Today, we welcome Satima Flavell, my writing and critiquing buddy from Egoboo WA, to take a seat on the Character lounge with the favourite character from her high fantasy novel series, The Talismans. Having critted Satima’s first novel and knowing the characters, I thought we might meet Elvish queen Ellyria, or a prince of the kingdom, or a questing hero. Instead, taking his stealthy spot on the lounge is…Nustofer. Here’s why….
My characters tend to appear fully-developed. I know their names, what they look like, what interests them, what their health is like, when and where they were born, what their current situations are – just as I know those things about my own children. After all, what are characters but the children of our minds? But unlike real children, my characters have a pre-ordained fate that is known to me, too. So I know my heroes from my villains and how they will end up when the tale is fully told.
While my characters appear with complete backstories and a known fate, I rarely know what is going to happen to them in the course of the story. I’m an inveterate ‘pantser’ or ‘flimmerer’; a writer who has to write to learn what the story is about. What happens to my characters is often a surprise to me! I’m trying to learn the art of plotting before I start, because writers who do that seem to be able to work faster than those who fly by the seat of their pants, but it’s not an easy skill to learn if you don’t have it naturally.
Many different characters have sprung to life on the page as I write, and it’s hard to pick a favourite. Maybe it’s better not to, in case the others get jealous and go on strike! But there is one who is quite intriguing because of the backstory that has made him what he is.
The lynchpin character of my yet-to-be-published Talismans trilogy is Ellyria, Elvish queen of a mortal king. Like any queen, she has a sizeable entourage, and predominant in that assembly is the chamberlain of the royal household, Nustofer.
I feel sorry for Nustofer. He had a hard time as a boy. His father wasn’t interested in him – he had two sons already and Nustofer, as the third, was earmarked as a cleric from the start. What was more, his mother resented him. She’d wanted a daughter. When Nustofer was little she dressed him in girly clothes, and she used to get him to help her choose her wardrobe. That made him feel special, because his mother was special. Beautiful clothes made her feel important, and he came to identify rich garments with personal worth. He especially admired the officials at the Temple with their rich vestments, so he was happy to join their ranks, so he would be special, too.
But sadly, he did not climb up the Temple hierarchy, and never got to wear those rich vestments. Instead, he was shunted off into the service of Prince Fairstad, heir to the throne, who was a good decade younger than Nustofer. Yet they became close, and Nustofer was devoted to his young master. When Fairstad married Ellyria, Nustofer was jealous of her at first, but she was so kind and beautiful that he couldn’t help be won round and soon he found himself obsessed by her. Guiltily, he lived out his sexual fantasies with a series of mistresses, each of whom looked like Ellyria. Despite his vows of poverty, he siphoned off a few coins here and there by taking bribes from petitioners to the King, for by this time he was Chamberlain to the royal household and in a position to allow people into the royal presence through putting the hard word on court officials. Nustofer had sharp eyes for weakness and a nose for intrigue – and blackmail, he found, was profitable. The money he gained meant that in private, he could dress in the latest fashion if he wished. And he had enough ready cash to keep his mistresses faithful.
But deep down, Nustofer feels guilty. Somehow, he manages to keep his far from blameless private life in one box, and his religious life of service to the royal family in another. This double life can only be maintained at great expense to his equanimity, and when his mind finally cracks he loses everything he’d been working for.
But that’s just in book one. Nustofer will be back later, bent on revenge. Because, you see, according to Nustofer, it’s all Ellyria’s fault, isn’t it? If she had not tempted him with her beauty, he would never have broken his vows, would he?
And now he has an ally. An other-worldly being who also hates the queen. Watch out, Ellyria! Nustofer hasn’t finished with you yet!
Thanks for joining the Column, Satima, and giving us a window into the vengeful, twisted being that is Nustofer. Now I feel sorry for him too (but excuse me while I disinfect that corner of the lounge)! Wishing you the best of success with The Talismans trilogy.
Satima is a freelance writer, editor and reviewer. From a background in the performing arts, she began writing on the arts in 1987, and her reviews and feature articles have appeared in The Australian, The West Australian, Music Maker, Dance Australia and many other journals. She was Reviews Editor for The Specusphere, a recently-deceased webzine for the speculative fiction community. She now writes for the arts website Artshub.
Although her background lies in non-fiction she has had several poems and short stories published and she is currently seeking a home for her fantasy trilogy, The Talismans. As a freelance editor, she specialises in high fantasy, historicals, memoir, genealogy and academic papers. Her website is at http://www.satimaflavell.com and you can also find her on Blogger, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social networks.