Forging a character: King Venelaos

Today, I return to share some background about developing a character. King Venelaos is one of the oldest characters in my work-in-progress fantasy. After all, what kind of fantasy world does not have someone to rule it? And, as it is with the oldest characters, he had a lot of time to grow.

Early concepts

In the very early concept, he was simply “the king” but that should not come as a surprise – it took years before I gave even the most prominent characters a name (partially caused by the fact I never believed I’d actually get to write this story). In the earliest concepts, he was a minor character, merely the Princess’ father (related posts: developing the Princess / Princess’ character info).

As that changed, the King became more prominent, especially when I established one of the key parts of the story: the friendship between Darkwood and Crystelan families. That, in turn, expanded his backstory: there had to be a reason why a noble and a warrior became friends – and why that friendship persisted through generations.

Drafting stage

Eventually, more background was to be made. More often than not, a sovereign would try to assure that he has a successor. Venelaos has only one child: Princess Nadyenne. There had to be a reason for this as well – which became another point of backstory.

What did not change since the very start is the fact Venelaos was to be the “good, righteous ruler” archetype. For a while, there was not much about why he (and his predecessors) never strayed from that path but I eventually started making hints when writing the first draft of the to-be books two and three where I delve more into the backstory of the elven nobility.

Being the ruler of the dominant race means that Venelaos maintains contacts with several characters, among them the Darkwood family. Expanding backstory of those usually had at least some impact on Venelaos as well.

Naming the King

Unfortunately, I can’t honestly remember what kind of tought led me to his first name. Most likely, I took the word ‘venerable’ as a base and played with it a bit. I know that his family name (Crystelan) comes from the word ‘crystal’ and a bit of fiddling with it. I wanted something that would sound noble and hint at the wealth most nobles have.

Outside influences

As I mentioned above, the King is connected to many other characters, whether by friendship, family, or the chain of power – and developing all those characters had an impact on the King. Thus, much of the development was made through the connection between the King and Kraasian Darkwood – being close friends, they share the opinion on several characters.

Eventually, one outside influence came where I expected it the least: his wife, Queen Illeana. The queen was initially to be a minor character. Then, I delved into the backstory of the nobility and she became an important link between them – and shaped how the King approaches his fellow nobles in the second and third book when they get more screen time. This eventually all leads to a moment in the third book where I hope to show more about his motivations and goals – some of which I’d probably never realized this well if not for the Queen’s influence. There was some joy in those moments – the realization that the characters in my story have an actual working ties between them (I hope so, at least).

Most screen time in the first book – and a lot in the sequels – shows the King either among friends (Kraasian Darkwood most of the time) and advisors (specifically, the War Council). The War Council is not always unite in their opinion and both Kraasian and the King have some not-so-good opinions about some of the members. Those moments force Venelaos to balance the influence of his friendship and the need to keep his own grudges from making potentially not-so-wise decisions. This increases in the sequels when the conflict between Redshard and Crystelan noble families becomes one of the subplots and the royal family shows more about their loyalties – and the history behind them.

To wrap it up: when I started writing, I never hoped I’d manage to create any decent backstory at all, let alone all I eventually did with the nobility. When I get to it, though mostly unrelated random ideas, something changed: I no longer dreaded creating the backstories, I began to enjoy it.

So, Long live the King!

That’s all for today. I’ll welcome your comments, as usual. If you are a writer, was there a character that broke some kind of fear for you? (It does not need to be necessarily the fear of backstories)

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