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Character study: Braeden January 11, 2012

Posted by shadowconflict in Art, Characters, Concepts, Information.
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The very first picture I drew of Harmony and Braeden. Lyrics are from a Madonna song aptly named 'Forbidden Love'

Origins

Braeden’s character began life as the dark, misunderstood but well-intentioned young man seeking to be with his lady love.  I fully admit to pigeonholing him into the Romeo archetype.  The very first scene I ever wrote him in featured his sneaking into Harmony’s room after dark.  A full on cliche, I know, but even tired ones work if it’s necessary to the story.

Pencil drawing of the young lovers, circa 2006.

Braeden’s name does not derive from any pre-existing character.  I found his via an online baby names site.  Its meaning is a bit scattered- at least three different ones have popped up in recent searches- but I am fairly certain the website I went to back then described Braeden as ‘from the dark valley.’  A perfect name for a character associated with the Shadow element.

He also has three origin stories.  The very first got no farther than his being a Shadow tamer in love with a Light tamer, while the second had him established as Lord of Shadow in his father’s stead.  He is seeking a way to help his people reclaim their status- a noble endeavor abruptly halted once he met Harmony.  She became his driving need.  Old outlines hinted he wouldn’t have abandoned his people for a woman, but those very early writings give every indication he would.  As I said, he was a Romeo.  I doubt Romeo thought, “If I marry Juliet, all disputes between our families will be forgiven!”

The only thing Romeo is thinking of is how quickly he can get Juliet out of her dress.

The third origin, as told in the now-defunct story, Shadowborn, spoke of the orphaned Braeden growing up on a farm with his adopted parents, Jonathan and Claire.  He had no knowledge of who he was or what he could do with the shadows; his only clue had been an uncanny knack for seeing in the dark.  The overall story had a very Harry Potter feel to it, for the bulk of events dealt with Braeden’s training to become a knight and how he befriended some key characters, including Harmony.  While I did not mind this version, it lacked the severity of the world’s view on shadow people.  In fact, I couldn’t even say it was about being an elemental tamer, either.  Still, it wasn’t a total waste of my time.  Elements of both origins exist in present day Braeden’s history.

Old Braeden (2006-2008) vs new (2009-present) Funny, I never noticed how much older he looked in the early days. Also, I can never seem to draw him facing forward for some reason.

Design

Braeden’s look derived from my wanting to demonstrate contrasts between him and Harmony.  He had brown eyes and long, shoulder length black hair that “gleamed like a raven’s wing”.  (I wish I was making this up, I really do.) His attire was silk and oiled black leather, his complexion very fair.  Back then, the shadow people’s sensitivity to daylight was on par with a vampire’s.  His colors were black, brown and amber, indicative of his element and living, quite nicely in fact, underground.

Body wise, Braeden was lean and firmly muscled.  I pegged him at 5’8-5’9 to Harmony’s 5’5.  He was very quick on his feet; he had to be, for his life forced him to develop skills better suited for thieves.  Nice living indeed.  As the years went by, and his personality shifted from brooding and angsting, I gave him a haircut, changed his eyes from brown to gold, and has a more wiry build- not scrawny, but not rippling either.  His speed also gave way for stealth.

Personality

Like his beginnings, Braeden’s personality experienced a few changes before he revealed himself to me.  Early Braeden was basically a Romeo clone, prone to heartfelt declarations of love and passionate vows that usually consisted of, “No, don’t talk like that! We’ll be together no matter what!” I admit, reading over those early drafts gave me cavities, and this is coming from someone who adores overly sappy stuff.

Lord of Shadow Braeden was idealistic, compulsive, passionate and stubborn.  He was willing to put it all on the line if it meant happiness with Harmony and peace between the elements.  Shadowborn Braeden was a bit more naive, for his character was three years younger than the other incarnations.  He loved his family, respected the elements, and had a lot of admiration for the knights who trained him.  A Boy Scout, for all intents and purposes.  He literally fell for Harmony upon their first meeting, as detailed here:

He lay facedown, momentarily stunned from what had happened. Hooves echoed somewhere nearby, eventually coming to a stop. There was a snort, the jingle of a bridle, and light footsteps. When Braeden felt a hand gently touch his shoulder he rolled onto his back and slowly opened his eyes.

