I don’t know what They are, but I know I am Their scribe. With as many lives as a shattered mirror’s reflections, little is constant. What I can give you, I have.
Age: Mid-late 30s, sometimes early 40s
Height: ~ 5’10-6’00”, 2 inches taller than Daren
Body build: Lean, healthy weight, in shape but not overly muscular
Facial features: Strong jaw, straight nose, “aristocratic” features, smiles often
Eye color: Blue-gray, darker when angry or upset, often give away his emotions
Skin color: Normal warm Caucasian tone, flushes easily
Hair color/style: Black, thick and slightly wavy, length varies between several inches and slightly more than jaw length
Clothing style: Earth tones or muted colors, mostly slacks and sweaters/dress shirts, style is expensive yet understated
Astrological sign: Cancer – Devoted, loyal, nurturing, self-sacrificing, affectionate, loving, introverted, self-deprecating, fretful, emotional, possessive, obsessive, passive/passive-aggressive
Tanim is at heart a gentle, well-meaning man with an unfortunate martyr complex. He is loyal and honest to a fault, happiest when he has someone to care for and most miserable when he is alone. He hates confrontation or asserting himself to someone he loves, though he would do anything to protect that person from someone else without hesitation. However, his devotion to those he loves also leads him to sacrifice his own needs in order to fulfill the role he assumes is expected of him. Tanim truly is his own worst enemy. He loathes himself for any perceived weakness while remaining completely blind to the faults of others. These emotions are all internal, of course; the face Tanim presents to others is always upbeat, calm, and kind. Only those who know his innermost fears understand the knife-edge on which Tanim balances, forever torn between his own misery and the need to ignore that pain and dedicate himself to another.
Although Tanim’s history may change depending on the story, the “main” storyline finds him as a reclusive, miserable man living alone in a lavish penthouse city apartment (a description of which can be found here.) He grew up as the oldest son of a wealthy businessman and trained from a young age to follow in his father’s footsteps. However, in his late teens Tanim began to struggle with feelings of emptiness, apathy, and a longing for personal submission which deeply disturbed him. He tried to ease the ache by any means necessary, turning even to alcohol and drugs, but nothing could either numb him enough or fill the emptiness and he sank further into depression. Then, while Tanim was in his early twenties, his father died and it was assumed Tanim would step into his father’s role. However, unable to stand the thought of living life under the scrutiny of the public eye when he could barely hold himself together, Tanim did the unthinkable. He sold his shares of the company, took his sudden wealth, and disappeared. He cut off all contact with his family, choosing the misery of self-imposed isolation to risking his loved ones discovering his double life and “perverted” desires. When Tanim and Daren meet, Tanim has been living alone for years, trapped in a hell of his own devising.
Tanim’s self-sacrificing personality is primarily a result of his longing to surrender himself in all ways to one he loves. He believes that submission to the beloved is the highest form of love and is happiest in a master/servant relationship. Alone, he feels incomplete; it is only through complete devotion to another that Tanim considers himself to have a purpose or meaning in life. The only value he sees in himself is the value placed on him by someone else. For Tanim, an important part of a master/servant relationship is submission of the body. In most fragments Tanim’s sexual orientation can be considered classically asexual, as he feels no sexual attraction toward either men or women. It is his love for Daren that sparks the desire for physical intimacy, not a desire for the man’s body itself. Because of this, no other man or woman inspires the same lust in Tanim. He seeks out sexual intimacy in an attempt to experience the complete vulnerability found in total submission to another. It isn’t about sexual release for him, only loss of control and free will to another, both of which are surrendered most fully during sex. Therefore, even though Tanim may come off as textbook homosexual in nature, that perception is actually the result of his desire for bodily submission and not an actual sexual attraction to men. In some fragments he embraces his need to submit, but in many others Tanim is disturbed by such longing and goes to great lengths to deny it, causing himself severe emotional damage.
