THE LADY OF LANARIA: Forming the Characters

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Coming up with the characters for The Lady of Lanaria was both one of the hardest and most interesting parts of writing the retelling -- especially for the male lead.  Once you've seen Eugene Fitzherbert in Tangled, there's no going back.

It was also an interesting endeavor because there are a lot of factors to consider: on one hand, you have a female lead, Evangeline (our Rapunzel / Lady of Shalott), who has never set foot outside and yearns for it...but as much as she'd love to go outside, she's been manipulated to be very wary of people.  On the other, you have a male lead, Gabriel (our prince/Eugene), who has grown up in a world full of despair and uncertainty.  He's not used to people who are as pure and innocent as Evangeline is, and likewise, Evangeline isn't used to someone who isn't manipulative and cruel.  You have two people who have suffered thanks to the world, but they've had totally different experiences.  Gabriel's tragic backstory includes becoming an orphan and a deep level of bitterness affiliated with the death of his family; Evangeline's tragic backstory is still unfolding.  She doesn't know who she is, except for a plain, unwanted, simpleton of a girl -- a burden, as her mother puts it.  And there's where the character arc lies: Gabriel must move forward from his past, and Evangeline must realize who she is in God's eyes, not in her mother's.  

Gabriel's this guy that tries to act all tough, but he's...not, really.  In his youth, he read fairytales to his sisters at night and he helped his childhood friend, Horace (who is an absolute joy, I love him so much), and he's never been much of one for following the rules.  As a guardsman, he is frustrated by the perpetual inability to find the witch who cursed the kingdom of Lanaria, and as such, he sometimes rails on about whether the kingdom is really cursed at all -- since the witch is so elusive, it's only a natural question to have, of course.  If you're going by the 'precious cinnamon roll' scale, he looks like he could kill you, but is actually a cinnamon roll.  Deep down inside. 
Just don't let him know I said that. 

Meanwhile, Evangeline is the type of girl who longs to explore, but allows her anxieties and the threats made by her mother hold her back.  She never questions her place in life until Gabriel enters onto the scene, and even then, she's heavily influenced by the negative thoughts her mother has instilled upon her from an early age.  She's torn between remaining loyal to her mother and fleeing for a better life.  She talks to animals (who don't talk back to her - I'm not that Disney), tends to her plants, and plays violin.  The violin is a callback to "The Lady of Shalott," in which villagers hear the Lady's singing and wonder if she's a ghost.  The violin becomes not only a hobby, but something that Evangeline tries to use to leave the tower behind at one point. 

Even throughout the characters and their journeys, I tried to instill the theme of "light versus dark" -- Evangeline has to continually choose which she will defend, which side she will pick in the end; and her knowledge is fueled by Gabriel, who has to prove that the "world" (er...tower) she was raised in is permeated by darkness.  And proving that to Evangeline is ultimately what shows him a few things about his own attitudes in life, a different "light vs. dark" struggle.  

There are other characters throughout the novel, of course; secondary characters that maybe even deserve their own retelling (I'm still looking at you, Horace), but that's all I have to reveal about Gabriel and Evangeline for now.  And as for the villain...well, I'll see you next week.