And his breath seemed to whoosh out of his lungs, as if driven away by an invisible fist.

For staring down at him, her pale face framed by tumbling, golden blonde hair and concern shining in sky blue eyes, was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. She laid her hand upon his brow, her touch sending a pleasant jolt coursing through his body. He could only gawk at her, fearing his attempt at speech would result in unintelligible mutterings.

As nice and adorable as that was, this version of Braeden had no spark.  Like early Harmony, he could not be expected to carry The Shadow Conflict, or make the reader empathize with his plight.

For current Braeden, I took the best of all origins and, aided by his development in The Shadow Conflict, I was able to reveal him as he truly was.  He’s caring, sensitive, protective, quick witted, rebellious, brave and passionate.  He’s also uncertain, conflicted and prone to secrecy.  This is a Braeden shaped by his circumstances, for in turn it strengthens who he becomes.  It is very befitting a character who finds himself thrust, quite literally, into the middle of events he has no control over.

Powers/Abilities

Conceptual images of Harmony and Braeden's avatars, 2005-2006

Early depictions of Braeden’s powers vary.  The most common ability he has involves using his shadow to hide himself.  If there’s a dark corner in a room he blends in so well he appears invisible.  Another ability is swift traveling in shadow form.  This particular talent was inspired by the character Benge’s powers, as seen in Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust.  

Benge rising from the shadows

Braeden uses this power to travel across long distances, so long as he has been to his destination before.  This is due to needing to unconsciously know the length and width of a shadow, as well as its strength (for example, reaching a place at midday would be swifter than at sunset).  It does have its limits, however; travel of this sort is only available to locations that cast shadows, such as a forest or alongside a building.  Open plains, desert and the ocean do not favor his kind.

The third ability, which he uses only in extreme situations, allows him to influence and shape other shadows using his own.  In truth, his shadow is his avatar.  It can function either connected to him or independently, though it is not as strong.  Early versions of his avatar had names- Night Wind, Dusk, Naeree, Din, respectively- but at present it has no discernible name.

As Braeden is born of Shadow, he can immerse himself in darkness to replenish his power, and help hasten physical recovery.  Prolonged exposure to sunlight is detrimental to his health.  Depending upon sensitivity level, direct exposure can even kill.  Scars inflicted from such events never heal.

Relationships

Harmony and Braeden, 2011 and beyond. Again, in side profile. I'm starting to think he's camera shy.


Braeden loves Harmony dearly.  She was the first person to look beyond what he was and accept him.  Nothing and no one matters as much to him as she does.  He would do anything to keep her safe.  He also shares her enthusiasm for uniting the elements.  Doing so would not only benefit their people, but allow them to be together.

He suffers from a lot of negative criticism throughout the story, including his own family.  He shares a heated rivalry with his twin brother Hadrian, and has no great love for his mother, Sable.  This makes it an easy choice for him when it comes to taking sides.  As for the girls, his relationships with them are a work in progress.  Kaia and Anila suspect his motives from the beginning.  In truth, Braeden is just as wary around them.  Ember and Azura demonstrate concern and sympathy for him, which he is grateful for.  Time will tell if the others will be as willing.

In Conclusion

As the hero of The Shadow Conflict, Braeden represents the external struggles his people endure, while also carrying the hope that, with Harmony by his side, they could achieve their dream.  He is not ruled by his past, or awed by it; rather, he seeks to go beyond preconceived judgments in order to demonstrate his sincerity.  And while he knows he alone cannot change the world, he hopes to be an example of what once was, and what could be again.

I hope this little glimpse has helped you get a better understanding of Braeden.  Thank you for reading, and don’t forget to check out The Shadow Conflict for more on Braeden!

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