Of course, this somewhat extreme approach to love manifests in many negative ways. Tanim is often obsessive, idolizing, and fanatical. His concept of love goes far beyond normal romantic attraction and into the realm of blind worship. He will go to great lengths to keep the object of his affections, making him an often manipulative and abusive lover. He is ruled completely by his emotions, which he has trouble controlling. He can be both a sadist and a masochist, though the latter is more common because of his longing for a master/servant relationship. So while Tanim can be a devoted and caring lover, the extremes of his personality make it difficult for him to have a healthy relationship.
Age: Early to mid-30s
Height: ~ 5’8”-5’10”, 2 inches shorter than Tanim
Body build: Thin, underweight, often sickly in appearance, fine boned, long limbed
Facial features: Angular face, long jaw, straight nose, high cheek bones, thin lips, expressionless
Eye color: Dark brown (basically black), difficult to read, often accompanied by dark circles from illness and lack of sleep
Skin color: Very pale, flushed when feverish
Hair color/style: Prematurely white, straight and fine, length varies from very short to jaw length
Clothing style: Black or gray color palette, black jeans or slacks, sweaters/turtlenecks, doesn’t like to show skin above his wrists or below his neck
Astrological sign: Scorpio – Independent, calculating, logical, externally unemotional, blunt, unyielding, remote, mysterious, controlling, possessive, protective, manipulative, distrustful, destructive/self-destructive
Unlike Tanim, Daren is ruled more by apathy and cold logic than emotion. Daren does not long for love or completion; in fact, there is very little he desires and this often causes conflict between Tanim and him. Daren has little regard for the needs or feelings of others and goes to great lengths to avoid human interaction. He abhors vulnerability, both in himself and others, as well as most displays of emotion and any physical contact. He is slow to trust and refuses to offer personal information. A lifetime of hardships and health problems has left Daren jaded and introverted. He has difficulty understanding others’ emotions and rarely cares enough to try. Tanim is the only person he makes any effort to empathize with or treat with selfless kindness. Although Daren comes off as cold hearted to most who know him, to Tanim he can be quite loving, playful, and gentle.
In the “main” storyline, much of Daren’s past remains a mystery, as years of emotional trauma, nightmares, and fevered hallucinations have marred his ability to discern between real and false memories. He cannot recall much of his childhood beyond the abusive nature of his environment. In his late teens or early twenties Daren was found living on the street, severely underweight and deliriously sick. He was enrolled in a program for emotionally and/or physically impaired adults in which he received therapy and medication, as well as medical aid. When the program ended due to funding issues, however, he struggled to make ends meet, unable to keep a job due to his physical ailments. When he meets Tanim in his mid-thirties, he is living in a hell-hole of an apartment and down to his last funds. After Tanim finds him collapsed and deathly ill some time later, Daren moves into Tanim’s apartment and grudgingly allows the man to help him.
Daren’s sexual orientation is not as easily defined as Tanim’s. Daren fits the idea of asexuality in that he is not sexually attracted to either gender, nor does he have virtually any sex drive, but his nonexistent libido is not necessarily as result of his asexuality, as Daren is damaged both physically and emotionally. In any given fragment he may suffer from a variety of afflictions, including post traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain, and any number of debilitating illnesses, and every one of these has a negative impact on his libido. At his best Daren is comfortable with both giving and receiving physical touch but at his worst is repulsed by intimacy and detests the idea of submitting to another. Therefore, it is hard to judge Daren’s true sexual orientation. His attachment to Tanim does suggest a certain lean toward homosexuality, but that cannot be concluded with any certitude since his love for Tanim isn’t sexual in nature and he has never entertained even the remotest affection for any other person.
