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Character Study: Hadrian January 13, 2012

Posted by shadowconflict in Art, Characters, Concepts, Information.
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Origins

Ah, Hadrian.  If I were to describe him in one word, it would have to be mutable.  None of the other characters have undergone quite as dramatic a change as he has.  This alone makes him a very good candidate for such a study.

Hadrian’s initial call into being was nothing more grand than the story needing a rival.  Even the meaning of his name, “dark”, was chosen with this in mind, along with his elemental association.  However, early writings describe a surprisingly different portrait compared to who he is now.

Early Hadrian was obsessively devoted to Braeden.  This meant that he saw all things as potential threats; none were more deserving of this suspicion than those associated with the Light.  He would fulfill the rival role later on, for once he saw Harmony for the first time, he fell for her against his will, and in turn blamed her for tricking both he and Braeden with her feminine wiles.  Outlines indicate he planned on kidnapping her in order to seal her away for all time.  He was doing it as much for himself as for the benefit of the shadow people.  He simply did not know how to handle his love/hate for her.  I always thought Infected by Bad Religion explained Hadrian’s mentality the best.  While I liked this particular dynamic between them, I did not know the best way to approach it without the subplot taking over the main plot.  It, like Hadrian’s obsession with Harmony, was summarily dropped.  But this version of Hadrian was by far the cruelest.

Shadowborn Hadrian was almost non-existent.  He would not come into the story until much, much later.  This exclusion leaves even me uncertain as to how his character progressed.  The only stand out traits were his hatred for the Light, and his displeasure at learning Braeden was alive, thus creating a rival for power.   

Hadrian’s character took on a darker edge in early drafts of The Shadow Conflict.  He harbored incestuous feelings for his mother- something she shared quite happily- but it was purged from his character.  I admit to experimenting with them in this regard; however, I am writing a young adult fantasy, and I didn’t think tossing incest into the mix was the wisest course.

Design

Hadrian's evolving designs, from 2006 to the present.

Hadrian is Braeden’s exact opposite, in looks, personality and clothing.  In early writings, he wore his black hair in a tail at the nape of his neck, had brown eyes, pale skin and favored studded leather in black and dark brown.  Shadowborn Hadrian kept the attire and skin tone, though I cut his hair and changed his eye color from brown to amber.  The Shadow Conflict gives him long hair, very much like Braeden’s was in early stages of his development, as well as a slight beard while keeping the amber eyes and pale skin.

Hadrian's overall look was heavily influenced by Malagant from First Knight.

The one thing that never changed was Hadrian’s physique.  Broader in the shoulders and chest than Braeden, he presents a more imposing figure than his twin despite their being the same height.  He is also more skilled with a blade, and swifter.  Present day Hadrian still enjoys all these perks to his character.

Personality

Hadrian’s personality went through as many changes as he did over the years.  Through them all the following remained consistent: his hatred of the Light, the rivalry with Braeden, initially born as a twisted form of love, his ambition, cruelty, selfishness, and underhandedness.  This version of him also idolized Jett.  He wanted to personally see that Jett’s legacy was realized.  Shadowborn Hadrian was younger, and those traits were made all the more apparent by his passionate nature.  He was a spoiled brat who adamantly refused to listen to his elders, or share the title of Shadow tamer with Braeden. 

The Shadow Conflict revealed him to be suave, hypnotic and, when it suits him, deceptively kind.  These are also traits Jett was associated with; the comparisons, welcome at first, have become tiresome now.  While he is not a stunning intellect, neither is he a fool: his cleverness and ability to back his words with action keeps others from questioning his authority.  He knows he is the answer for the shadow people’s ills.  There can be no other as far as he’s concerned.  This has tempered a deep arrogance within him, one that, at times, puts him at odds with his family.

Powers/Abilities

Hadrian has always enjoyed possessing more skill with the shadows than Braeden.  Early drafts reveal an ability I termed ‘shadow elements’, meaning he could assume control of any of the other elements for a limited time and produce a ‘darker’ version of them.  Shadow fire, for example, would inflict ice burns, and shadow wind would make the victim feel as if he were being assaulted by sharp daggers.  This was an ability I originally gave Jett, and which Hadrian inherited, but I did away with the concept.  Hadrian would have become another one dimensional, power crazed villain.  It was a cliche I wanted to avoid.  Hadrian’s abilities in Shadowborn were never described in detail, though I am certain they would have been stronger due to being surrounded by his kin his whole life.

