Sunday, August 11, 2019

Who's Your Favorite? (by Maryanne Fantalis)

Who's my favorite character I've written, you want to know?

Might as well ask which of my children is my favorite.

(And that's funny, because they'd each tell you they think the other one is the favorite, so I think I'm doing my job right...?)

Seriously, though, it is a funny question, and a hard one, especially because I didn't invent these characters that I'm writing. Shakespeare did. But they're mine now and I love them. They spoke to me in their voices and allowed me to bring them to life on the page in a new way.

I always pictured Kate like actress
Isla Fisher
Kate, of The Taming of the Shrew, has the blessing of being my very first published heroine. She is also fiery, fierce, and unapologetic, all things I have never been. In fact, I had a really hard time writing her, because in scenes where the conflict needed to escalate, my instinct was always to dial it down. She'd start a confrontation and another character -- usually Will, my hero -- would respond in a perfectly reasonable way. I'd be typing away, thinking, "Why, yes, Will, you're absolutely right," and the conflict would be resolved. Then I'd shake my head, shriek (quietly), and say, "No no no, she has to fight back!" I think it's appropriate that Kate, the supposed shrew, was really hard to write at times. I adore her for her faults and for how she struggled to overcome them.


I mean, Beatrice and Benedick,
am I right?
My soon-to-be-published second novel, Loving Beatrice, is based on Much Ado About Nothing, which is in my top five of Shakespeare's plays. Beatrice is smart and sassy, and she takes no crap from anyone. Unlike Kate, Beatrice grew up in a loving family that enjoyed and encouraged her wit, so for her, there are no real consequences of speaking her mind. In fact, it's Beatrice's wit and openness that make her a perfect match for Benedick, and it's their clever word-play that has made Much Ado an audience favorite for 400 years. Beatrice is the woman I wish I was. She perfectly articulates her thoughts and is always ready with the right words for any situation. How can you not love Beatrice?

Imogen Stubbs as Viola,
dressed as Cesario.
I love it when they give her a mustache

The third in my Shakespeare's Women Speak series will be based on Twelfth Night, one of Shakespeare's dressing-up-and-mistaken-identity plays. Viola is the wise, articulate, and heart-on-her-sleeve core of the play. I ache to watch her love for Duke Orsino -- who thinks she's a boy -- which goes unrequited until the very last scene of the play. But she never gives up, never wavers or doubts, no matter the chaos swirling around her. She embodies devotion and patience and self-sacrifice.

Um, yeah. As I write it, I'm seeing it. I identify hard with Viola.





A still from a Royal
Shakespeare Company production.
Does it make you uncomfortable?
It should.
Finally, I've got a full draft manuscript of Measure For Measure waiting to be cleaned up and published. I keep thinking it's too much drama and pain, not enough humor, to be the next marketable novel, and so it will probably be published fifth or sixth, should I get the great fortune to publish so many in this series. If you don't know the play, it is painfully relevant to the current #metoo conversation, involving as it does a novice nun propositioned by a lecherous lord who -- naturally -- blames her for his attraction to her. In fact, a dramaturg at the American Shakespeare Center recently blogged about attending a performance of the play that integrated the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh and pointed out that the audience could not easily tell the difference between Shakespeare's original text and the interpolated lines. I admire Isabella for her deep belief -- in God, in order, in justice, in family, in herself -- and, like all Shakespeare's heroines, for her skill with words. Honestly, she's a better lawyer on her feet than I ever was.
So. Who's my favorite character?

I can't possibly answer that.

6 comments:

  1. I'm very much looking forward to your second book. I loved the first one.

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  2. Books are very much like kids, aren't they? When I was writing my debut novel, my characters were very much on my mind. I'd find myself wandering through a store saying things like "Oh, Julie would love that bag!" My kids would say, "Mom. Julie's not real." LOL

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  3. That's absolutely fascinating about the Kavanaugh / Ford testimony!

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  4. Oh, it is. If you haven't seen that play, try to find a local performance or a copy of the BBC/PBS production from the 80s. It's simply made but well acted, and I swear, I nearly fell off the couch. I literally had to pause the DVD when Antonio starts in with his whole, "Is the tempter or the tempted to blame?" I thought, "Oh my god, 400 years and nothing has changed! He's blaming THE NUN for his lust."

    Well, I wasn't thinking so much as yelling at the TV, but it's sounds more rational to say I was thinking.

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