Saturday, July 27, 2013

Writing Fairy Characters

Article by Ty Hulse

The world of fairy is filled with some of the most provocative stories and interesting characters.

Fairies are not as they were depicted in the
Victorian Era. Rather they are deeply emotional
beings which control the fate of everyone.
The problem is that during the Victorian Era fairy stories began to focus on fairies as nothing more than whimsy. Now they are only depicted as nature spirits or as guardians of childhood. Yes at times they controlled nature. Certainly some of them had a special connection with children. There is, however, so much more to them than these things.

Fairies like all characters need emotional 
and psychological depth.

There is so much more to fairies than most people give them credit for. More than just nature spirits, fairies have palaces, shepherds, and more. In lore fairies taught humans how to build civilization, and were often the guardians of houses and cities.

It's through understanding people's beliefs about fairies backgrounds that we can begin to understand their motivations and emotions.

Understanding the Fairy Type

Nearly every fairy in fairy tales has similar fairies which are featured in other stories and other bits of lore. This means that you can begin to put together a series of character traits, and even a possible history for the fairy based on not just the events of one story, but of multiple stories and bits of lore.

For example the 'Dwarfs' in "Snow White" were called zwerg in the Grimm Brothers version of the story. Zwerg are magical shape changers, who tend to be very social, living in large underground cities, but some few of them choose to live in the woods. These few are different from the  others, in that they have a tendency to either want to help humans too much, or they hate them with a burning passion.

As another example the Banshee is an ancestral spirit who became a fairy but was so obsessed with helping their family that they constantly leave fairy land in order to guide their decedents. They are filled with such an all consuming devotion to those they love that their eyes are constantly red from crying over their hardships.

Finally Rumpelstiltskin was likely a lot like Merlin. He stated he cared about life more than anything else, and he didn't want just any baby he wanted a prince who would become king. So just as Merlin took King Aurthur from his mother Rumpelstiltskin sought to take a prince from a greedy selfish king.

Of course it's easier to understand the fairies type in depth if you can read the language their stories are actually written in. But there should be enough information on many of the beings in English to put together an interesting guide to any given fairy. However, I've found that when I need a translator I can usually hire one for fairly cheap to do a little research.

Create a Background

All fairies have a background, one which sometimes spans millions of years given their immortal lives.

You can figure out many pieces of a character background from what they are.

For example many nymphs taught humans how to weave, and helped them found cities which they than became the guardians of. So the background of many of these nymphs depends on the cities they protect. Imagine them trying desperately to help cities occupied by the Ottoman Empire, the Nazis, and more. Yet since they are forgotten there is very little they can do to help.

As another example the Tylwyth Teg of Wales were at times said to be a previous people who had been driven into the fairy realm by human invaders. This would many that many of the older Tylwyth Teg would resent humanity, though would also fear them. Not all Tweleth Teg are ancient, however, for they do have children. So imagine how children, raised to fear humans must feel. Especially when they first see pathetic hungry serfs. They would have to wonder why they should be afraid? Many of them play with human children in tales, or even help them. So the question is would your Tylwyth Teg feel sorry for the humans, angry at them and vindictive against them? 

Add Character Traits and Psychological Depth

Now that you've delved into your fairies background you can begin to piece together what traits, flaws, and psychological depths.

I've listed some common fairy traits here.

In addition begin to look at the things your fairy does, how he acts. Try to find people with similar psychological profiles to fill out your fairy more than you usually can for fairy tales.

For example if you were to review the household fairy of farmsteads in Scandinavian countries known as the Tomte and than looked for psychological profiles that fit their activities you might look for common psychological profiles of farmers, as these fairies choose to live on farms. Than because they tend to prefer only to interact directly with children you can give them a bit of a Peter Pan Syndrome, or add to their psychology that they don't like complected people or situations. Finally because they spend their free time doing dangerous things such as robbing neighbors houses you could add some of the psychology of heavy risk takers into their nature as well.

Give Your Fairy Some Motivation

What does the fairy want? What is it that motivates them, what drives their overall actions? Every time a fairy appears they do so for a very specific reason, to fulfill some goal.

Fairies always have an agenda. They are the ones who control fate after all, so in essence the world really does revolve around them.

More than simply understanding what your fairy wants, however, you need to understand how they plan to get it. How does giving gifts to a poor peasant help them achieve their goals? How does causing someone to have a stroke aid in their plans.

Certainly some fairies live to cause trouble and so don't have a larger scheme, while others simply feel sorry for every poor person they see. But even without a larger plan these fairies still have some motivation, an emotional drive, and the stronger that drive, the more compelling the fairies drive is, the more interesting their character will become.

As importantly the characters motivation will help to create conflict and drama within the story as their motivations clash with others... or support others.