Present-day Hadrian employs quite a vast array of skills, notably the ability to split his shadow into four counterparts.  Each one is armed with a shadow version of the weapon he carries.  Opponents unlucky enough to battle him in this state usually don’t win.  Another of his abilities is the mind taint.  This involves him shrouding a victim (or victims) in his shadow, which opens their minds up to him and enables him to emphasize their fears or drive them mad.  Since the technique is so powerful, it cannot be performed more than once every twelve hours.  Hadrian makes up for this handicap by influencing the shadows in similar fashion to Braeden, only with a wider radius.  While he cannot travel long distances, he is still faster than he is stealthy.

Like Braeden, Hadrian’s shadow acts as his avatar.  Only in the early draft did it have a name: Dark Wind (originality? Are you there? It’s me, Serena).  Its present day incarnation does not have a name.  It serves Hadrian faithfully, be it as a tool or servant.  Very rarely does it separate from him, for through it he has a consistent source of darkness.  This enables him to withstand direct sunlight better than Braeden, though the chance for scarring still exists.  On the other hand, its reluctance to part with him also prevents him from detecting nearby kin.

Another non power related ability he has is his hypnotic aura.  When he walks into a room, women- and men- take notice.  This aura has only convinced his followers that he is Jett reincarnated.

Relationships

  Hadrian is close to his mother, Sable, for they share the same ambition and goals.  She has made him her champion of their cause, which has inflated an already elevated sense of self-worth.  He does not care for the rest of his family, seeing them only as pawns in the greater game, and definitely has no love for Braeden.  He perceives Braeden as worthless, and undeserving of the rank of Shadow tamer.  He has no care for the other elements, either.  They’re all enemies to him.  Women are his conquests, and he is almost always surrounded by admirers.

In Conclusion

Hadrian is, by all definitions, a villain, a role far better suited to him than romantic rival.  This is not the kind of person you want to meet in a dark alley.  He inspires fear in his enemies, admiration in his allies.  His arrogance is also his weakness, though he would be hard pressed to see it, let alone admit to it.  While there were times when Hadrian eluded and/or frustrated me as a writer, his character is a challenge I have accepted gladly.  While Braeden represents their people’s conflict, Hadrian is all they aspire to be, and will become again.

I hope you have enjoyed this peek into Hadrian’s persona.  I just wish I had more images to go along with it.  Sadly, capturing him on paper sometimes proved as elusive as writing him.  Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to read The Shadow Conflict for more!

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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!

Character Study: Harmony January 7, 2012

Posted by shadowconflict in Art, Characters, Concepts, Information.
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Back when I first created The Shadow Conflict– better known then as ‘my elemental tamer story’ (it did not gain a title until 2009, and that has since been changed) I knew only one thing: I wanted it to focus on the forbidden love angle. While Azura (whom I’ll cover in a later entry) was technically the first character created, it was the connection Harmony, Braeden and Hadrian shared that drove me in the early days. Nearly all the pieces I wrote focused on them, and it was easy to see their appeal: boy and girl from different worlds meet and fall in love, while the twin brother, mired by jealously and obsession, does all he can to disrupt it. Classic romance trope? Yep. Tried and true? You bet. But I didn’t care. Aside from tragic romance, love triangles are an extreme guilty pleasure of mine, and I made it no secret with these three.  So let’s start with our heroine.  Here we go!

Harmony: Origins

Harmony’s name is a homage to a character my sister created back when we were in our early teens, and a fitting moniker for a girl who wishes to bring peace to her world.  As important as Harmony was to the story, I confess that her beginnings were embroiled in yet another classic trope: damsel in distress. Early writings depict her as a hand-wringing, sobbing mess, hardly worth Braeden’s time, let alone a reader’s. My sister likened her to Magic Knight Rayearth’s Princess Emeraude.  In essence, she was, in both appearance and personality.  Ultra feminists would have hated her.

Blonde, big eyed and wearing a perpetual look of worry and uncertainty? Check!

I suppose it fit considering her age and how much she was in love.  Still, there was no way this version of Harmony could carry the story.  She was as weak as weak could be, as depicted in these early scenes:

'Harmony's Decision', a mini comic influenced by earlier writings

“He’s everything to me…but we cannot be together,” she began, her lower lip quivering with the promise of more tears. It took a moment for her to gather her composure, and, looking her audience directly in the eye, added, “He’s a shadow tamer.”

“We met a few months ago, on the beach near my mother’s castle. I was a little afraid at first, for I’d never met a real shadow tamer, and all the ones I read about were regarded as evil, but Braeden was none of those things. When we were together I was so happy…nothing bothered me, not even the fact we were from different worlds. All that mattered was our love. Sometimes I can still feel his arms around me,” Lady Harmony said, her voice lowering at her last words.

