This is a profile of a character I’m developing for a new project. It’s set in present day Melbourne, but there’s some elements of Magical Realism in it.
Sometimes when I’m planning my writing I try to put a page like this together for important characters. It helps me to get a sense of who they are, what brought them to the point in their life at which we meet them, what events in their history might shape their responses and actions, what motivates them…
This is entirely fictional. I do sometimes worry when I create these characters that someone I know might read it and assume I’ve based a character on them or some mutual acquaintance. I can honestly say that Brian is not based on anyone. He’s a little bit of me I suppose (as they all are), a little bit from a variety of people I know, a little bit of my observations into human behaviour, a little bit of literary free-licence to exploit my role as author and put the poor guy through hell to make him (hopefully) interesting and sympathetic to my readers. I’ll let you be the judge of that and add some other character profiles from this project soon.
Brian is 41yo. He’s always been a big guy; now he’s getting fat. His red hair that he jokingly calls ‘strawberry blond’. He has bright green eyes with deep crow’s feet around the corners and weather-worn skin. His nose is red and a little bulbous. He keeps a goatee which is more obviously red than his hair. His knees are shot from footy (from which he retired at 29 after being diagnosed with degenerative cartilage in his right knee), but he still has a strong frame and plenty of strength in his body. He lives in a one bedroom flat in Thomastown.
Brian was raised in the country and moved down to Melbourne at 13. He struggled to fit in at school and was not very good academically (he’d never finished a book until his son lent him ‘Harry Potter’ which he’s nearly finished now). He smoked a lot of pot. His parents were having troubles; Brian kept himself largely and deliberately ignorant.
When he was 17 his Dad shot himself in the head. They said it was a hunting accident and the gun had gone off while he was climbing through a fence. Brian didn’t believe it. Brian’s Mum and his younger sister (13 at the time) moved to Sydney where his maternal aunties and uncle lived. Brian stayed in Melbourne as he was six months into a bricklayer’s apprenticeship at Holmesglen Tafe.
He didn’t complete his training. He got stoned a lot and a few months after his Mum left he crashed his car while drunk. He lost his licence for 12 months and lost his apprenticeship with it. After almost a year on the dole he was convinced by Centrelink to do a Cert II in Security / Crowd Control. He didn’t mind the Security Guard work but didn’t like Crowd Control much. He worked on and off enough for a few years while getting some side $ as a decent footy player to scratch a living.
At 24 he married the sister of one of his footy mates. Sarah was a hairdresser with her own salon. They were happy together but she had trouble conceiving. After a year of IVF they had their first son Jaydin. Brian was 27. Four years and more IVF later they had twin girls Maysin and Madysin. They were premature by emergency C-section. Maysin survived a few hours; Madysin almost a day.
The stress of losing the girls and financial stress from Sarah not working and Brian’s infrequent employment put tremendous strain on the marriage. Brian hadn’t learnt any coping mechanism and began to recall his parents’ failed marriage. When Brian’s drinking made him miss shifts things got worse. Eventually they split, three days before Brian’s 33rd birthday.
Brian has spent the last eight years trying to overcome his alcoholism (not entirely successfully) and patch things up with Sarah (completely unsuccessfully). For a year or two he had no access to Jaydin, but has cleaned his act up enough that he now has monthly visitation and is trying for fortnightly. He works hard at his relationship with his son but can’t quite make it work.
Brian is genuinely a decent guy who has been dealt a pretty rough deal by life but takes the hits and keeps getting up. He’s damaged, but denies it. He avoids introspection and doesn’t talk too much about his past. He’s pessimistic in many ways and has come to expect that he “kinda deserves” ill-fortune. He has no strong religious conviction, a pretty mild streak of Aussie nationalism expressed in a faded southern-cross tattoo on his forearm and a vague philosophy that newcomers should ‘fit in and speak English’. Socially he’s a bit awkward. He’s a little too honest and can come across as tactless. He is curious of others though and prepared to ask questions. What prejudice he has is ignorance and he discards it as he gets to know people better. He doesn’t have a lot of patience for people who try to manipulate or fool him, but nor does he really hold grudges. Unfortunately his only practiced coping mechanism for dealing with conflict is violence.