"Vigorously told deceptions and battle scenes." ~Publishers Weekly review of Eolyn

"The characters are at their best when the events engulfing them are at their worst." ~Publishers Weekly review of High Maga

Monday, December 16, 2013

On Characters Corrupted by Power

Isabella has secured her throne. Is it all downhill from here?
We are about half way through the second season of ISABEL, TVE's incomparable series based on the life of Isabella of Castille. 

I raved about this series in a previous post, and my admiration for the production has not faded in the least.  Season two, however, is a different ballgame from season one. 

In season one, we were allowed to support Isabella unconditionally in her thwarted efforts to achieve a peaceful co-existence with her half-brother, King Henry IV. We admired her without reservation as she defended her claim to the throne of Castile. The final episode, in which Isabella crowns herself without waiting for the presence of her husband or the support of the Cortes, is an unforgettable moment of triumph.  By then, we have come to care deeply about the fate of this remarkable and courageous woman, who along with Ferdinand of Aragon, promises to guide Spain into a new era of peace and prosperity.

Of course, any series based on history must be faithful to that history, and TVE makes no attempt to gloss over the horrors committed under Isabella and Ferdinand's reign. In season two, Isabella and Ferdinand become ever more entrenched in the self-made myth of monarchs appointed by a rigidly Catholic God.  They initiate the Spanish Inquisition against so-called Jewish heretics, and launch a brutal war to oust the Moors from southern Spain. 

It's not easy to like Isabella as she begins the marginalization and expulsion of a people whose only "crime" is the profession of a different faith. It's not easy to like Isabella as she allows her own lady-in-waiting, an innocent converso of 15 years, to be arrested and tortured under false charges. It's not easy to like Isabella as she, in defense of her crown, commits the same wrongs against her subordinates as were committed against her.

The series has given me much food for thought as I continue crafting Daughter of Aithne.  Eolyn and other characters who have suffered oppression in the past reach the pinnacle of their power in this third and final book of the saga.  How will the mantel of political power change my characters?  How will they respond in situations where the stakes are higher than ever, yet the future remains just as uncertain?  Will they be benevolent leaders, or will the game change make them just as pragmatic, paranoid, and brutal as their predecessors? 

All of these questions are running through my mind as I approach the 70K word mark in the novel.  70K is an important check point for me.  This is where I take a break from drafting new chapters and go back to re-read everything that has come to pass so far.  I will be filling in holes, making sure certain events are properly set up, and all and all getting a feel for whether I'm on the right track toward an appropriate denouement.

As I start that process, I have a couple questions for you:

Does it make you uncomfortable, as a reader, when a character with a demonstrated history of integrity begins making decisions you don't like, especially decisions that cause the suffering of others?

What stories have you read, where a character is transformed in negative ways under the influence of their own power?  Did it turn you off to the character, or did it make the character more intriguing for you?

Your answers may or may not have an effect on the particular story I'm telling; after all, the power is in my hands! But I look forward to hearing your thoughts, nonetheless.

This past weekend, ISABEL celebrated 40,000 followers on Facebook. 
And yes, I'm one of the 40,000!