“We wanted a world that accepted all the elements. He came to the castle unarmed, ready to stand before my mother powered only by the strength of our love, and our shared dream. But we were discovered before we could get there, and Braeden…Braeden was hurt. Oh, I can still see him falling off the battlements- I don’t even know if he’s alive!” she sobbed.

By contrast, Braeden was the much stronger character, if only because Harmony was so damned useless.  Sharing this bit makes my head hurt, but also allows me to appreciate her character even more.

Design

Conceptual designs for Harmony's clothing

Harmony’s looks were based more on her role than personality.  Not to say she was a complete blank slate- she cared about those around her, and had enough gumption to go against convention.  Depicting her as blonde and blue eyed fit the element she was associated with.  In manner she was soft spoken, thoughtful, and sad.  She wore flowing gowns and elaborate headpieces that emphasized her femininity.   She was the equivalent of a princess in the story; her attire reflected that.

More conceptual designs focusing on headwear

Her primary color scheme at the time was white, and lots of it.  Later on she adopted light grays (not really sure why I went this route) , before I realized having a closet full of white and/or gray gowns sounded just too silly to be realistic.  While her ideal colors are white and gold, they are not exclusive.

Giving her long, golden blonde hair was a no brainer.  I did, however, encounter some issue whenever I drew it.  Most of the time it just hanged there, lifeless, with a rather unflattering middle part.  I have since added some volume to it.  Makes for a much better look on her.

Personality

While she may have started life as an Emeraude clone, Harmony has since come a long, long way.  I truly came to know her in my 2007 Voltron fanfic Two Worlds, all without meaning to.  The plotted events allowed me to see her strengths as a character, strengths that were necessary in order to help carry The Shadow Conflict.  No longer defined by her predicament, Harmony emerged as a determined, passionate, brave and caring individual.  She’s not afraid to stand up for what she believes in, and she’ll stick by her friends until the very end.  Also, she smiles.  I always wrote her as weary and sad.  You have no idea how happy I am it’s so out of character for her.

Harmony, 2010, drawn by my sister

Aside from her friends, Braeden is the most important person in her life.  The gumption that drew her to him is still present, though it is more heavily influenced by her relationship with him and her want to help his people.  She longs for a united Caeher.  She doesn’t see the shadow people as enemies, but as fellow elements who have been too long denied their rightful place.  She is a champion for them.  The biggest challenges she faces come from within and without, and none more so than her mother.   Helena is not a sympathetic supporter for the shadow people.  Harmony still harbors hope that Helena will come around.

Of the other girls, she is closest to Azura and Ember, and enjoys a fond if somewhat nettled relationship with Kaia and Anila.  She loves them all dearly, and knows that they will stand by her when it’s her turn to be Lady of Light.

Harmony, circa 2009, demonstrating her aura

Powers/Abilities

Every tamer is born of his or her element; in other words, the parent element comes to its tamer and lies with him/her until a child is conceived.  For women, the “father” will vanish the night after.  For men, the “mother” lingers, usually kept out of sight, until the child is born.  Hence why none of the heirs have two parents, and a surrogate is usually welcomed with open arms.

Unlike the other elements, those born of the Light do not have an avatar.  It was decreed by Harmony’s ancestor Lailie that, “In order to be equipped to combat the darkness, we of the Light must be able to harness all our power from the beginning.  To do otherwise is to allow Shadow the ability to gain ground against us.”  Harmony learned to use hers through Helena and a select group of tutors.  Sunlight is necessary for her powers to function, even though she cannot necessarily manipulate it on her own.  Because she is imbued with Light from the moment of her birth, she and all those born of her element give off a subtle glow.  Its intensity depends on the amount of sunlight exposure, and sometimes mood.  The truly powerful, such as Helena, emit a glow even in the dark.

One of Harmony’s chief abilities involves utilizing light given off from one source to construct an image using another.  It can be likened to using a mirror to peer around a corner, or underneath a locked doorway.  She is also able to reduce or brighten light, and create invisible barriers so long as there is a source to be had.  Should she be kept in the dark for an extended period of time, her life could be at risk.

In Conclusion

Harmony and Braeden, together

 

Given Harmony’s origins, I have to say it was worth all the revisions to discover who she is, and what kind of inspiration, if any, she could be.  If I were to liken her to one of my favorite characters, it’d have to be Aerith Gainsborough.  They share many good qualities.  I think that if given the choice between her life and those she cares about, Harmony would have done the same thing as Aerith.  Of course, Braeden might have a thing or two to say about that.

Well, I hope you have enjoyed this introspective into Harmony’s character.  There’s plenty more where she came from, so stay tuned! Also, don’t forget to check out the main story! The Shadow Conflict