by Caroline Lawrence
A few days ago I was talking to a group of A-level and college-level Classics students about how I write historical fiction. I told them about the Hero's Journey, a plot structure found in many Greek myths, which anthropologist Joseph Campbell calls Monomyth. I also talked about the different archetypes that crop up in the Monomyth: the Hero, the Faithful Sidekick, the Funny One, the Wild One, the Mentor, etc. (These particular archetypes are my own mélange of Greek Myths and Hollywood Blockbusters.)
|the first nine books in a 17-book series|
My reply was that I used my logical 'left brain' to plan the trajectory of the main characters -- from Slavery to Freedom, for example, or Feral to Civilized -- but I keep each arc broad enough so that my creative 'right brain' can fill in the details of the character's ups and downs as they (and I) progress through the series.
When I got home from my talk, I dug up some jottings I did six or seven years ago. At that time I was two-thirds of the way through my 17-book Roman Mysteries series. My notes (below) show how methodical I was about creating of my four characters but also how I didn't necessarily stick to the plan.
Character arcs in The Roman Mysteries (Warning: from here on there are spoilers!)
|Flavia, the Hero|
|Jonathan, the Funny One|
|Nubia, the Faithful Sidekick|
|Lupus, the Wild One|
The last book in the series, The Man from Pomegranate Street, will start and end fifteen years on from the first book, when Flavia is married and her friends are all grown. (The middle will be a flashback to the four of them as kids solving their 'last mystery': who killed the emperor Titus?) We will therefore get a satisfying glimpse at what the four of them will become as adults.
|Caroline with TV actors playing Jonathan, Lupus, Nubia & Flavia|
Some of my ideas played out as I had planned. Others didn't. But when starting an ambitious series it's useful to have a general idea where your characters are going just to keep heading in the right direction.
Find out more about my history-mystery books at www.carolinelawrence.com and if you are interested in the Hero's Journey, read this blog I wrote about Monomyth in the Easter Story.