Friday, January 29, 2010

Characters - Where do they come from?

I had a crises with my story project the other day. :-P I have so many versions that reach about 12,000 words and then I turn on them and want to tare them apart. I think I've finally diagnosed some of the problems and we are working on a treatment.

My male characters clear to me, my female boring!

So, I've been doing some serious thinking. I'm making two poster boards with character sketches, pictures, and anecdotes all around the edges and the plot timeline down the middle. I'm using post-it-notes for scenes and events so I can move them around as necessary.

One of the things I noticed after this critical rethinking and remaking was similarities or oddities in my characters.
First, all my cool guys are fall and thin and fiercely loyal. They either have blonde hair or black hair and are the quite thinking types. Yes, they all have differences, but I had to shake them up a bit.

This story has been in progress for a very long time (at least five years now).
Why are my guys this way?
It's not just this story either. All my heroes are pretty much like this.

There just sort of like....Sherlock Holmes meets Erich Hartmann....

I believe that especially at a certain age, we are very heavily influenced by what we read. I guess Sherlock Holmes and The Blond Knight of Germany really hit me during this time. :-)

My sister and I got out Erich Harmann's biography last night and I was pretty amazed flipping through it how much I'd obviously been influenced.

Other assorted influential characters since the beginning of my scribbling (which pretty much started way before I could spell) include: Sir Percy Blakney, Stonewall Jackson, George Washington, the hares in Redwall, and my brothers. :-)

How weird is it all?

Thanks for reading,
Miss Pickwickian

P.S. For those of you who may not love Germans in general or World War 2 aces in particular and have been to lazy to look up Erich Hartmann on Wikipedia, he was a pretty awesome German Ace.

(And it was okay because he shot down Russians, not Americans, and he was indoctrinated so he didn't know what he was doing. :-) After the war he traveled through England and America and was very sweet to everyone.)

He is the highest ranking ace ever in aerial warfare with 1,404 combat missions and 352 personal victories!
After the war he spent 10 1/2 years in a Russian prison camp, but was eventually sent home. Here's a short hunk of what Wikipedia had to say about him along with a youtube video at the end... If you couldn't tell, I do recommend reading The Blond Knight of Germany. :-)


After his capture, the U.S. Army handed Hartmann, his pilots, and ground crew over to the Soviet Union on 24 May 1945, where he was imprisoned in accordance with the Yalta Agreements, which stated that airmen and soldiers fighting Soviet forces had to surrender directly to them. Hartmann and his unit were led by the Americans to a large open-air compound to await the transfer. The number of prisoners grew to 50,000. Living conditions deteriorated, and some American guards turned "a blind eye" to escapes. In some cases, they assisted by providing food and maps.[41]

After being handed over to the Soviets, the German group was split up into groups according to gender. Hartmann witnessed widespread rape and murder of civilians. When the outnumbered Americans tried to intervene, the Soviet soldiers charged towards them, firing into the air and threatening to kill them. Order was later restored, and some of the guilty soldiers were hanged "on the spot" by a Soviet commander.[40]

Initially, the Russians tried to convince Erich to cooperate with them. He was asked to spy on fellow officers and become a stukatch, or "stool pigeon". He refused and was given 10 days' solitary confinement in a four-by-nine-by-six-foot chamber. He slept on a concrete floor and was given only bread and water. On another occasion, the Soviets threatened to kidnap and murder his wife (the death of his son was kept from Hartmann). During similar interrogations about his knowledge of the Me 262, Hartmann was struck by a Soviet officer using a cane, prompting Hartmann to slam his chair down on the head of the Russian, knocking him out. Expecting to be shot, Erich was transferred back to the small bunker.[42]

Hartmann, not ashamed of his war service, opted to go on hunger strike and starve rather than fold to "Soviet will", as he called it.[43] The Russians allowed the hunger strike to go on for four days before force-feeding him. More subtle efforts by the Soviet authorities to convert Hartmann to communism also failed. He was offered a post in the Luftstreitkräfte der Nationalen Volksarmee (East German Air Force), which he refused:

If, after I am home in the West, you make me a normal contract offer, a business deal such as people sign every day all over the world, and I like your offer, then I will come back and work with you in accordance with the contract. But if you try to put me to work under coercion of any kind, then I will resist to my dying gasp.[42]

[edit]War-crimes charges

Hartmann had gone too far with his resistance. He was falsely charged with war crimes, specifically the deliberate shooting of 780 Soviet civilians in the village of Briansk, attacking a "bread factory" on 23 May 1943, and destroying 345 "expensive" Soviet aircraft.[44] He refused to confess to these charges and conducted his own defence, which was a waste of time, according to the judge.[44] Sentenced to 25 years of hard labour, Hartmann refused to work. He was eventually put into solitary confinement, which enraged his fellow prisoners. They began a revolt, overpowered the guards, and freed him. Hartmann made a complaint to the Kommandant's office, asking for a representative from Moscow and an international inspection, as well as a tribunal, to acquit him of his unlawful conviction. This was refused, and he was transferred to a camp inNovocherkassk, where he would spend five more months in solitary confinement. Eventually, Hartmann was granted a tribunal, but it upheld his original sentence. He was subsequently sent to another camp, this time at Diaterka in the Ural Mountains.[45]

During his long imprisonment, Hartmann's son, Erich-Peter, was born in 1945 and died as a three-year-old in 1948, without his father ever having seen him. (Hartmann later had a daughter, Ursula Isabel, born on 23 February 1957).[46]

In 1955, Hartmann's mother wrote to the new West German Chancellor, Konrad Adenauer, to whom she appealed to secure his freedom. A trade agreement between West Germany and the Soviet Union was reached, and Hartmann was released along with 16,000 German military personnel. After spending ten and a half years in Soviet POW camps, he was among the last batch of prisoners to be turned over. Returning toWest Germany, he was reunited with his wife Ursula, to whom he had written every day of the war.[47]

In January 1997, the Russian government, as a legal successor to the Soviet Union, exonerated Hartmann by admitting that his conviction for war crimes was unlawful.[2]

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