Beautiful People - A Compendium

Sky and Georgianna Penn's Beautiful People challenge this month happens to coincide with one of my Ask Jeeves questions - which makes a pretty little loop-hole for me to dive through and a nice structured set of questions with which to answer the one I have been given.

If you don't know what "Beautiful People" is, it's a month-by-month series of questions posted by Georgie and Sky (ten each month) for writers to answer about their characters. A full list of the questions can be found on Sky's blog in the archives here. For those of you who don't know what Ask Jeeves is, it's an opportunity to throw questions at me and learn more about my current work in progress Plenilune. Don't be shy! I like answering your questions, so if you think of any more, please feel free to post them!

Morgan J: what is the main character [of Plenilune] like?

Once again I have the pleasure of introducing via Beautiful People the main character of my novel-in-the-making -

Margaret Coventry

1. What is her full name?

Margaret Elaine Coventry

2. Does her name have a special meaning?

Not at all.

3. Does your character have a methodical or disorganized personality?

Margaret is very methodical, but not habitual; she can be impulsive, but she is rarely illogical.

4. Does she think inside herself more than she talks out loud to her friends? (more importantly, does she actually have friends?)

Margaret has many acquaintances, Margaret allows herself to have few friends. She never talks out loud to herself but she is equal to conversation with others.

5. Is there something she is afraid of?

No; she might hate and she might loathe, but there is little that Margaret truly fears.

6. Does she write, dream, dance, sing, or photograph?

Margaret has been taught to sing and dance. She does well at these diversions and enjoys them.

7. What is her favourite book (or genre of books)?

Margaret is not an avid reader and perhaps the biggest and most famous work she can boast of having read is The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. In general she is either too busy to read or the reading puts her to sleep.

8. Who is her favourite author and/or someone that inspires her?

This is an oddly-phrased question. Or perhaps it is just me. She does not have any favourite authors, though it is quite possible that the sentiments of the philosopher-emperor have made the stoical cast her face can take.

9. Favourite flavour of ice cream?

Margaret has never had ice cream and I could not tell you for certain whether she would like it or not if she did.

10. Favourite season of the year?

Margaret dislikes winter, but she has no objection to any of the other three seasons; she does not give them a great deal of thought.

11. How old is she?

At the time of writing, Margaret has lived just over twenty and a half years, but her height and natural grim temperance of nature might impress a stranger with an older age.

12. What does she do with her spare time?

Margaret hates having spare time; she feels like a marble kicking around a kettle. If there is nothing else to put her hand to she will go for a stroll and reflect, or, in very dire cases, she might read a book.

13. Does she see the big picture or live in the moment?

Margaret is used to looking at the big picture, but for the most part that picture is relatively small. At the moment she does not know what she sees or what to do about it.

14. Is she a perfectionist?

Margaret is not a perfectionist, Margaret is defiant. What she puts her hand to she must yank bodily into tidiness and goodness, so help her!

15. What does her handwriting look like? (round, slanted, curly, skinny, sloppy, neat, decorative, etc.).

Margaret’s handwriting is fast and illegible.

16. Favourite animal?

Margaret has a weakness for owls, though she has only seen them in picturebooks and has only heard them at night from a distance.

17. Does she have any pets?

She has no pets, nor does she have a real use for them as they are hairy, smelly, and lap-dogs (which are acceptable animal companions for young ladies) are rather pathetic, useless creatures.

18. Does she have any siblings? How many? Where does she fit in?

Margaret has two sisters and a cousin whom life has forced to be close to her family, but she gets along with none of them. She makes an effort to be friendly to her cousin, whose temper is not as cutting her sisters’, but in general she keeps herself to herself and the four of them are happy to leave it that way.

19. Does she have a 'life verse' and, if so, what is it?

Margaret does not have a ‘life verse,’ or a ‘verse for life,’ but if she did it could very well be “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.”

20. Favourite writing utensil?

A charcoal pencil.

21. What type of laugh does she have?

Margaret’s laugh can be very cutting and quite sarcastic, if she chooses. When she is genuinely and pleasantly diverted, her laugh is very sweet and quite becoming.

22. Who is her best friend?

As I said before, Margaret has few friends, and even fewer people she considers her equal. She is on companionable terms with a labourer, but he is no match for her in wit, education, and station; her closest friend could very well be a half-tame fox.

23. What is her family like?

Well-to-do, leisurely, respectable, a touch educated with a gloss of old aristocratic pride, very much into “society,” if not a major player there; in short, one of those unbearably dull, wealthy, landed families which has as much bad blood and sentiment in it as it does coinage.

24. Is she a Christian, or will she eventually find Jesus?

I think the best answer to this question is yes.

25. Does she believe in fairies?

Not in the least, but she does believe in the supernatural.

26. Does she like hedgehogs?

Margaret has never seen or heard of this “hedgehog” thing.

27. Favourite kind of weather?

Margaret is fond of clear, dry, sunny weather. Alas, she is English.

28. Does she have a good sense of humour? If so what kind? (Slapstick, wit, sarcasm, etc.?)

Being very frequently the wallflower and outside observer of gatherings, she is a student of irony and sarcasm.

