ON THE PROTAGONIST OF PRIVATEER—
She was a character that I’d mused over for… well, years, actually. She went unnamed all that time, but I knew exactly what she looked like, how she sounded, and how she thought. I wanted to use her, but somehow, I could never come up with a storyline worthy of her presence.
(Yes, I’m obscenely superior about these things. No, I pretty much can’t stand myself either.)
I saw her as a sort of mash-up of Keira Knightley‘s body and Winona Ryder‘s face. She was strong, dynamic, commanding, and beautiful in a fiery sense. She had few morals, but would go to the ends of earth for the few things she cared about.
I’d been toying with the idea of writing a pirate story ever since I read Jade Parker’s To Catch A Pirate after it was published in 2007 (making me… a high school sophomore?). This book had me captivated by the idea of a life of freedom at sea. There’s something intensely romantic about a pirate, don’t you think? I probably need to adjust my priorities…
For some reason, it didn’t occur to me to place my poor, unused character into the midst swashbuckling buccaneers until this past summer. I was (unfortunately) watching the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie—you know, the one WITHOUT the main characters in it? *bitter, bitter, bitter*—and as I was watching the woman pirate played by actress Penelope Cruz, I said to myself, “Self, this is an absolutely crap-tastic character. Self, even you could write her better.”
So I went home, and I did precisely that in the only way I knew how; I whipped out my unused character, and stuck her right into the heart of the open seas.
And she fit there perfectly.
But it was harder to write her than I thought it was going to be. She’d been wonderfully complete in my mind, but as soon as she hit the paper, she came alive in exactly the ways I’d never planned—she was ornery and rather tragic, with a dark past and a dark future. I kept struggling to make her readable. I didn’t want readers to veer away from her; I created her, and she was even repelling me. It was so frustrating to see that on paper, she had none of the qualities that made her so appealing in my head. She became fiercely brash and overbearing, and nothing like the character I’d so carefully constructed years ago.
For the first few chapters, I didn’t name her. I couldn’t choose a name for her, afraid that I’d confine her by giving her a single label. *Side-note: I have this thing with names… I literally go to BabyNames.com and read through their lists every single time I name a character. And as a rule, I never name a character until I’ve established who they are on the page.
But this time, I named her and stopped writing the story for a month or so. I named her and dared her to contradict me. And thank God she didn’t, because I’d probably love her anyway.
Charmaine [shar-MAYN]: Origin—English. Meaning—”Charm.”
Allow me to introduce you.