Excerpt: Characterization by Place

Lacking any prepared essay on the the background of the Shine Cycle, my fantasy series-in-preparation—today’s “regularly schedules programming”—and prompted by blog posts I read describing how to develop a character by describing a location and offering critique of a character introduction, I decided to post this short excerpt from the draft of my novel-in-progress An Internal Conflict, in which I begin my description of a new character by describing her surroundings.

The premise of the novel is that after watching her home fall into disaster because of her inaction, Persephone is granted a rare boon and allowed to live the critical period of her life over again in light of those memories. Much of this most important time is her years at the Imperial Academy.

She managed to get out of the room before things became too crowded, and quickly made her way across the campus to the building where her tutor had her office, then up three flights of stairs and down a hall to the office itself.

The plain wooden door, with a brass nameplate marked “Elaine” at eye level, was decorated with clippings from the Capitol Times and Courier, the Imperial Review and Parliamentary Record, the Regional Review of Books and the Academy Observer, and other well-known and obscure papers. These clippings overflowed onto the surrounding walls, but Persephone managed to find a bare space on the door and knocked. The door opened.

A tall woman beckoned her in. Elaine had not been her tutor for any of her Academy career the last time around, and had been lost when the capital was taken, so Persephone had hardly known her. She was dressed in an Academy academic gown, cut informally. Her brown eyes somehow held severity and fun at once, and her short brown hair was swept back and tied loosely behind her head.

“Persephone Royal, I presume?” she said. Persephone nodded and sat carefully in a chair in front of the desk. Elaine sat down behind it and opened the file on the desk between them. “Hmm … a good beginning on math and applied science, languages, we’ll have to get you tested for Power aptitude and physical … oh my.”

Persephone couldn’t quite suppress her smile at that, but she said, “My Imperial Cup experience was a while ago, and I am even less in practice in everything else.”

“Well, we’ll have to see. Now, with your background, you’ll probably be an asset in an introductory politics class, but a classroom setting would probably hold you back in history. And you’re likely to need at least a smattering of celestial navigation, so let’s get that out of the way … How about this,” Elaine said, looking up from the file. “Your morning schedule is set for now. In your physical training period today, have the staff give you a placement test and forward the results to me. After lunch report to the general Power practical lab for a placement test there, then take rhetoric, celestial navigation, politics, music, literature, a language of your choice, and anatomy.”

“That sounds acceptable to me,” Persephone replied.

“Good. And, since you won’t be taking a class in history, bring me a four-thousand word essay on the history of the Parliament in three days.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Now, do you have any questions?” Persephone shook her head. “Then I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Persephone rose to her feet, inclined her head slightly in farewell, and left the room quietly.

What do you think?


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