29. How did she do in school, or any kind of education she might have had.

Margaret, like most ladies, had a governess—with whom she did not wholly connect and whose passing she did not regret, but from her she learned her French and German, her piano and harp, her needlepoint and script, and the basics of geography, mathematics, government and natural science.

30. Any strange hobbies?

Strange hobbies are discouraged. Margaret does not indulge in them.

31. What kind of music does she like?

Margaret is quite a hand at the piano and harp; she enjoys folk songs and ecclesiastical music and even plays an eastern piece that a relative brought her from Anatolia.

32. Does she like to go outside?

Whenever the weather is clear Margaret will go for a stroll. She is not much of a naturalist by bent, but her walks are a means of useful solitude and reflection.

33. Is she naturally curious?

Margaret is really only curious in that which piques her interest. She is not curious universally and she is not even curious energetically.

34. Right, or left handed?

Margaret is right-handed.

35. Favourite colour?


36. Where is she from?

Margaret is from the northwest of England.

37. Any enemies?

Margaret’s temper, inadvertently abrasive, has a way of making enemies.

38. What are her quirks?

Margaret makes a point of not having quirks. The worst that she could be charged with is mixing a sense of chivalry with a cool reserved nature.

39. What kinds of things get on her nerves?

Her suitor’s presence, conversation, existence…

40. Is she independent, or does she need others to help out?

Not able to find anyone she considers her equal among her family or her family’s acquaintances, Margaret has long since become an independent individual.

41. What is her biggest secret?

It’s about the size of a large domestic cat.

42. Has she ever been in love?

Before Plenilune, no, Margaret has not.

43. What is her comfort food?

Margaret does not have a comfort food, but a glass of wine before bed she finds generally soothing.

44. Does she play a musical instrument? If so, what?

Margaret was taught to play the piano and the harp; she does well with both and does not consider either more of a favourite than the other.

45. What colour are her eyes? Hair?

Both Margaret’s hair and eyes are of the brown, nutmeg-coloured persuasion.

46. What is her favourite place to be?

She has several places that she enjoys being: alone, with old Hobden, or with the half-tame fox. She does not think of them as “favourite” places—in a way, they are sanctuaries.

47. What are some of her dreams or goals?

Margaret is not much of a dreamer, nor does she tend to set goals for herself. Her challenges consist of accomplishing the next task. The soothing English temper got lost in her when the old strains of Norman conquest and Saxon fury decided to reawaken.

48. Does she enjoy sports?

Margaret is a good rider and she is game enough to enjoy a hunt.

49. What is her favourite flower or plant?

She likes the English oak, whose strength, durability, grace and grim demeanour she identifies with.

50. What is her biggest accomplishment?

It’s the size of a wine-bottle.

51. What is one of her strongest childhood memories?

Getting hit in the face with her sister’s doll. And hitting her sister in the face after that. She was six years old.

52. What is her favourite food?

Margaret likes the traditionalism as well as the taste of Christmas plum pudding.

53. Does she believe in love at first sight?

Margaret has never given thought to the prospect.

54. What kind of home does she live in?

Margaret lives in a large, old, rambling Norman-style manor house which has been built on to by successive generations, its parts and portions attempting, but not quite managing, to all appear as if they were meant to go together.

55. What does she like to wear?

She likes to wear black, just to spite her suitor.

56. What would she do if she discovered she was dying?

If she had time, she would continue her routine; if she had little time, she would sit quietly, and perhaps broodingly.

57. What kind of holidays, or traditions does she celebrate?

Margaret’s family is a member of the Anglican Church; they observe all of the major ecclesiastical days; Christmas, though not often very jolly, is at least one that Margaret looks forward to.

58. What do your other characters have to say about her?

Her mother considers her a headstrong nuisance; Hobden calls her “like sum queen of old” and says she “might do rightly;” her suitor calls her “a precocious little chit” and considers her fit to be a queen; her suitor’s cousin calls her a force to be reckoned with; the half-tame fox, perhaps alone of her acquaintances, can smell and appreciate Margaret’s desolation.

59. If she could change one thing in her world, what would it be?

She can change one thing, and she does.

60. Does she have any habits, annoying or otherwise?

Margaret is a paragon of good behaviour. She has worked hard to become a model young woman, though on occasion her behaviour seems forced, which can grate against the nerves, and her personality is often cold and reserved, which is not a wholly commendable trait in a young woman.

61. What is her backstory and how does it affect her now?

Margaret is the eldest daughter of a sonless family and a great deal depends on her marrying well. Having watched the behaviour of her two sisters and cousin nearly ruin those chances completely, Margaret feels the weight of her responsibilities very keenly, the keenness helped in no small part by the constant reminders of her mother. As a child she was always quiet, reserved, and introspective, to which she added a touch of resentment and, incongruously, a rough kind of justice and mercy as she came into her adolescent years.

62. How does she show love?

A cold and constant sort of hate is an emotion Margaret is more accustomed to showing. She is not one to lose her temper easily in any direction so that it takes a great deal to draw out passionate love or hate from her. What she hates she is liable to hate until she dies, what she loves she is liable to die for without stopping to count the cost.