As with Tanim, Daren’s flaws can manifest themselves negatively. He can be emotionally manipulative, sadistic, and cruel, with little regard for the pain he causes. He is often seen as a tempting figure leading Tanim down a dangerous or self-destructive path, especially by those that care for Tanim. His withholding of emotion often reaches abusive levels, while his need for secrecy causes him to hide any decline in his mental/physical status from Tanim. Despite Daren’s cold exterior, however, he loves Tanim with as fierce a passion as Tanim loves him. True to his nature, Daren has an extremely hard time acknowledging and displaying this love. His emotional disconnection makes it nearly impossible for him to provide the affection Tanim craves. He finds Tanim to be too clingy and needy, but struggles to accept these aspects in order to make his companion happy. Tanim’s combination of patient devotion and empathy eventually cracks Daren’s shell enough to earn the man’s trust, and once Daren accepts Tanim into his life he is quite possessive of him. Although Daren is uncomfortable with the concept of a master/servant relationship, he often assumes the dominant (sometimes even aggressive) role in their relationship both to satisfy Tanim’s own submissive desires and retain the emotional detachment, independence, and secrecy he requires.
Their relationship: As can probably be construed through the above descriptions, Tanim and Daren do not have a normal romantic/sexual relationship. To Tanim and Daren there is very difference between romantic and fraternal love, between considering themselves lovers or brothers. They are drawn together on a deeper level than mere affection or physical attraction, and this bond is often something which they can neither deny nor break. It manifests itself in many different forms, both healthy and unhealthy.
The solstice: The Moon murders his lover the Sun on the winter solstice (thus bringing the winter and darkness to the land) and on the summer solstice the Sun resurrects and likewise murders the Moon (returning the summer and light). This endless cycle of sacrifice and betrayal, life and death, is at Their core. Each solstices’ tale can be found using the “solstice” journal tag.
The tale of the solstice – So you can make some sense of all this Sun and Moon talk.
Story format: Much of my writing is from either Tanim or Daren’s point of view, and these monologue-esque pieces can be found using the “spoken – Daren” and “spoken – Tanim” tags. Any piece of writing pertaining to Tanim and Daren that is not from their specific point of view can be found using the “Tanim/Daren” tag. Also, Tanim’s speech is often noted using bold format and Daren’s italics.
I love the way you’ve so wholly described these characters. Creating characters is my favorite part of the writing process. To put it plainly -writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia. You can be anyone or anything and create an entire story based on whatever you imagine…
Haha, that’s so true. Although I think my craziness shines through despite the “socially acceptable” part.
You are a fantastic writer. It took me three sentences to know I was going to follow your blog post. The way you broke it down did make it easy to read, but the length of the post still makes it an intimidating read.
Verbosity will forever be my downfall, unfortunately. I tried to cut as much as I could, I really did! It’s just that everything seems important when you’re obsessed.
Thanks for the follow! I checked out your blog and love it already.
Wonderful character descriptions. I can really empathise with both of them for totally different reasons. I adore these two. :-) Well, you know that already.
Tanim and Daren are oddly sympathetic characters for all that I try to give them as many unsympathetic flaws as possible, haha. Though I’m glad someone agrees, because I’m too in love with them to tell if they’re actually engaging characters or not. ;)
Both of these characters have such intriguing backstories. I’ll probably try reading about them sometime. And the details you gave were impressive; after all, detail is what makes a story believable.
I am strongly curious about one thing: asexuals aren’t exactly common. So why make them both asexual? Do you relate to that sexuality? If they really are both asexuals, how did they meet?
Though, I personally think that Daren has the potential to simply be traumatised by sexuality, and refuse to admit to any sexuality. But that maybe deep down, there is a mild (or not so mild) sexuality, hidden deep down amongst his repressed memories.
But, it seems perfectly plausible to me (and somewhat original) that Tanim is, despite outwards appearances, asexual, at least.
I like the solstice theme. Although, when you say you have a number of different storylines… how many? Because I read/heard that three is the average most people can follow without becoming confused.
Also, regarding your story format, are you eventually planning to combine your writings to create an organised story, or just float them around your blog (not that I’m judging…)?
Great characters, though. By the way, even though Daren’s past is mostly a mystery, do you know what happened to him? An author should know these details… and you’re clearly aces at details. (Not without practice, I’m sure.)
