance, and Commitment, today's post is zeroing in on Courage. 

Because in order to be a hero, it's not enough to just turn up for the regular nine-to-five of fantasy adventure, or even to go above and beyond the norms of everyday duty. The action or deed required of the protagonist has to really matter, and the risk in terms of following through has to be considerable, if not extreme. 

High stakes; higher risk...
Often, in Fantasy tales, the protagonist must risk their life for others and/or to complete the heroic quest. Yet high risk consequences may also comprise unjust imprisonment, loss of standing and/or livelihood within a society, or outright exile from family, community, nation or species. 

In short, answering the call and committing to the degree required to count as heroic, must necessitate either physical and mental, or moral courage—or all three.

Guy Gavriel Kay's epic Fionavar trilogy contains many instances of heroic courage, but one of the early examples concerns two heroes, Paul Schafer and the hound Cabell. Paul binds himself to the summer tree of Brennin in hopes of breaking a severe drought that holds the kingdom in its grip. In order to succeed he must endure for three days and three nights. 

In mythic terms, the antecedents are to Odin on Yggdrasil with overtones of the Fisher King, i.e. "the king and the land are one." The courage required of Paul is not only self-sacrifice (because it's unusual for the person bound to the tree to survive) but that of enduring extreme physical and mental deprivation and trauma. 

In this case, the evil antagonist tries to ensure Paul fails by sending an agent in wolf form to kill himand would have succeeded if not for the intervention of the hound, Caball. (King Arthur's hound, in an overlap of fantasy traditions.) Legendary hound or not, Caball is overmatched because the wolf is a demigod, but still fights it to a standstill. Although grievously wounded, Caball's endurance gives Paul the chance to see out the three days.

At the outset, I promised to feature non-human as well as human heroes. In the Fantasy pantheon, Paul and Caball are both exemplars of courage.

Other great examples of physical and mental courage in the face of overwhelming odds include John Aversin in Barbara Hambly's Dragonsbane, Aerin in Robin McKinley's The Hero and the Crown, Diago Alvarez in T Frohock's Los Nefilim series, and Ash in AK Wilder's Crown of Bones

In terms of non-human heroes, I have a great liking for the plucky and resourceful Ad (Adventure) Fox in Kristin Cashore's fourth Graceling novel, Winterkeep. Although not tested physically like Caball, Ad Fox is a great example of moral and mental courage, actively working to thwart a powerful and ruthless adversary, one bent on the destruction of sentient species and the environment, and who has already killed to achieve their ends.

Another, relatively recent example of moral courage is Madrigal in Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Madrigal is a healer rather than a warrior, and a heroine whose courage involves setting aside her society's established norms and risking the death penalty in order to seek an alternative to endless war.

The reluctant hero is one of the great tropes of heroic epic and the fantasy tradition. A recent exemplar is Kaladin, in Brandon Sanderson's The Way Of Kings. Unquestionably, Kaladin is physically brave. Arguably, though, circumstances require that of him, because he is a convict-cum-slave forced to serve as an army pioneer (a "bridgebearer") in a bitter and drawn out war. Yet Kaladin's conviction and imprisonment, which also comprises expulsion from family and community, is wrongful and grounded in class and societal divisions. So in seeking to overcome his circumstances and save the lives of his fellow Bridgebearers (and a large portion of the army) the chief courage required of Kaladin is to confront and accept who he is in terms of both identity and power.

Yet whether willing or unwilling, and regardless of whether the fortitude required is physical, mental, or moral, courage in the face of high stakes and higher risk is essential for a Fantasy hero.

© Helen Lowe 


Previous Posts:

January: Looking Forward To An Heroic 2022

March: What Makes A Hero -- and The Call

April: What Makes A Hero #2: Circumstance

May: What Makes A Hero #3: Commitment


About The Author:

Helen Lowe is an award-winning novelist, poet, and lover of story. With four books published to date, she is currently completing the final instalment in The Wall Of Night series.

Helen posts regularly on her “…on Anything, Really” blog, monthly on the Supernatural Underground, and tweets @helenl0we.