Character sketches part 1: Ferathainn Devlin

Warning: this is a long post!

Last time on Work in progress: I’d discussed the starting point for world-building.  For me, character leads to story, leads to world.

So for the next bit

I’m going to share some of my character sketches.  Most of this won’t appear in the novel per se.  It’s mostly back story, but you’ll see how the plots and sub-plots evolved from my characters.

The seed of Fer

When I started my hand-written draft all those years ago (egad), in that first spiral-bound notebook (which I still have, thank you very much), the character and novel were both called Rain.  I’ve mentioned a bit about this in my various draft discussions.

She was born in the rain on the eve of what I then called storm season.  Also, her key incident (see K.M. Weiland’s post regarding the difference between the inciting and key incidents here), the destruction of her village, death of her loved ones, and rape, all occur in the rain.  So it was a metaphor for her plot and transformation.

Initially, I had a lot more going on with her.  Her trauma also included being blinded by a random lightning strike, being impregnated, and subsequently aborting.  Looking over those early notes, I realized that it was a bit much.  I brought the amount of drama back to what was still a fairly loud roar, and moved forward with that.

In future reviews, I changed her name to Ryane, and then had her choose another name for herself after the devastation of her village by rearranging the letters: Rayne.  Though I thought it was clever at the time, and that name stayed with the character through a number of abortive attempts to work on the project, but it wasn’t until after I picked up the bits and pieces of what might become a manuscript that I started researching names and decided on Ferathainn, one of several Irish words for rain.  That’s when she really started to come together for me.

The sketch

Name: Ferathainn Devlin

Nickname: Fer

Birth Date/Place: Almost 16 years ago in Hartsgrove, freetown of Tellurin

Character Role: Protagonist

Age: 15

Race: Tellurin … actually half-eleph, but she looks Tellurin and has no idea she was fostered/adopted

Eye colour: Green

Hair colour/style: Long, wavy, red.  Often tied back/braided.  After she receives the broken spiral brand on her forehead, she cuts her hair so that she has a thick fringe of bang to hide it.

Build: Tall, slim, but toned.  5’ 10”, 140 lbs.

Skin tone: Pale with freckles that multiply in the sun.

Style of dress:  Simple dresses with shifts beneath, sometimes with hose to accommodate her training in the kishida with Oak.

Characteristics/mannerisms: Plays her fingers about her mouth in thought.  Feels her teeth through the skin.  Chews her lips.

Personality traits:  Single-minded, stubborn.  Loves to learn and find new experiences.  Enjoys the feeling of accomplishment, and the praise that accompanies it.  Physical, active, but backed by intelligence and long years of training in the Agrothe magick disciplines.  Restrained by that same training, naïve, unworldly. She is eager for initiation because she knows she is capable of more than what Master Aeldred lets her do.  Raised Faithful and obsessed by the state of her soul.  She takes liberties that she can justify, but feels terrible guilt afterward.  Otherwise plagued by same issues and insecurities as all young women: men/marriage/sex/children, wanting to find her own identity/way, break free of her training and conservative upbringing, defy destiny …

Background:  Raised by Devlin Singer (Brythoni), bard, who settled down when he met his beloved Selene (heritage unknown) who was in turn raised by the eleph of Hartsgrove when her family was killed by bandits, a seer.

Devlin is fair-skinned and brown-haired man of medium build and with dark blue eyes.  Selene has black hair and brown eyes.  She is petite and doll-like.  Fer bears little resemblance to either.

Ferathainn’s birth mother is actually Aline of Gryphonskeep (nee de Corvus).  She had an affair with Halthyon Morrhynd and fled her husband’s displeasure when he discovered she was pregnant.  She found her way to Hartsgrove about the time of Ferathainn’s birth but would not say anything of who she was or why she had come.  After Ferathainn was born, Aline ran away and returned to Gryphonskeep. She never spoke of the child’s fate.

Aline is Parimi and is the parent that Ferathainn received her colouring and appearance from.  She is a woman of commanding presence: the flaming red hair, the flashing green eyes.  She descends from the de Corvus line, from whom the first Kas’Hadden was chosen.  Talent for magick runs strong in her family.

Halthyon is eleph and aside from her talent, she has inherited nothing from him.  She looks almost entirely Tellurin.

At Ferathainn’s birth, the eleph could not see her destiny (Ritual of Shir’authe).  Leaf fell in love with Ferathainn at once, saw his astara (soul-lights) in her eyes.  This freaks Selene out.  Willow was disturbed by the infant’s undecipherable fate.  Aeldred was able to sense her potential and determined to watch her.

