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Character Design Brainstorming: The Holy Man (or Woman)

Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, Sept. 12, 2020
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The Holy Man or Woman may be within the clergy, but that isn't necessarily the case.

They are simply the person that has found enlightenment, or self actualization, depending on how secular your story (and your approach) is.

They are the character that doesn't have all the answers, but has a good few. And for those they don't have the answers, they have the compass for finding them.

This is a pretty challenging character in that they can be very bland, or become the mouthpiece for the author's ideology or views in life.

To an extent, the Holy Man/Woman will reflect what the creator thinks is the right answer to whatever problem is challenging the main characters, but that doesn't need to become preachy or hamfisted. After all, a oerson that has reached a level of self actualization rarely has the need to be preachy when not asked. And even when they ARE asked, they are laconic in their responses.

The challenge with this character is to not forget to give them a personality: that they are holy (or enlightened, or wise, or elevated) does not mean they don't have quirks, humor, preferences, pet hates, fears or even personal issues they are still grappling with.

You might even disagree that what I am discribing is the holy man/woman, because this often is described as the Wise Old Man/Woman rather than the Holy one. However, I've a reasoning for my categorization- that the ‘holiness’ is well beyond religion. It's about a spiritual, emotional, and mental state that has been reached through personal effort, experiences, and growth. The Holy Man/Woman may not even be religious at all, may be atheist or agnostic, and still be closer to holiness and divinity than they'd like to admit :)

Do you have a holy man/woman in your cast, and what is it that makes them that?

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comment

anonymous?

PaulEberhardt at 11:25AM, Sept. 13, 2020

To me it's always a high point when such a character shows up. I wish I had come up with a fitting situation to include one. Thanks for this series on character design - these articles are a great place to come back to when creativity needs a boost.

Banes at 8:48AM, Sept. 13, 2020

Really cool series you've got going here. A character menu for fantasy stories!

Tantz_Aerine at 6:33AM, Sept. 12, 2020

Morgan: That sounds AWESOME.

bravo1102 at 5:30AM, Sept. 12, 2020

So many of the archetypes show up in Sword of Kings. Guess that's one reason it resonated with so many readers.

bravo1102 at 5:27AM, Sept. 12, 2020

And this is why the sage laughs is a phrase found throughout the Tao Te Ching the primary resource for Taoism. Absurdity is often used to give examples of why the Tao is preferred to other ways of thinking. There is the laughing Buddha who is overcome with joy at enlightenment. With wisdom can come a keen sense of humor instead of stolid seriousness. The enlightened one could be a wise fool. She could also be one all expect to be holy and serious but instead is boisterous and quite human because wisdom brings appreciation of the simple joys of living. Remember that Griar Tuck was a member of a religious order. In some versions he was a wise man of God in addition to the friar with a taste for good wine and food.

MOrgan at 2:50AM, Sept. 12, 2020

Just because they are holy doesn't necessarily mean they're bland. They can be sarcastic, or sly, or jokers. I remember hearing about a New York priest who came out before his congregation and uttered three shocking terms of the day, then launched into his sermon about those terms. Why did he do it? He had a bet with another priest about his ability to ad-lib a sermon. Just because a character is religious and/or found enlightment doesn't mean they cease to be human.


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