Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Building Nick.

Nicholas Cairn is the central character in The Cinderella Project, and, as such, received the most attention. Building Nick started out fairly simple, but took some interesting turns later on. The rudimentary goal was to build "the perfect guy," as it were--someone a female audience would fall in love with. I thought briefly about making him sparkly and undead, but that had already been done. I decided to walk on the wild side instead and make him a plain vanilla white boy with no spectacular powers or crazy history. He was just a doctoral student.

In fact, Nick actually didn't even start out in the 21st Century. In his original form, he was an actual prince (like, son of a king and a queen) in a fantasy fiction setting. He was still engaged, and he still had something for Moiré, but Ella was someone else entirely (poor girl--she got totally shafted by the transition to modern day).

When I found myself embroiled in an online writing contest with rules that didn't really permit a fantasy-fic setting, I brought Nick forward a few centuries, and worked on the "modern Prince Charming" thing.

To craft the perfect man proved an interesting challenge. For starters, I initially overdid his sensitive side--the guy wasn't afraid to cry. In fact, he did it a little too often in the story, and my wise editor hit me in the face with a 2x4 and told me Nick needed to man up. So he did. The result was a better, stronger Nick that still maintained that sensitive side and wasn't emotionally deaf to women's needs.

I also needed Nick to be a strong character without having him be a jerk, and yet, flexible without having him be a pushover. That involved ongoing tweaks to give him just the right amount of spine without turning the pride meter too high.

Nick comes from a semi-failed marriage. In fact, the main reason his parents are still together is that his dad is a firm believer in keeping his word and maintaining his integrity. To that end, he has (more or less) honored the promises he made on his wedding day, even if he'd rather have gone the other way.

I've seen the way failed marriages can leave lasting impressions (or scars even), and Nick reflects this in his doctoral work. His goal is to pre-empt the failure of his impending marriage, and he hopes brain chemistry can provide appropriate red flags up front, in addition to all the ones we already know about (e.g. abusive partner, partner doesn't pay bills or is lazy, mutual lack of trust and respect, etc.). Whether Nick finds such signs is something I'll leave for the readers to discover.

Ultimately, though, Nick just wants to do what's right. He fully intends to live up to his marital vows, but he'd rather not feel trapped by them the way his parents do. Like most of us, he wants marriage to be the wonderful, fulfilling relationship it can and should be. He wants his children to grow up knowing that Mommy and Daddy love each other deeply, and are committed to marriage above self, and committed to the children. It's an old-fashioned model, maybe, but hey, it's the best one around when people actually choose to get it right.

Creating Nick allowed me to draw heavily upon my own dating experiences, and examine my history as a detached observer, instead of being "in the moment" as I had been. Nick's love life was considerably better than mine (up until I finally married), but still, his concerns and questions are very real, even if men don't always express them openly. I think men really do want to be devoted to a woman they can care for, and who they know will care for them in return. It's easy to overlook your partner's bad side as long as there's sufficient hope that their good parts will still win out in the end. Sometimes that happens, sometimes it doesn't.

Without spoiling the story too much, Nick does ultimately find love. The question you'll have to figure out is "Who does he finally find love with?"

Come August 30th, you can find out.


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