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Thursday, May 15, 2014

How I Developed My Characters in Cedar Woman - Part I

     I hope everyone has enjoyed the excerpt from Cedar Woman.  I thought that it would be fun for me to tell you all why I wrote the book, and from where I got my plot, my characters, locations and so on.
     First, I’d like to say that Cedar Woman is a project I wanted to work on for several years.  Written with the help of my adopted sister, Julie Spotted Eagle Horse Martineau, it is a book which I have thoroughly enjoyed writing.
     I asked my sister to act as a consultant.  I did so because I didn't want to write about the sacred things which are not supposed to be written about, and I wanted to write about those which I could with utmost authenticity.  I also wanted to make sure that I represented the Lakota people with the deepest respect and honor.
     That said, I thought it would be fun to discuss how I begin the writing process, and the main characters first: how I came up with them, their names, their personalities.  I find this process in the writing of a book to be a great deal of fun.  So, here we go.
     First I develop and outline.  I consider it to be my roadmap, which ensures that I will get from point A to point B without getting lost.  I allow for some detours, but always return to my roadmap.
     Part of the process of developing an outline for Cedar Woman was finding the beautiful proverbs, sayings and poetry of our American Indian brothers and sisters which begin each chapter.  I felt that it added poignancy to my writing, while honoring those who wrote these wise and beautiful examples of American Indian literature.
     Next, I develop my main characters.  Keep in mind that I have been meditating on the story for a while; I have a document titled “notes,” where I have written down “beginner” names.  That is, possibly not the name they will end up with, and their function within the story.  Outline complete, quotes and parables chosen, I now begin the process of building my characters.  What fun!
     This is a list of the main characters in Cedar Woman.  Today, we will discuss the first four.

Lena Cedar Woman Catcher Young Bear
Peter Spotted Eagle Catcher
Reva Two Strikes Catcher
Mary One Feather Fools Bull
Joseph and Evalena Countryman
Dean and Nellie Countryman
The Hummingbird
Nickie Greene
Vickie Compton
Julie Spotted Eagle Horse Martineau
Michael Young Bear
Sonny Glass
Boy Lad
Logan Singing Grass Young Bear
Grandmother Nancy

     Lena Cedar Woman Catcher Young Bear is based on my dear cousin, Vicki.  I needed a strong woman to base my character on and chose Vickie for these reasons.  In addition, Vicki looks like Cedar Woman….or, rather Cedar Woman looks like Vicki?
     In this story, Cedar Woman has to be a pillar of strength.  She is faced with challenges that will make her a success or failure.  Her personality is based pretty much on mine.  I have faced many of the same challenges and experiences.  I feel that, by knowing myself so well, I was able to make Cedar Woman live.
     Peter Spotted Eagle Catcher is based on Graham Greene, an American Indian actor whom I have admired and enjoyed for years.  Since I do not know Mr. Greene personally, I endowed Peter with the personality, attitudes and fortitude that I have often imagined Mr. Greene to possess.  I dearly love Peter.  To me, he embodies a person of outstanding character and perseverance.
     Reva Two Strikes Catcher carries my mother’s name.  I’ve always loved the name Reva. Reva is a composite of two women I knew in my childhood:  one, a woman from the Appalacian Mountains, the other a Franciscan nun.  I needed a woman who was no nonsense, driven by common sense, stern and practical, with the heart of a mother.  You will be surprised at some of Reva’s later experiences.
     Mary One Feather Fools Bull is modeled after the beautiful and talented American Indian actress Irene Bedard.  I don’t know Irene personally, but I know people who do, and they describe her as a woman of great strength and humility.  I needed this for Mary.  As the story unfolds, Mary’s devotion and courage become pivotal in the story line.
     Tomorrow I will share with you the next four characters.  I hope you stop by and share this with me.  Please, feel free to ask any questions.

Toksa Ake Wakan Tanka Nici Un - Walk With God


  1. Thank You! I Love How You Set About Developing Your Characters.

  2. You are very welcome. Stop back tomorrow where I'll describe the next four. After that will be the locations.