Wow, thanks for the awesome comment! In response to your questions:
1) I actually am asexual, though my characters have had a certain lack of sexuality for far longer than I even knew what asexuality is. I agree, Daren probably does have some latent sexuality buried beneath all his issues, but he’s too stubborn to explore it much. (Which is very frustrating as a writer!)
2) I have… countless storylines, actually. XD I tried to make a list years ago but the problem is that so many of them are slight variations of others that it’s hard to tell what ones count and which ones don’t. There are some storylines I’ve only written pieces for once, and others I’ve never written anything for, they just stay stored in my head. Some I come back to time and again, of course. That’s why I feel bad for my readers – things can get very confusing, no matter how hard I try to keep them simple.
3) I don’t really have any publishing plans, if only because my work would be an editor/publisher’s nightmare. I’ve thought about collecting certain semi-related pieces into some sort of short story collection thing, but I don’t know if I’ll ever get around to it. At the moment I’m content to put everything here for people to read freely.
4) I do know most of Daren’s past, though since it changes a bit depending on the story I’m sometimes left going “wait, WHAT?”. My boys have a habit of surprising me at the most inopportune moments…
That’s cool. It’s good to let your characters surprise you sometimes; keeps you on your toes! :P
Seriously though, I had an inkling that you might’ve been asexual, but I was afraid to ask. I suppose its pretty evident from your characters.
As a writer, I would imagine that would be frustrating, since most people do have some sort of sexuality. As such, that would be one thing that you probably wouldn’t understand strongly.
But it’s cool. It provides an interesting spin on your characters, making them asexual, anyway.
I must say, you’ve got some interesting characters here, and what’s more, you have defined them down to the T. They are both specific and realistic, both contribute to a naturally conjurable mental image, in my opinion. I look forward to seeing what happens around and between these characters.
Thank you so much! I’m always striving to make them as realistic as possible but it’s hard to stay objective when I’m in the middle of it all, so I’m glad to hear they come across that same way for you as well. :)
I find it interesting how such thorough character development doesn’t appear to limit your characters or your options as a writer. Rather, as a result of this discipline, you can send these two characters anywhere and follow how them authentically. Is this true in your writing experience with these two characters? Thanks for the view of your process…
That’s definitely true, yeah. I get a real kick out of putting my character into bizarre situations and then watching how they react. If I didn’t understand them well enough, it would be hard to know whether what I was writing was true to them or just what I WANTED them to do. But at this point I can’t even write something out of character because it just… doesn’t even work, haha.
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I really like that they exist in incomplete formats, without one there could not be the other, this need for balance works well with your solstice theme. I’m quite intrigued. Guess that means I must read on ;)
Why thank you! I’m glad you’re intrigued! ;)
I loved reading about your characters. Tanim and Daren sound so interesting, and I love the fact that their relationship evades “normal” characterization (not sexual, but more than platonic or fraternal).
I think that the way that we conceptualize characters is also similar. I am trying to write a novel — I wrote the rough draft of one but then scrapped it because it seemed too constrained by genre (YA), so I’m going for High Literature now, I guess, just because there’s a more acceptable looseness in terms of narrative and chronology. But it’s the same thing: I have about six characters, and my favorite thing is pushing them up against one another and watching them interact. They all have different personality types, ethnicities, and sexualities, and I just really love their interaction, which seems similar to how you feel about Tanim and Daren. I know that two of my characters, Ivy and Aina, have been in existence in some form since I was probably six or seven (so, about 17 years), and about seven years ago, their personalities really began to crystallize. Four of the six main characters, including Ivy and Aina, are based on the four elements in Western cosmology (Earth, Air [Ivy], Fire [Aina], and Water), so I find your solstice approach fascinating as well. I think there’s something both grounding and expansive about creating associations between characters, myths/narratives of the supernatural, and natural phenomena, and so reading what you’ve done here is really fascinating.
Also, do you have a Tumblr? You seem like you would have a Tumblr. Am I just not seeing the link? Or did I go about it wrong and forget to compliment your shoelaces straightaway?
Anyway, your work is really interesting, and I’m glad you’ve published it here!
