1. writingchick8
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    writingchick8 Member

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    Character Issues!

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by writingchick8, Jun 14, 2010.

    I'm working on writing a novel about pirates in the middle ages. The main character is a female pirate who has made a name for herself along with her brother, whom she has to rescue. Her ship has been lost and she needs to find someone who will allow her to sail with them, this being her love interest.

    I was doing some research for this to decide how people portray pirates in popculture, and I stumbled across Pirates of the Caribbean. I absolutely fell in love with the character of Jack Sparrow, and would love to base my character off of him, I'm just not sure how to do it without copying Disney's idea.

    Any ideas on how to do this without copying? And while we're at it, do you have any ideas for good names/catchphrases/physical details?
     
  2. themistoclea
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    themistoclea Member

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    What was it for you personally that you loved about the character? Figure that out, and flesh out the details from there (avoiding any references to the film- including costume, 'catch phrases' etc.).
    Was it the charisma, the swagger, the humour?

    I would even steer away from imagining Johnny Depp (gorgeous though he is) while writing the character, unless you are aiming for a thinly veiled fan fiction. The character of Jack Sparrow is one of the most recognisable in modern film, so use him as a spark of inspiration, but not as a template for your writing.
     
  3. themistoclea
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    themistoclea Member

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    Also, when you say 'middle ages', what time period are you talking about? I'm not a history buff, but a pirate from the Crusades is worlds apart from the era of the POTC era. Each era is diverse in the cultural/economic/political influences that shaped civilisations, and thus piracy. There is a wealth of research available to help you make a credible world, start with a simple google search.
     
  4. Cardboard Tube Knight
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    Cardboard Tube Knight Member

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    The actual middle ages would be a lot different, Jack was much more modern. Although the dashing, roguish character archetype isn't rare in any time period. I would do some research and find a definite time period you can place your story in, find out what kind of culture the pirates come from because that will greatly effect things.
     
  5. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ships were not sophisticated enough in the Middle Ages for POTC-style piracy--unless you count the Vikings. I made quite a study of pirates years ago when I was doing Caribbean history. The first pirates were actually French, in the 17th century--the 'bouccanears'--and early on there were several father & son notorious teams of pirates.

    The heyday of the pirates on the Spanish Main was the late 17th-early 18th century, the time of Captain Kidd, Henry Morgan, and Blackbeard, who used to fix fuses into his hair and beard--he would actually set these alight when he mounted an attack! There were also several bloodthirsty women, e.g. Ann Bonny.

    Quite a few pirates turned respectable in their later years, but many ended up on the gallows. There were also Muslim pirates off the coast of North Africa, but be careful here: Turkey does not like Fleet Admiral Barbaros being called a pirate--he is the Francis Drake-style hero of Turkey! And we all know that Drake was not a pirate, don't we?
     
  6. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    POTC was based off of pirates in the 18th century. Probably around 1720's the Golden Age of Piracy. If I remember correctly it's been awhile since I studied that.. So check your facts before you use that info. :p

    I agree with themistoclea. Jack Sparrow is a highly recognizable character. It's okay to take a facet of him or use him for inspiration. Unless it's fan fiction you can't make the character too much like him. Personally his eccentricity was my favorite aspect of him. Take your favorite part, just a part and build on it from there and make a more complex character. While Jack was wildly entertaining and hilarious he wasn't all that deep.

    I suggest reading about some famous female pirates. I can't remember names off the top of my head. I have it somewhere. When I find them I'll let you know. All the ones I've read about were legendary for their ferocity. Life at sea isn't as glamorous as what it has been portrayed. It was extremely difficult. That's the beauty of fiction though. You get to make things look exciting when in reality there were long stretches of sheer boredom for pirates.

    One of favorite male pirates is Sam Bellamy. He died in a storm on his ship the Whydah. (sp? it's been a while..) He seemed like he was utterly fascinating from what I read about him. They said he was "benevolent" which is interesting because pirates were such a brutal bunch.

    Hope you got something useful out of all that. :)

    Edit- Just saw what Madhoca wrote. Ann Bonny was the one I was thinking of. There was another named Mary something..
     
  7. valdein lawnstin
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    valdein lawnstin Member

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    I agree to use the character as an inspiration. the historical values are something you need to keep in mind but also know that it is fiction, you can add a little artistic license on the history but not to much to mess up the continuity.

    I am with you jack sparrow is a well made caracter and very many characters are based on the type.

    (my opinion only)
    being that your character is a female in a time period where women are seen and not heard, she needs to be a stronger and more perswasive character
    (my opinion only)

    you make this character based on some ideal part of you, be it bad or good.
    so put yourself into that character think about fighting off natives forcing your self to be the captain of a ship even though you are a woman(even if you are not, imagine it) and your character will develop into her own individual with maybe some jack sparrow characteristics maybe some Sinbad or Mulan or Poccahontas characteristics
     
  8. writingchick8
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    writingchick8 Member

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    Thank for the advice. I'm actually kind of irritated, because I had this character's whole physical description planned out before I saw Pirates, and he has long, dark hair, and some stubble on his face, which I'm sure many pirates had, but isn't that kind of pointing straight to Jack? Ugh.

    The part I really like is the humorous-borderline-insanity aspect. I do plan to make my character deeper, but I also want to make him sort of a failure of a pirate that teams up with this girl in a selfish attempt to gain some of his early glory back and find his lost love (which drove him to go almost insane). I feel like that would be ok, since Jack was pretty successful, and didn't care much for just one woman.

    Thoughts?
     
