author C.C.Cole's blog

Sunday, February 16, 2014

On the Lives of Characters

Captain Vane "Black Sails"

Many say well-written fiction arises from non-fiction, especially well-researched historical topics.  Though I write Dark Fantasy, I agree a little research goes a long way in the definition of weapons, clothing, dialect, and architectural design at the time, just to name a few descriptive points.

The first, brief example I’ll use is the non-fiction book of the Countess of Carnarvon, the Lady Almina who is Cora in “Downton Abbey.”  The real life character, an heir to a Rothschild fortune, lived a truly outstanding life of luxury and travel, with tragedy of the loss of her husband after the opening of the tomb of King Tutankhamen.

The main example for this article is the lives of pirates.  When I started watching the Starz series “Black Sails” in a tweet I wondered when Captain Vane would take a shower.  (Yes, actor Zach McGowan clearly works out).  As I thought past my snarky tweet, well, they do look pretty rough and it’s not like that had ceramic tile bathrooms back then.  Pirates spent a lot of time aboard ships, so hygiene wasn’t so easy to come by.  

As I continue to explore the world of pirates, from series to books to classics, a topic mostly unknown to me, I picked up the book “Pirates of Savannah” by Tarrin P.  Lupo.  He opens the story with life in 1700s London; a miserable debtor’s prison, then life aboard a pirate ship sparing no details of the goings-on beneath the deck or the punishments on deck. The freedom on the seas was a hard life of filth, starvation, disease, while the challenge of being Captain was questioned every moment, so the role required great physical and psychological strength, regardless of the surroundings. 

As he takes the reader ashore, life gets only a little easier. The southeast coastal region of the frontier North America was still wild with dangers from insect carrying disease, more starvation, and competition with land dwellers for life in a dangerous world where truly only the strong survive and the very few prosper. Lupo spares little details about people going years without a bath, and even more rare to have a warm bath with soap.  Food was never plentiful and every friendship had a degree of condition in such a limited world where every man and woman made decisions every day to try to live another day.

As I finish “Pirates of Savannah” the book continues to take aboard more adventures, which I’m looking forward to.  Writers teach we readers and the lives of the characters remain with us with every great story.

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