Wednesday, January 16, 2013

C- Cecily

Killsfeather Court was just there—a block away—and in that court she knew she would find the Macefields. Bother the Macefields and every other family that required a nanny. Couldn’t she have been banished to the business of…cookery, perhaps? But no, it had to be nannying, and the family had to be this one. One would think that the heroic deed she had performed would be rewarded with some semblance of attention to her wishes. But no. Her term on earth had begun with a firework of ill-premonitions; service to the Macefields the worst of it all.
-The Scarlet-Gypsy Song

Cecily Woodruff {Lady Cecelia} is an interesting character to write for the bald reason that--quite simply put--she's out of place. The duration of The Scarlet-Gypsy Song, Cecily is out of her proper realm. This world is entirely new and different and she made the choice to come anyway. Though I would never peg her as the Christ-like figure in Gypsy Song, Cecily definitely mirrors Him in this way:
She leaves her proper home--the child of a King--and descends into another to save her people. Unlike Jesus, however, her sacrifice is not enough to turn away the dogged Fitz-Hughes. Her sacrifice, in fact, only angers him and spurs the clashing sides onward, culminating in pillage and rapine across the lands.

As she is a stranger to this world, I had the opportunity to write her character full of odd quirks. Cecily's life as the princess of Scarlettania has been a life of gentle pursuits, quiet pleasures, and lush surroundings. As she admits, there were no lessons for the royal daughter to prepare her for the life she would lead as a nanny in hopelessly prosaic London. Accustomed to being a person of consequence, Cecily's character borders on pretension, snobbishness, and narcissism--all perfectly forgivable if you think of where she came from and where she is now.

This is a subtlety we often overlook as writers.

Where has your character come from?

What influences of culture, position, and family have made her what she is?

Yes, Cecily is a kind young lady, and a sweet one. Her heart is in the right place, and she loves her people. After all, didn't she bring all this on herself voluntarily? But if I wrote Cecily as the classic, perfect princess, her character would not be half as believable. A girl whom for sixteen or seventeen years has been catered to, looked up too, and lauded would not immediately transform from that position to a humble nanny of the Macefields. Especially in the first several chapters, the incongruities of London and Scarlettania are painful at best, and I like it that way.

You wouldn't move to Helsinki and promptly feel at ease among the culture, language, and people. (Unless you already live in Helsinki, and which case I tip my proverbial cap to you.) There would be a transitory period in which the topmost clashings of culture would be all that was apparent to the general eye. So it is with Cecily Woodruff--this beautiful and misplaced princess of Scarlettania.

Of course she adjusts over the duration of The Scarlet-Gypsy Song, and one of my favorite parts involves Cecily and that wretched Mrs. Macefield teaming up to accomplish something that will once again rescue Scarlettania.

Oh yes. She's a very good girl in her own right.

She gathered her skirts and her hair into her arms and trundled down the last three stairs and across the black-and-white tile floor. At the door to Mr. Macefield’s study she closed her eyes and rested her forehead on the wood paneling. What a predicament for any self-respecting woman—much less a princess—to find herself in. The cheek of these earth-folk. The children probably did it out of sheer malice—something about her not being as good as Nannykins—whoever she was.
-The Scarlet-Gypsy Song

1 comment:

Jack said...

Good point. Sometimes while reading we get annoyed with the characters because when they go through drastic changes they don't handle it well. But that is human. not like we'd do any better if it happened to us. To handle it calmly and adjust quickly makes them less believable.