  9. valdein lawnstin
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    valdein lawnstin Member

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    you just gave your character more depth by giving him a washed up appeal judging by your quote. good way to go with him he may appear the same on the surface but deeper than that they are different. appearances are not always everything. i would establish the character personality before you paint the picture for the reader then your pirate will appear different because he is.
     
  10. writingchick8
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    writingchick8 Member

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    Thanks, I like your advice. I also like your opinion on the personality of my female character. I was planning on making her outspoken and was worried that would conflict with the time period it was in. :)
     
  11. themistoclea
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    themistoclea Member

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    It would. Plainly, because female pirates historically have all masqueraded as men.
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Not Anne Bonny. Check your history.
     
  13. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    ^^ Female pirates did not need to pretend to be men. And they were often completely murderous psychos.

    It is only the late Victorian/early 20th century (male) history writers that have brainwashed people into thinking that all women in earlier ages were 'submissive'. For example, back in the 1830s I have traced a female ancestor who was an engineer designing pumping machinery for mines in Cornwall. Another ran a coachbuilding business in Launceston in the 1800s. Women were often involved in mining and seafaring before the 1830s-1840s when legislation was brought in to 'protect them'.

    There were a few female naval officers and sailors in the Royal Navy, particularly around the time of Nelson, who were very interesting characters. Some of the women disguised themselves as men--and often did so successfully, e.g. Mary Lacy, although one blew her cover by giving birth during the Battle of the Nile. Another was only unmasked after being fatally wounded fighting a dual...
     
  14. writingchick8
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    writingchick8 Member

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    Thank you guys so much! You rock!

    I honestly don't want her to masquerade as a guy. Even if it was historically accurate that all female pirates pretended to be guys. I mean, I want there to be historical fact in it, in terms of the ports, etc. but at the end of the day, it is fiction, and don't want to necessarily confine myself to what everyone did back then. If all the books out there were about people who did what they were supposed to, everything would be boring.

    :D Go rebels!
     
  15. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    Exactly. Anne Bonny was feared more than most men in her day. She was physco. I heard that when the authorities were taking over her ship that she was the only one fighting. That the men were hiding in the hold and that she even shot at her own men because they wouldn't fight!
     
  16. smerdyakov
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    smerdyakov Senior Member

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    Look no further than Grainne Mhaol, The Pirate Queen of Ireland. She was a fearless and colorful character, and very much an inspirational woman.
     
  17. writingchick8
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    writingchick8 Member

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    lol, GIRL POWER! I've never heard that story about Anne Bonny! I'm gonna have to look it up!

    I just looked up Grainne, and she is absolutely perfect as inspiration for my character! Thank you so much!
     
  18. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    The Irish are viscous when crossed. I'd know since I'm part Irish. :D Definitely look up Anne Bonny she was freaking nuts! Very interesting life story. Boudica is interesting too. Not a pirate but interesting. She was nuts too. Celtic queen that killed a TON of people for revenge.
     
  19. Thanshin
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    Thanshin Active Member

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    As in sweet and syrupy?

    Or just sticky.
     
  20. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    Ugh Give me a break I'm tired. :( It was a typo I didn't catch.
     
  21. Thanshin
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    Thanshin Active Member

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    Naaa, I'll store this in my memory as the thread about sweet irish pirate chicks. :D
     
  22. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    *sigh* If you remember correctly I said the Irish aren't very sweet when crossed. ;)
     
  23. Thanshin
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    Thanshin Active Member

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    To follow up, while rerailing somehow the thread, I'd go for a more complex female pirate character. [please excuse my bad English and keep just the idea. :)]

    Imagine a sweet and well mannered woman. A bit indiscreet and sometimes rude, but innocuous. She treats her fellow sea men as peers, and she's equally treated as a respected friend.

    Imagine a scene at a bar in some lost village where the law doesn't reach and pirates close their deals. She happily drinks with her mates, she flirts with the barman, they all laugh and they all sing. Until a strong and hairy "wolf of the seven seas" approaches and grabs her by the hip; not aggressive but possessive.

    For a second you extend the illusion of a lady protected by her friends. One or two sentences about how the manly Hombre of the sea glares at the pirates, daring them to defend their chick.
    Then he sees something strange; they're not even thinking of it. They just stand there, with a strange smile in their face. A knowing smile. A cruel smile.
    He finally lowers his own sight to face the woman and her eyes freeze him. For a second his mind screams the primal cry for survival, the switch that makes hearts beat, ready to run, when faced with a predator. When his grip eases it's already too late; it's her who's latched to him now, her hands caressing as claws searching for a soft spot to rip.
    He goes for the knife, but it's not on its sheath. He tries for the pistol and hears it hit the ground. He tries to retreat but a sharp prick in the back of his neck tells him where he lost the knife.

    "Ahoy," she whispers; too close. He can feel her breath in his ear. The pain gets sharper and he knows it's the last pain he'll ever feel.
    He tries to plead for his life but the words just don't come out; only tears try to, and he takes a slow breath, fixed on dying with dignity.
    And then she whispers again. "Pay me a ron, lad. I'm parched".


    Hours later, some of the pirates still laugh about the wolf of the sea. Not too much, though; they have felt the fear too, more than once. Only the large amounts of gold she knows how to get, stops them from running to another, safer, ship.
    The large amounts of gold, and the certainty that no matter how far they went she would find them, and she wouldn't be happy.
     
  24. themistoclea
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    themistoclea Member

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    I stand corrected.

    Wow, she died aged 80...
     
  25. writingchick8
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    writingchick8 Member

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    @ Thanshin: Damn I like that! You just got my character absolutely spot-on. Kind of like one of those salsas where you eat it, and it's sorta sweet and you like it, and then it turns out to be really spicy and it burns off the roof of your mouth!

    I love you guys! You really helped me with this one!!!
     

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