I promise I’ll respond to your super awesome comment more fully when I get home, but I’m about to run out the door (what? me on my personal email at work? no…) and want to know you guessed right, I DO have a Tumblr (and should put the link on here!) which can be found at http://www.only-fragments.tumblr.com. And I have, like, literally five followers, so the more Tumblr buddies the better! :D
On Mon, Jul 7, 2014 at 4:14 PM, Only Fragments wrote:
Awesome! I just followed you on my personal Tumblr, and I have a novel-related one that is kind of dead now but which does have a lot of fantasy stuff and older meta about my characters (we-four-elements.tumblr.com).
I asked A) because Tumblr is where I’ve learned the most about asexuality, and B) because for me, it’s easier for me to post meta about my characters and get feedback from a few close followers there. My WP is more poetry/nonfiction with a few short stories thrown in, but the microblogging aspect of Tumblr is where I’ve felt more able to open up and get feedback about little character scenes. It’s also a good repository for fantasy images and writing prompts/references, I’ve found.
But anyway, have a safe trip home…
That’s why I joined Tumblr, actually; it seemed easier to reblog pictures than to save them on my computer and maybe come back to them someday… But this way I can hoard them without guilt. ;)
[Also, my writing blog is at http://shelterofmagnolias.wordpress.com — I just realized it’s not easy to find from my professional blog under my name…
Awsome! I shall follow post haste. :)
Oh man, I love characters that linger for years, subtly evolving and changing along the way. It’s so interesting to look back and see how they’ve changed, along with your own writing style and themes.
How does basing your characters on elements influence them, and the way you write about them? What made you choose that theme? (Or did they choose it for you?)
“Did they choose it for you?” — I feel like that’s the perfect question, and few people ever ask me that. For the most part, the characters and the themes for their elements kind of grew into each other (Ivy was originally the Wood element from the Chinese five-element system and then grew into Air; Aina was always Fire).
I think I started with an interest in astrology, and then from there astronomy and witchcraft, and just a general strong feeling about the seasons. I’m born on what was the last day of Pisces (now the sun is in Aries on my birthday at some point, so I was born on the first day of spring), so being born on the point of rebirth in the astrological cycle was what made me want to learn more there. And since Pisces is Water, and Aries is Fire, I’ve always been interested in balance, so the four elements were a way to explore that balance in a human way through fantasy. I also think it’s useful for exploring different ways of being a woman. We hear about Strong Female Characters all the time; it’s its own trope now, the ass-kicking, take-no-prisoners badass girl/lady warrior (or something equally feisty/aggressive). But with the four elements, you can’t have that in the same way; Water and Earth are by nature more “passive”/”feminine,” I want to show that there are ways to be “feminine”/nurturing that are still admirable and compelling. So I have women who are various combinations of warrior, intellectual, fighter (not quite the same thing as warrior), artist, poet, healer, mechanic, cook–and they fight with and for each other, and sometimes they hate each other, and sometimes they kill for each other, and I love it.
How did you settle on the solstice (or how did your characters end up associating themselves with it)?
That’s fascinating! I don’t know too much about astrology (aside from what I’ve read in my Darkside Zodiac book) but I did base my characters’ astrological signs on the ones that fit them the most. Turns out Tanim is a hardcore Cancer and Daren fits the Scorpio bill perfectly. Do you find your own sign suits you?
So with their different elemental aspects, how do your characters interact/play off each other? Are there interactions or relationships that stay the same no matter what, or is it all somewhat fluid? And is there somewhere I could learn more about these characters? Not that I don’t like asking questions, but I’d hate to make you repeat yourself… :)
Ah man. The Strong Female Character. Such a hotly debated idea these days! I’m all about powerful female characters, especially the ones who break that mold or who sneak into your awareness. My hero growing up was Alanna from the Lioness Quartet. I wanted to be her so badly. Brave, strong, determined… and the talking magical cat sidekick was a total bonus. Do you choose to work primarily with female characters, or is that something else they choose for you?