63. How competitive is she?

Margaret is extremely competitive, but she doesn’t choose her battles without being sure of some hope of victory. When she is faced with a challenge (i.e. marrying well) she rises to it with grit and poise.

64. What does she think about when nothing else is going on?

At home she keeps her mind busy with needlework and reading, and in particularly good weather she will go out for a ride on horseback. Abroad, Margaret spends her time taking walks in solitude and waging her own private war with the torn soldiers of her emotions and convictions.

65. Does she have an accent?

As a girl Margaret had a local Lancashire accent, but she has struggled hard to replace it with the southern and more refined accent of the Home Counties. As a result, her voice nestles comfortably and a touch alluringly between the two.

66. What is her station in life?

Margaret Coventry comes from an old Saxon family which originally settled in the Midlands; around the reign of James I a branch of the family moved to Northern England and settled down comfortably, which branch Margaret is from. Her family has contained anything from petty earls to landed farmers; her father receives income from her grandfather’s mill investments and they enjoy a well-to-do middle class estate.

67. What do others expect from her?

Margaret’s family, and Margaret herself, expect her to marry well and continue to support the social and financial dignity of the family. For this Margaret has no complaint, if only she were not pushed so, and she resents the difficulty the very personalities of her family members present her as they push her to make a good match.

68. Where was she born, and when?

Margaret was born in the northern English town of Aylesward in the Year of Our Lord 1822.

69. How does she feel about people in general?

In general, Margaret does not usually expend any emotion on people. On an individual level, she thinks of people in extremes, though she may not show it. This cool, subconscious fa├žade is taxed rather sorely in her travels abroad and her temper is worn thin both for and against people, but her basic opinions, once founded, rarely change.

* * * * *

She brought her eyes down from the squat, stupendous bulk of the tower and followed the line of his waved gesture. The roses, rather splendid, thick, full roses whose age she did not dare to guess had flung themselves over the stable yard wall and clung to it in a thick mass, dark reddish-green in the gloom, fish-scale shining in the rain—but bud-less and barren. What colour would they be, she wondered, if they were to bloom again? A dormant spark of imagination thought their last bloom ought to have been crimson, and any resurrecting bloom ought to be white as York.
Plenilune, Jennifer Freitag

There is Margaret Coventry, in a very odd, small, and fractalled image. Cheerio!

5 ripostes:

  1. Margaret seems like a well developed character. I find it interesting that she forces good behaviour- it's something I often do, and wish I didn't, because I never see it in many other people. In a way, I suppose it would be better to be honest with bad emotion, rather than trying to cover it up with good manners, or busy yourself so that you forget it- but it's a very real, human trait, and I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one who does it (even if it is a fictional character with whom I'm empathising, it's still reassuring :P).
    I like the Lancashire accent- some people say it's quite coarse, but I always thought it was a gentle sort of register.
    I have a question, if I may... Does Margaret ever go to holiday anywhere? Or does she Summer at home?

  2. I'm with you, Bethany. Forcing good behaviour seems in some ways worse than being honestly bad. I've gotten in trouble more than once for throwing politeness to the wind and saying what I think.

    Jenny, I do have a question: Margaret is British, takes walks presumably in the countryside, and has (as much as one can "have") a half-tame fox. How can she not know about hedgehogs?

    The fact that books can put her to sleep makes me laugh. I'm not entirely certain why, but it does.

    All in all, I think I like Margaret. She is certainly severe, and this is definitely an unusual setting/plot for what I know of your stories, but it sounds intriguing.

  3. Ha! Wow, it totally made my day to see that you answered all of these and then posted them on your blog! That's awesome. I love the name of your novel!

  4. I was wondering about the hedgehogs, too. You can't really live in England and not have seen a hedgehog at some point, or you would atleast know about them to a degree.

    I'm intrigued to about this one thing that she does change... I wonder what sort of thing it is, a moral change, or a practical change..

  5. I'm so glad I could bring a smile to your face, Georgie. I was really quite bummed when I read over the list of Beautiful People questions for this month, since I am not doing NaNo, and I could not think of a way to un-NaNo the questions for Plenilune. So this extra challenge was quite a pick-me-up.

    There was quite an interesting assessment of Margaret in last month's Beautiful People post, and I think everyone more or less got the gist of her, which is rather rewarding for the writer who birthed her. I'm very glad, Bethany, that you consider her well-developed and (if I may read between the lines) human. I do dislike flat, 'perfect' characters, but I'm finding that writing the good and the flawed is far more rewarding, far more engaging, than I had initially imagined. I like Margaret, cool and unromantic as she may be, but it's nice to know that you like her too. Onward, ever onward!

    Bethany and Elspeth, I am very appreciative of the concern over hedgehogs and Margaret's having not heard of them. Looking at it from your point of view, I know it seems a little incredulous. But there is a very large and glaring piece of plot that I haven't given away (can't and won't, too) so I'm afraid you'll just have to get used to disappointment - I mean, you'll just have to trust me. :P

    “It’s a curious weight and business, Mr. Ironside, having to carry more truth than one can tell.”