Sidekicks in suspenders

ON A SUPPORTING CHARACTER IN PRIVATEER

Because Charmaine is currently irritating the absolute crap out of me, I’m going to talk about her best friend and quartermaster, Presley Cooper.

I really love writing “sidekick” types; I think a good supporting character can make or break a story. I once wrote a character named Manny (short for Manolo… it’s Spanish for “God With Us,” in case you were wondering), and I loved him. I thought he was everything my main character—a 17-year-old girl, high-strung and flighty—needed to ground her. He was shy, soft-spoken, yet when he did speak, he had just the right things to say. He was the perfect complement to the boisterous gypsy-girl who narrated their story. He was her best friend.

Then… I kinda… well, I killed him.

Don’t ask me why, but I find myself going for the shock factor a lot in my writing. I once killed a character for no reason other than I wanted to hear my playwriting class gasp when I read the stage directions. *Eh hem* anyways, I’d had Manny’s death planned ever since the beginning chapters, but as I got more attached to poor Manny, I realized how hard killing him was going to be.

In Privateer, Presley is the same way. Not in that I’m planning on killing him (I swear, I’ll attempt to control myself), but in that he’s the perfect complement to Charmaine. He’s the kind of sidekick/friend that any heroine would want by her side, and I really can’t imagine Charmaine without him. In fact, it’s rather amazing to me that she survived on her own for as long as she did without Presley. She can be such a child sometimes.

…I’m put out with Charmaine at the moment.

Anyway, believe it or not, Presley is based on a real person, and he wasn’t in the story until I began this school year and met my English professor. The man walked into class with a lavender, polka-dotted backpack, a bushy white beard, two silver hoops through each earlobe and a bald head completely blanketed in tattoos.

Let’s just say… I gawked. A lot.

He started talking, and I knew I had to make him a character. He was SO perfect. He not only looks like the lovechild of Jack Sparrow and Dana Carvey’s Turtle Guy from The Master of Disguise, but he has this lilting British accent that’s totally made to recite William Blake. Every time I go to class, I just stare at him and beam like a total freak, and he has no idea why. But it’s because I’m mentally taking notes on his mannerisms so I can give them to Presley.

I wish I could post a headshot of my professor here, but for some reason, I literally cannot find a good picture on the Internet anywhere. I have a theory that my university refuses to post photos of him under the faculty because they’re afraid they’ll scare their students’ parents. *scoffs*

I did, however, find one from a reading he did at some point… it’s not very clear and it’s in black and white, so unfortunately, you cannot understand the magnificence of his blindingly white beard and extravagant tattoos, but trust me—it’s pretty magnificent.

And yes, he’s the one in the bow-tie and suspenders (WIN FOR PROF.).

—Samantha Chaffin

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One thought on “Sidekicks in suspenders

  1. TheJaneite says:

    Oh my goodness, poor, poor Manny! 😦 *sniff* Well, I suppose you’re the writer, right? I mean, I killed one of my favorite characters in my first novel…sometimes it works. Still, it sounds horribly tragic. Did you make the scene appropriately emotional? Did your readers weep? 😉
    Alright… (*she says warily, cocking one eyebrow*) as long as you have no such plans for Presley. I’m getting rather attached to him, I have to admit.
    Okay, that man looks like the greatest professor ever. Hahahaha that picture is amazing, even if you claim we cannot fully grasp his…epicness. 🙂
    And okay, although I love Charmaine being your heroine, I get what you mean. In the healthiest way for a reader, I am annoyed with her as well! You’re right, she can be a real child sometimes. 😛 Without Pres, I think she’d be lost. I can’t wait to see where you take your annoyance with her- into a better person? Or a stronger one? Perhaps at the moment a more sober one? 😉 Write, write, write!

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