Saturday, July 30, 2011
Guest Blog: The Uncertain Morality of Lucy Brightwing
After reading Brightwing, I could not get the character of Lucy Brightwing out of my mind. So I asked Sullivan Lee to tell me a little more about her inspiration for Lucy Brightwing. And Sullivan Lee offered to share her thoughts in a guest blog post. So I want to thank her for her time and helping me to better understand one of my favorite characters in this book.
I've known some pretty good bad-guys. And I've known some pretty bad good-guys. So very few of my characters will wear white or black hats. I enjoy a morally-ambiguous anti-hero far more than I do anyone who is simply good. (Though Eva Ibbotson's heroines are incredibly appealing, managing to be extremely good without being cloying.) What's more, those morally skewed characters are the ones I really believe in.
I've been wondering how to define a person's inherent nature. By their acts or thoughts or intentions or capabilities? If a person does bad things for a good cause, or does bad things to bad people, how do they rate against someone who does the same bad things for a bad cause, or to bad people? What about those who are perfectly capable of horrible acts, but never engage in them because their life never takes them in that direction? What about the good men who do nothing? Wicked people who are lazy?
Most of my characters play with this question – play not as teams play, with a clear winner, but as children play, back and forth, changing the rules as they go along, never quite coming to a definite conclusion, but collapsing in satisfied exhaustion in the end. I try to make my characters complex and morally challenging: good in their own way, even if their way isn't our way.
Lucy Brightwing is a prime example. She's a criminal by choice, not necessity, indulging in occasional operations for her uncle, the head of Seminole organized crime, a little bit for the money, but mostly for the fun. She steals gems from a shady jeweler who is fencing them for another thief. She roughs up people who made the choice to get involved with a crime syndicate in the first place. But she also comes to the aid of anyone who needs her, teaches prostitutes how to defend themselves, is loving and kind and fiercely loyal to what she loves.
For a character like Lucy Brightwing to be convincing, she needs a strong moral compass. It's just that her magnetic north is a little different than ours! Within her own ethical code, she holds true. Many of Lucy's personal beliefs come from her Tequesta heritage – her obligation to help strangers in need, her conviction that saving someone's life makes her responsible for them forever.
And of course, culturally, she comes from a tribe that long ago certainly engaged in warfare, probably human sacrifice, possibly cannibalism...so compared with that, she's certainly a white hat!