Beautiful People is an amazing feature created by Cait @ Paper Fury and Sky @ Further Up and Further whereas aspiring writers answer questions about their story to help both the author and potential reader understand the books direction. I participated in January where I answered questions involving my goals for the year, and this month which was all about getting to know your main character. Just a little bit of back story; my book follows a seventeen year old KGB spy/assassin sent to rural Pennsylvania in 1959 to cause the onset of a zombie apocalypse that will destroy America as we know it (crazy, I know). She succeeds and what follows is some cool Cold War politics, 50’s pop culture references, character self discovery, and zombie slaying… but back to Beautiful People. It’s open to any and everyone free to participate in the 31 days a month it’s open. Oh, and bonus, April questions come out tomorrow!
- What first inspired this character? Is there a person/actor you based them off?
As a reviewer who enjoys overanalyzing things to their death, I’ve had a lot of time to think about the traits I most admire in characters. So, essentially, Svetlana Smirnov is a medley of anything and everything I admire when reading (fictional) people. I can’t say she’s based off any one influence, but she has a lot of similar vulnerabilities to the original YA girl power queen, Katniss Everdeen. Also, far as those intense skills she loves to show off I always imagine Saoirse Ronan’s character in the movie Hanna, slaying left and right.
- Describe their daily routine.
A typical day in the life of Svetlana pre-apocalypse, pre-America/Mary Ann identity would consist of a strict schedule and rigid rules. No outside socialization, just by-the-book practice of the Academy’s hardcore subject manner such as martial arts and linguistics. Oppositely, infiltrating Mary Ann’s life would be a walk in the park for most people; wake up, go to high school, blend in with the ideals of 1959 rural America. However coming from such a controlled and cut throat environment is a major culture shock for Svetlana, making her almost more at ease when she triggers the rise of the undead.
- If they joined your local high school, what clique would they fit into?
Circling back to that whole Katniss Everdeen comparison, Svetlana’s life has always been extremely out of the ordinary and unstable. She’s never really been given the opportunity to settle herself and really find who she is separate from the identity the KGB has given her. As such her natural instinct is to retreat into the only person she always knows and trusts: herself. For however briefly she attends Wilkes High School though it’s imperative no one suspects her as more than a transfer student, so we do actually see where Svetlana is most comfortable (when forced) in the high school pecking order. That is to say, she’s just a nice person. Not chasing popularity, excelling in the athletic arena, or outdoing fellow peers in academics, but unwinding in a nonthreatening environment so different that anything else she’s ever been exposed too.
- Write a list of things they merely tolerate.
Elizabeth Taylor, zucchini, Bertha Sauk from chemistry, high ponytails, overly loud chewing, being late, and a lack of cleanliness. Really I could go on, but imagine the traits of an OCD assassin forced to integrate into high school.
- How do they react in awkward silences?
The identity of Mary Ann Pennysworth, typical golden girl, is pillared mainly by her incessant friendliness and bubbly personality- meaning there is never supposed to be an awkward silence when Svetlana is impersonating her. Naturally though will all the God gifted social talents she really possesses (read: none), it’s entirely likely Svetlana created the void herself in order to escape what she feels is a pointless conversation.
- Can they swim? If so how did they learn?
Though this is one of Svetlana’s least favorite training simulations at the Academy, it is a must all future field agents learn. Having been swimming since she was five, she could put the best Iron Man competitor to shame.
- What is one major event that helped shape who they are?
The Svetlana we first meet is cold, guarded, and as a whole struggles to genuinely connect with people. As time goes on though and she starts to see the error in the path she’s taking, a person previously inconsequential to her comes to mind. That being a former instructor of the Academy who told her something along the lines of ‘You are more than the sum of your parts’, referring to the need for Svetlana to break away from the life shaped for her since infancy. At the time she regarded this woman’s struggle as a cautionary tale (she was presumably fired for encouraging rebellion), but in hindsight it was the most necessary advice she ever received and crucial for her making the turning point in thawing herself to the idea of a new life.
- What things do they value most in life?
Svetlana is not a materialistic or particularly sentimental person at all, so her most valuable possession is the code of honor she guides her life by. This being unfailing loyalty, honesty, and dutiful hard work. She never strays from this preordained set of rules, and for all her flaws this makes it clear there is a person worth digging for inside.
- Do they believe in giving other people second chances? Do they have any trust issues?
Considering Svetlana guards her heart with a key, it’s obvious she has major trust issues to work out through the book. This is largely because, as the necessary puzzle piece to the KGB’s most important mission, she has always been looked at as a machine. To her superiors as long as the outside was in fully functioning shape, it really didn’t really matter whether what was going on inside. Because no one has ever gotten close to her she doesn’t know what to do when an intimate situation comes up, causing her to pull away in fear and rationalizing that with no second chances. Resolving this is her main character arc in the story, and an interesting dynamic I’m excited to explore.
- Your character is having a rough day…what things do they do to make them happy again? Is there anyone they talk/interact with to get in a better mood?
Never having anyone to talk to, Svetlana is the poster child for endorphins. Whenever she has a bad time her natural response is just to sweat it out. As the aforementioned trust issues get worked out though she finds herself in increasingly close contact with love interest Jay, whereas they both enjoy talking to each other about various issues in their lives.
-Keep Calm and Read On