As to the solstice theme, I have to give all the credit to Ray Bradbury. When I was a kid I was obsessed with the movie The Halloween Tree, and when I was in high school I found the book it was based on. In the book there’s a scene where the kids are running through an Egyptian tomb and Death is telling them about Osiris being slain by his brother, and how the seasons and life and death all go together. It struck a chord with me, since my characters are often brothers/lovers and each others’ death, and the story built from there…
Oh, that’s so cool! I got really into mythology, especially Egyptian mythology, when I was younger, and Osiris was one of my favorite gods to read about, although I was more fascinated by him and Isis together, and their love. I’ll have to check out the Bradbury novel; I haven’t heard of it.
I do like my sign. It’s probably confirmation bias, but in many ways I’m very Pisces: deep emotions and spiritual connections and whatnot (I could talk about this alone at length), but I’m also Aries in some ways: competitive, athletic, mostly just competitive…
In terms of the elements, I have a blog here (http://we-four-elements.tumblr.com) where I started doing a lot of meta/description for my characters, but kind of backed off and kept it as a writing resource site. It still has tags for the characters, though (Aina used to be called Ehune). Some aspects of their personalities/backgrounds have changed, but generally, their personalities do resemble the elements they’re based off of (and they act and relate to each other accordingly), but they also have different attitudes toward their powers, and develop them in different ways. So, Ivy (Air) is sort of flighty, also somewhat cold, with the potential for callousness and cruelty. She’s a Gemini (June 19). She lives in her head and can feel strongly, but doesn’t know how to express things well. She’s mostly asexual (since sexuality and sensuality is bodily, and she doesn’t feel much pull towards any kind of bodily sensation, whether it’s food or sex or just being touched), except in a few, very rare instances when her emotions bubble over, which ties into the chemistry behind emotion and desire more than her usual state, I think. She’s also atheist, but puritanical in terms of the standards she holds herself to. She’s tall, and pale (she and her friends joke that she’s nearly translucent), with dark reddish hair. She’s androgynous (think Tilda Swinton), and often passes as a man. She and Aina (Fire) eventually grow up and run their own auto shop where they hand-craft weapons that can kill demons and other monsters (and other items), and they sell them to various monster-hunters and witches who pass by — the Tarot suit for Air is Swords; and for Fire, it’s Clubs/Wands, so it kind fits that way. Aina does a lot of the smelting and electrical engineering (Fire); Ivy designs the blades (Air). Together, the two of them are very close; they both have more technical/logical minds, and while sometimes they explode into fights, those end quickly, and then they go back to doing their engineering thing (while also fending off people trying to steal their stuff).I can describe the other characters as well, but that’s an example of how the elements and who the characters are interact.
Most of my characters are female. I grew up with just my mother (my father died when I was young), so I think that seeing how strong she was in keeping us going while also working, etc., left a strong mark on me. I always like seeing various kinds of relationships between women — between family, friends, lovers — and like exploring those possibilities. And so I do love strong female characters (Ivy and Aina) both fit that bill in a lot of ways, and I liked Katniss from the Hunger Games as well (and I remember Alanna too! I loved that book, and I love Tamora Pierce generally). But I also think that sometimes people use strong female characters to put down some of the better elements of traditional femininity: kindness becomes weakness, knowledge of how to take care of a household becomes “lame” or “boring.” And so I like female characters who are healers, and psychologists, and are just really good at domestic stuff and invaluable because they do keep the fighting characters going. So Adriana (Earth — Air’s opposite) really gets annoyed with Ivy, who takes unnecessary risks and always pushed the boundaries of what her body can do before breaking. And so Adriana has to heal Ivy, and gets angry because she could be helping other, more sensible people, or volunteering at a food drive, or trying a new recipe, or doing literally anything other than setting Ivy’s latest broken bone, but there she is.
This is rambling, and I’m sorry. But I love discussing my characters, and it seems like we both maybe come at our characters in similar ways…? And you’ve definitely inspired me to write more of my novel (and more on my blog, too)…
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