Behind the Scenes with the Author:
The Characters in Book One, Bramah and The Beggar Boy
I’m excited to share a little bit about how I view the THOT J BAP characters we encounter in Book One.
I’ve had so much fun and have taught myself a lot about both poetry and character, by staying open to the possibilities of language and verse to help me get inside a character’s point of view.
It’s only now that the first book is at the printers, that I can step back and really take in the lives and loves, the triumphs and tragedies of these characters.
I realize, in so vast a poem, with many story lines, that I’ve come to think of my characters as if they were cast members in an opera or a movie.
The Leading Actors
Throughout THOT J BAP, you’ll soon realize that the actors with the biggest parts that drive agency and action tend to be the women, so we’ll start with these female characters.
I’ve come to think of these three characters as “best actors in a leading role.”
First, we have our hero, “brown, brave, and beautiful”: Bramah, a time-travelling locksmith with a penchant for saving things, like orphaned children on the run from the evil Consortium. Bramah is our leading actor although she is not very talkative. Far from it. Pay attention to her actions though. Bramah reveals herself in what she does and maybe even, what she doesn’t say. Especially when she’s in a jam, fighting off those Guards of the Fifth Gate.
Next, we have the intriguing character, Dr. A.E. Anderson born in the year 2020. She came to me years ago but really took shape during this pandemic. She’s such a strong, talented, and also flawed and vulnerable character; you can read more about her HERE. Writing her story, I cried buckets.
Then, we have Abigail, adopted daughter of Dr. Anderson. Abigail’s origins, like Bramah’s own, are shrouded in mystery. We know she is small and brown and an orphan when adopted by Dr. Anderson. Abigail is actually the first female character I started with over 10 years ago! She’s been a companion to me and again, following the arc of her story, was both wonderful, and ultimately very sad. Abigail is vital to the continuation of the survival of the Resisters. Have you figured out why?
Who’s your favourite out of the three?
The Supporting Actors
Next, we have secondary characters that I think of “best supporting actors”.
Bramah’s Grandmother: a wise mid-wife, always looking out for the little ones and giving Bramah good advice. We’ll learn more about Grandmother in Book 2 and 3 of THOT J BAP. In this book, she withholds information about Bramah’s own origins…stay tuned.
Grandmother is part of The Resistance: these are seed savers and folks who battle the evil Consortium. They survive by learning skills such soap making, glass making, and many other things: the world of THOT J BAP is a dystopia, things are in wrack and ruin, so knowing how to make-do, how to make things helps ensure your survival. A key Resistance fighter and seed saver is Mrs. Maria. She’s based on a real life Mrs. Maria, a Portuguese-Canadian neighbour of mine!
The Women of the Wishing Well: I loved creating these four magical old mid wives. They are venerated Aunties whose skin never wrinkles and who live to be over 100 years of age. Their individual stories will emerge in the later books of THOT J BAP. Their rhymes and riddles, sayings and songs, always connect to the past or the future. In creating these characters, I read a lot of folklore, fairy tales and DIY journals on how to make things.
The Village Spy and Betty: I’ve always been interested in “side characters” who aren’t always very likeable but whose actions and personalities reveal themes and add background texture to a poem or a story. Inspired by Bertolt Brecht’s Three Penny Opera and the song, Mack the Knife ( the version with Bobby Darin!) as well as characters in Fiddler on the Roof. Yes, you’ve read that right: I’ve long been a fan of traditional Broadway musicals and love how theatre makers find ways to involve minor characters.
Is there a supporting character in a recent book or movie you’ve read/seen that you love?
The Investigator, Consortium, and the Guards are the bad guys.
The INVESTIGATOR is a bad man: ruthless, vindictive, abusive. I struggled with how to shade his character a little so that we might see other sides of him. But, no, he’s just bad to the bone. His henchman, The Guards of the Fifth, aren’t much better but one of two might surprise us down the road. I’m open to backstory suggestions!
If the INVESTIGATOR is the bad man, then Consortium is the personification of The Evil Empire: impersonal, all-pervasive, and global, its interest is in world domination. Sound familiar?
From the inception of THOT J BAP, this idea of resistance to totalizing corporate control resonated throughout the poetry and played a big role in how I conceptualized my story.
The Male Heroes
The Beggar Boy and Bartholomew: Think of these characters as male heroes.
The Beggar Boy is one of my favourite characters. And interestingly, he, too, at least in Book One, almost never speaks. Since the creation of my first book, I’ve been pulled toward the idea of children as both our hope for survival and a litmus test in how we treat ourselves and the planet. If we are cruel and indifferent to the plight of orphans, who will we be as a people of the future?
Bartholomew: He’s the polar opposite of The INVESTIGATOR. Kind scholarly, brave, passionately in love with Abigail and willing to sacrifice for her…. Confession: it’s true. I have a weakness for handsome anti-heroes. The question is, will Bartholomew remain “Bartholomew the Good” as he’s now known? Will circumstances force a change in him?
The Sword Girls and the Beggar Boys: Think of these characters as a background chorus, familiar to readers of Greek myth and ancient plays. Again we see the influence of other forms of story-telling that use rhymes and poetry: opera, the theatre, and yes, musicals. In creating these characters, who act as a kind of subversive telecommunications underground, I drew on research into street children in places like Brazil, South Africa, and especially, India, where I was born.
Thoughts? Comments? Leave a reply below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Renée Sarojini Saklikar 2021.
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