Early in her childhood (just over 3 yrs), Ferathainn was precocious in the extreme.  She spoke with the wind, animals, and plants.  It was apparent that this was not the imaginary play of other children but a genuine communion.  She seemed to understand things other children, even eleph children, could not grasp.  It was at this time that she was dedicated to Aeldred, an elderly Tellurin Agrothe mage.

Aeldred is Brythoni, but descended from the Saxon.  He is in his seventies but even he has forgotten exactly how old he is.  He is a little soft tending to the portly.  Wild white hair and beard that he rarely pays attention to.  He is unkempt in general in that endearing, bumbling professor kind of way.  He has dedicated his life to research.  He knows about the sourcerous past of the magi, but is reluctant to expose Ferathainn to the more radical teachings of the sourcerors.  As he trains her, he fears what she might be able to do, what she might become, and withholds this vital knowledge from her.  He does not tell her how extraordinary her talents are.

Later, (approx. 11 yrs) Ferathainn was betrothed to Leaf.  She comments on the ‘funny lights’ she sees in his eyes and he practically faints 🙂  Tellurin aren’t supposed to see the astara.

Her life is largely proscribed by her training until The Black King’s army devastates Hartsgrove.

She learned Devlin’s talent for music and loves to sing and dance.

One of her rebellions was to get Oak to teach her kishida.

Devlin dotes on her.

Selene is more of a friend/big sister than a mother.

Aeldred is more of a parent than either of them, and that’s saying something 🙂

Ferathainn has one younger half-sister, Aislinn, who is daughter of Devlin and Willow.  Devlin and Selene are still devoted to each other.  Selene had foreseen that Aislinn would be an important leader and bridge between Tellurin and Eleph communities and consented to the liaison. Also, Selene and Devlin were unable to have children of their own, which was why they were so happy when Fer was abandoned in Hartsgrove. Devlin still craved and child of his own blood.

Internal conflicts:  Fer’s need for revenge, fostered by Yllel, drives her to track down and confront Khaleal, who she sees as the author of her tragedy.  Her preoccupation with sin grows as the number and severity of her transgressions does.  Ferathainn has been protected and restricted by her training all her life.  She has to find her inner power and unlock her true abilities to defeat The Black King.

External conflicts:  The twisted god Yllel seeks to subvert Ferathainn to his cause, or failing that, to destroy her because he sees her as a powerful piece on his mother’s side of their cosmic game of strata (chess).

Khaleal, as soul-slave to Yllel must attempt to destroy Ferathainn even though he knows she is the key to freeing his people of Yllel’s tyranny.

Dairragh of Gryphonskeep hates Ferathainn because she is a mage.  As his world is shaken, that conflict transforms into what he thinks is love.  Then he learns that she is his half-sister and her father, his mortal enemy.

Eoghan falls in love with Ferathainn but serves Auraya, who proves to be a jealous mistress.

Halthyon seems to serve Yllel and The Black King, but wants to find the child he’s never known.  She is the only person he considers worthy to be at his side when he ascends to godhood.

Vedranya, the season of storms.

What I think Fer looks like

This is my first attempt at sketching her, and I’ll have to warn that it’s unfinished.  Hardly any shading or detail, no inking to define the lines, and no colour (I like Prismacolor pencils, and blending them with turpentine when I really go at it).  It’s a basic pencil sketch, so as I thought, it didn’t really come out in the scan very well, but you get the idea (and no, Margaret, those aren’t flaming turds in her hands – she’s levitating stones).

When I’d finished the drawing and had a look at it, I immediately thought of two actresses: Scarlet Johansen and Angelina Jolie.

Now I’m not saying that Fer has to look like this, only that this was the image that emerged when I tried to draw her.  And now you know why I didn’t pursue a career in art 😛

Some people might think this a strange way to start world-building, but my process (so far) starts with my characters.

Let me know what you think and if this is of any value to you.

One thought on “Character sketches part 1: Ferathainn Devlin

  1. Melanie, this really was helpful! I love the shared experience of putting a lot of background into characters! I don’t think it’s strange at all; heck, I put together almost full dossiers on my characters, ha-ha: I write them resumes, do interviews with them, keep their journals, send them on job interviews, and all sorts of things to “get into their heads.” It’s great to know I’m not the only “strange” one 🙂 And you’ve given me even more ideas on how to invade my character’s worlds before building the world around them! Thanks!


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