Thursday, February 23, 2012

13 Characterization Tips from a Deleted Scene

Senth's Story  
Here's a scene that was deleted from At the Mercy of Her Pleasure. In it, half brothers Senth and Khyff Antonello stop by to visit a female character who was later cut from the book. I plan to bring her back one day in the future. For now, the scene will serve as a "how to" for characterization. I'll also show why it was cut. One more thing. When this scene was written, I hadn't decided on a name for the "Master" the boys refer to. I was still developing his character, but I'd planned him to be a Dickens-type Fagin who taught young boys to steal. He later became the power-to-be-reckoned with Luc Saint-Cyr, the Harbinger.

Senth Antonello
I've added letters to the lines, and I'll mention the characterization by referring to the letter of the line. Ready? Here goes...

A.                 At the home of Master's first protégé, Senth gave the familial knock, and the door swung open without light escaping. Last in, Khyff barred it.
B.                 "What brings you?" Aida asked, hugging Senth.
C.                Khyff kept his distance, arms folded.
D.                "We were in the neighborhood." He kissed the woman he loved like a sister. "And, uh" -- He glanced at Khyff and then shrugged -- "we're hungry."
E.                 "You timed it well." Aida ruffled his hair. "I just pulled bread out of the oven."
F.                 In her tiny kitchen, she set fragrant yeast bread on the table. "Get the butter and honey, Senth. Khyff, you pour us milk." She grabbed a long knife and three smaller ones for buttering, and set out plates. "Okay, let's eat up. I knew I felt like baking for a reason." She cut open the rounded loaf, and as steam rose from it, Senth licked his lips.
G.                "Now," she said, serving them, "where are you headed next?"
H.                 "Master wants me to meet him at The Ghost."
I.                     "The Ghost?" Aida put down the butter knife, and stared at him. "Senth, are you sure Master wants you there?"
J.                  "Told you." Khyff smirked.
K.                 The bread halfway to his mouth, Senth paused to scorch them both with a look. "What is it with you two? Master said to get Khyff and come back with him. He said he had a job for me, and Khyff's my shield." He gestured with the bread. "What's so bad about the Ghost?"
L.                  "You shouldn't be in places like that. I have half a mind to give Master a talking to."
M.                Khyff turned his head.
N.                 "You think I wouldn't?" she asked him.
O.                "He knows you would," Senth replied. "And only you. He'd eat anyone else alive."
P.                 She snorted. "Wait right here."
Q.                Khyff sent Senth a questioning glance. Senth just shrugged.
R.                 Aida returned with a shirt. "I got a load of these, and I'm fencing the rest tomorrow. Your timing really is good, I'll give you that. Here." She tossed the shirt to Khyff.
S.                 He looked down at himself. "What's wrong with the shirt I have?"
T.                  "It's leather. You can't wear that to the Ghost. It's a Kin club."
U.                 "All the Kin wear leather," he countered.
V.                 "Yes, and you're human."
W.               Khyff folded his brawny arms. "I can take care of myself."
X.                 "Besides, the last three times you were here you wore that shirt."
Y.                  "So? I like it."
Z.                  One foot tapped. "You want Master to smell that perfume?"
AA.           Khyff's nostrils flared. He looked away, frowning, but the shirt came off.
BB.           Aida gestured. "Better seal that shirt up all the way."
CC.          "Yeah," Senth agreed. "You want women gawking at your chest?"
DD.          Khyff opened his mouth to speak, but Aida shot him a look.
EE.           He sealed it.
FF.            "Thanks, Aida," Senth said, kissing her cheek. "We'd better scat. Master's waiting. We'll come for Khyff's shirt in the morning."
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Describing the Characterization Used

1.                  (A) This "family" has a special knock to announce their arrival. The door opens without revealing light. The last in bars the door. These thieves are careful and they know the routine.
2.                  (C) Khyff doesn't allow himself to be hugged, and folds his arms -- a defensive posture.
3.                  (D) Senth shoots a glance toward Khyff before he admits they are hungry. Whether he's gaining approval or forgiveness isn't certain.
4.                  (F) They do not have riches. Her kitchen is tiny, and she is serving them only bread with butter and honey, and milk to drink. Each of them accepts direction from her without quibbling, and neither complains about the sparse fare.
5.                  (I) Aida questions the choice of the Ghost. We don't know anything about the location yet, except from the reaction of Aida and Khyff, but we know it's an unsavory place.
6.                  (K) Senth doesn't take this lying down. He's been asked to do something and he's intent on proving he is capable of carrying it out. The others imply he is innocent or young, or both.
7.                  (L) Aida suggests giving the Master a talking to, and Khyff reacts by looking away. When she questions him, Senth speaks for him.
8.                  (P) When she leaves the room, the boys have no idea why, but they wait for her.
9.                  (R) She gives Khyff a shirt and he wants to know what's wrong with the one he has (typical young person)
10.             Khyff argues with Aida, but she brings up valid points, the last being that he smells like perfume, and we get the idea that the Master will not approve.
11.             He then argues about sealing up or buttoning the shirt.
12.             Aida shoots him a look that silences him. There are several unspoken cues in this scene, many directed toward Khyff.
13.             Senth shows manners, thanking her, and not wanting to keep the master waiting. Where did he learn these? We find out later in the book.

This is not a bad scene. It shows the routine of a family of thieves and gives insight into each of the characters. So why cut it? For one, I later decided that rather than having Khyff and Senth live together under the same roof, they would belong to different masters, and had been separated by birth. They had recently found each other. Aida had no other parts in the story, so I cut her completely. And because Khyff was not a thief in the new version, but a prostitute, it wouldn't have mattered to him that his shirt smelled like perfume. Cutting it provided a stronger story overall.
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Kayelle Allen is an award-winning, multi-published author. Her heroes and heroines include badass immortals, warriors who purr, and agents who find...well, the unfindable. And sometimes (shh!) make them disappear again. She is known for unstoppable heroes, uncompromising love, and unforgettable passion. You can find her on the web in these places:
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