Home > World-Building > Day Two Hundred and Six: One, Two Princes Here Before You

Day Two Hundred and Six: One, Two Princes Here Before You

For the month of December, I’ll be world-building. This means taking a look at the people, places, and institutions that I have created over the last six months and trying to figure out more about them. This will involve a look at the stories in which they’ve appeared, and then some speculation, stream-of-consciousness writing, and with any luck a few revelations. In addition, I may come back and add new material as the Elves in my unconscious ship out new ideas, so I’ll be sure to link them up.

Your feedback as readers is, of course, more than welcome. There are probably questions that I’m forgetting to ask and holes that I need to fill.

Wish me luck!

——————

You know you loved the Spin Doctors too. Just admit it and get it over with.

Anyway, tonight I thought I’d do a character sketch on the brothers who were featured in Prince of the Air, part one and part two.

As you may have noticed from previous character sketches, making a good character is a lot of work, and it takes time and some trial and error. You have to go to work on them and make decisions about who they are, decisions that will affect how your story plays out. If you make the wrong choices, the character might not be right for the story you want, so you have to start again. It’s like carving a statue out of marble, really. You hack away at all the bits that aren’t your character and hope you don’t manage to knock off an arm or a nose in the process. In the end, if you’ve done it right, you’ll have a good character – and only you’ll know how much goddamn effort went into making it.

Every now and then, though, a writer gets a gift. It comes from somewhere deep in your subconscious, in a hidden place you couldn’t get to if you tried. Once in a while a character walks out of this strange, secret room in your head, and it’s fully-formed and ready to go. It has a voice, it has a personality, likes and dislikes, a history all its own and it will very happily walk straight into the story you’ve written for it. All you can do, as the writer, is hope to keep up with what your character does.

Such is the case with Calaris and Rissandir den Raud, princes of the realm of Ardenspire. These two boys walked out of my head and they were already bickering. They may well be two of my favorite characters that I’ve done so far.

Here’s what the story says about them:

CALARIS DEN RAUD:

  • He’s the older brother
  • He’s the crown prince of Ardenspire
  • He starts shouting when he is afraid or upset
  • He cares a lot about his brother’s well-being
  • He admires Royal Wizard, Canucog
  • His name shortens to “Cal”
  • He’s risk-averse

RISSANDIR DEN RAUD:

  • He’s a tinkerer
  • He’s the younger brother
  • His name shortens to “Sand”
  • He really wants to fly, so he’s building a flying machine
  • He tested his machines on models first
  • He’s not comfortable with being a Royal
  • He believes in the ethic of work
  • He would rather get by without magic

To understate it, the brothers have an affectionate rivalry. Rissandir is very aware that he is the second son during a time of peace, that Calaris is very much his father’s son and will probably be a fine king. Rissandir was born to test things and try things, he has a very scientific mind, unusual in a magic-heavy kingdom, and is more than willing to risk his own health and safety to accomplish something without magical influence.

On top of that, he seems to be aware of and uncomfortable with his privilege as a Royal. In his speech before he takes off, he says:

“Flying is not a new thing for our family,” he said. “King Alden den Fevre led his twelve bravest through the air against the tyrant king Vysoli. With the flying rings they wore, they were able to soar through the air and defeat their gravest enemy.” He looked down at the wizard. “And if I asked, you’d give me one just like it, wouldn’t you, Royal Wizard?”

Canucog chuckled. “I don’t know about ‘give,’ young prince.” Everyone laughed gently at that, even Rissandir.

“But that’s just it,” Rissandir went on. “Isn’t it? If we want to fly, then flight is given to us. If we want…” He searched for what he wanted to say. “If we want clean clothes, there’s a simple talisman for that. If we need to sleep well, we are given an amulet.” He gestured to the faraway castle. “Half that castle was raised by magic! Given to us.”

He paused to take a breath. “Given to us,” he said again. “Not earned.” He took a moment, and Calaris looked to his father. The king’s face was hard enough to read, and the wizard’s gave away nothing at all.

“Maybe because we’ve been at peace for so long,” Rissandir said, “but we’ve forgotten what it’s like to work for things. To make things. To earn things.” He glanced out towards the villages beyond the castle. “The people of Ardenspire – the common people – they work and make and earn. We in the castle ask for things and they are given to us.”

He took off a glove and gently caressed the machine he’d built. “If this succeeds,” he said, “it’s due to my own skills and talents. If this fails…” He made sure to look right at Calaris, who looked away. “If this fails, then it’s due to my own mistakes and impatience.” He patted the machine and put his glove on again. “Either way, this is mine. I worked for it. I made it. I earned it.”

He knows that he’s bucking the trend, that he should appreciate what he has and just get about the business of being a prince, but he doesn’t want that. He doesn’t want to be known for being lucky in birth – he wants to be known for what he actually does. Thus, the flying machine. And that look to the King is important – King Raud has learned to let Rissandir have his own head, to let him try things. Maybe because the boy succeeds more often than he fails, and maybe because he knows what a pointless life a second-born prince can lead. Either way, Rissandir generally has his father’s blessing to try his wacky schemes.

One day, however, I’m sure he’ll push his father too far. I can easily see Rissandir leading some kind of republican movement in Ardenspire, insisting on some kind of democratic reforms against either his father or his brother. That would be a fun one to write…

Calaris, on the other hand, lacks his brother’s confidence. He generally avoids risk, even as he knows that risk is inevitable. What’s more, he knows just how much he doesn’t know about being a king. Like his brother, Calaris is highly self-aware, and he’s known since he was a child that he would one day be the king. Despite generations of peace, however, he’s been raised on the tales of kingly heroism, of kings that stood against the forces of darkness and won. Even without those tales of heroism, running a kingdom smoothly takes immense skill, patience, and tact. He believes wholly and fully in the responsibilities that come with being a king – protecting his family and protecting the people of Ardenspire to the last breath in his body.

His greatest fear is that his father will die – and he knows that he will, some day. When that day comes, Calaris will have to take over, and he is utterly certain that he will ruin everything his father worked for. Calaris has Impostor’s Syndrome written all over him: no matter how good he really is, he will always see himself as a fraud. And that’s why he doesn’t want to be king, why he doesn’t take risks or stick his neck out.

In fact, I might go so far as to say that the real reason he’s so concerned for Rissandir’s well-being is because secretly – so secretly that even Calaris isn’t aware of it – he wants to abdicate to his brother. In his heart of hearts, Calaris believes that his brother would be a far better king than he would, and so must do everything he can to keep him alive.

So you see, these boys showed up on my mental doorstep, baggage in hand and walked right into their story. There is nothing so cool as that.

Of course, there’s always a caveat to this kind of character: they don’t like to do as they’re told. Instead of shaping the character for the story, you end up shaping the story for the character. These are the ones who refuse to follow the plots you lay down, the ones who go left when you really want them to go right, or the ones who sit down right in the middle of the story and say, “Nope. I’m not going anywhere.”

What has to go from there, of course, is a delicate re-adjustment both of story and character. You may have to re-tool the story in order to get the character to do what you want. This means not telling the story you thought you were going to tell when you embarked on this project. If you do it right, though, and find a story that both you and your character are happy with, you will have something wonderful indeed.

Story Ideas:

  • Calaris has taken the throne. Rissandir gets pulled into a reform movement. Chaos ensues.
  • Calaris becomes king. Tries to abdicate to Rissandir, who refuses.
  • Pretty much any story where Rissandir drags his older brother into chaos.

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