Blow me down, I’m all caught up! Don’t get used to it. I’m moving house next week (eek!).
Part of the 52 Week Writing Challenge. Click here to view all questions.
11. Your favourite minor character
I spoke briefly about my true favourite minor character — Ada Lillith — in week 5, question 4 (click here). Today however, so as not to repeat myself, I’m going to talk to you about Roger Bellamy instead.
Bellamy is a Judicial Officer working for the Town Magistrate, Renwick Jarvis. Described as having a “pinched, pockmarked face” with “beady-black eyes” and a “mirthless smile”, he can often be found sneering and smirking his way through some of The Mayor‘s legal scenes, making life thoroughly unpleasant and unnecessarily difficult for everyone else:
“Really, Mr Bellamy,” [Jaspher] said, placing the armadillo down in what he deemed a relatively safe spot; a bureau the officer had already searched. “I’m sure the Magistrate requires you to be thorough, but is it really necessary for you to ransack my office?”
“What’s going on?”
Jaspher turned to find Melora stood in the doorway, pale as a sheet, eyes wide as she absorbed the chaos in front of her.
“Nothing to concern yourself with, young lady.” Bellamy rattled the drawers of Jaspher’s desk, finding them locked. “You got another key for this, Master Carson? None of the ones I have here seem to fit.”
“This young lady is Miss Melora Winship to you, Sir,” said Jaspher feeling his face grow hot. “Mr Winship’s daughter. You should treat her with more respect.”
“I don’t care if she’s the bleeding Duchess of Waite,” said Bellamy, rolling his eyes. “Did you not hear what I just said? Open this drawer, Master Carson, or I’ll be forced to break it open.”
Copyright © S.E. Berrow 2018
Bellamy was most likely drawn to law enforcement because of the sense of power it gives him. He enjoys his ability to inflict state-sanctioned misery on others, and because he’s quite young — I personally imagine him to be in his late teens — he’s a bit self-conscious about his ability to command authority. He gets a kick out of domineering and humiliating others who are much older/more experienced than him.
Let’s be honest; we’ve all met and/or worked with someone like Bellamy in our life. He’s not my favourite minor character because of who he is as a person, but because he’s enormous fun to write with. He’s one of those characters I made up on the spot but found myself constantly referring back to to serve a particular purpose (law enforcement). He also tends to elicit extreme, outraged responses from my Beta readers. As a writer who simply loves creating misery amongst her readership, I absolutely lap this up:
- “UGH, Bellamy.” – Oran Bailey, said 3 times over the course of a single feedback email.
- “Hit him, John. HIT HIM.” – also Oran…
- “”When [Bellamy] smiled at him with narrowed eyes, Jaspher felt his fists unwittingly clench.” Same, Jas. Same.” – Oran really hates Bellamy, OK?
- “Officious twerp.” – Kim Goodacre.
- “Arsehole.” – Cassandra Beckley.
Thus, Bellamy is my favourite minor character… after the wonderful Miss Lillith of course.
12. Language: Why a character speaks the way they do / unique slang
As far as creating fantasy languages are concerned, I’m about as far from J.R.R. Tolkein as you could possibly imagine. I’d much prefer to write something vague like, “the merchants began arguing in furious Dontaran” as opposed to spelling out actual words, because then I sound less like a linguistically-challenged fool.
I may, where appropriate, include a smattering of the Kintaronese language in the text as my characters travel further up the map, encountering more and more people from that area. Kintaronese typically consists of hard ‘cuh’ sounds combined with soft ‘ma’ and ‘shh’ sounds e.g. “hakirsh” means “hello” (which shortens to “hash” for ‘hi’), “pir” means “bread” (specifically a loaf), “maru” means “ship”… and so on and so forth.
I have yet to even think about what the language of Dontaro sounds like, so I guess I’ll get back to you on that one.
As for why a particular character speaks the way they do…
Technically speaking, although I write in English (I’m from South-East London), my characters are actually speaking a language called Swordish, native to the Kingdom of Sword. I’m not a fan of writing out accents (think Joseph in Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights; I think this can come across as offensive as it implies the character isn’t speaking ‘normally’), but I do actively try and put inflections on the way characters speak or choose certain words in order to convey an idea of how they sound.
Mayor Roper and Melora’s father Craven — in my head — both have an extremely ‘plummy’ accents. This is because they hail from the educated upper classes; the Swordish equivalent of RP English. I refrain from using contractions when writing with these two and occasionally use old-fashioned exclamations if I want to lay it on thick such as “jolly good”, “I say”, “splendid” etc. It’s worth noting William Kale also speaks with this accent, though he will occasionally slip…
The Carsons meanwhile are very much lower-middle class, so their accents are closer to the Swordish equivalent of Estuary English. As mentioned last week, John and Jaspher’s father Jeremiah was originally a sailor who married into a wealthy family, so he had to change the way he spoke in order to be taken more seriously (get a drink inside him and his accent immediately starts to broaden).
John is probably my most interesting character in terms of language and speech patterns. Raised a gentlemen, but working as a sailor, his accent is very much on the lower-end of the ‘Estuary’ spectrum. It’s not quite Cockney (that’s the reserve of working-class characters like Liz e.g. “That was a nice thing what you did, even if it don’t change nothing”) but close enough that he’s sometimes looked down on for the way he speaks. He’s instantly marked out as ‘lesser’ by New Hardway’s elite (the clientele of his father’s shipbuilding firm), whilst simultaneously being mocked for being too ‘posh’ by his peers. As such, he doesn’t really fit in anywhere; it’s something he’s painfully aware of.
I probably work the hardest on John’s speech patterns because they’re the most fun to play with, making heavy use of contractions and 18th century thieves cant. He’ll slide instantly from being devastatingly articulate (“It’s a wonder you’re able to sit so straight when I’ve yet to see any evidence you possess a spine”) to colourful, brazen and broad by the end of the scene (“Vapouring, swaggering spineless fucking bastard!”).
John’s accent rubs off on Melora too. She’s much, much freer with her speech when she’s hanging around John than she is with her father or Jaspher.