*Warning: This post contains spoilers about Poldark, both the books and the television series. Read at your own risk.
There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.
In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using Winston Graham’s series of novels, Poldark and the subsequent television series to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.
In the previous posts, I wrote about the title character, Ross Poldark , his wife, Demelza, Ross’s cousin, Francis, Francis’s wife, Elizabeth, Elizabeth’s second husband, George Warleggan, Ross’s cousin, Verity Blamey and Ross’s best friend, Dr. Dwight Enys. In this last post talking about the characters within the Poldark universe, I will be writing about Caroline Enys (nee Penvenen).
Caroline is introduced in book 3 and series 2 as the typical rich girl, a la Maria Bertram from Mansfield Park. An orphan, she was raised by her uncle. At the age when she is eligible to marry, she comes with unwanted baggage: her potential fiance, Unwin Trevaunance. Unwin makes Maria’s fiance, Mr. Rushworth look like Clark Gable, which is not saying much. A happy marriage, this is not destined to be.
Then Caroline falls for Dwight Enys, a doctor who chooses to practice medicine in Cornwall among the lower classes instead of in fashionable Bath or London. While Caroline may appear to be the spoiled rich girl, she has a heart. She secretly pays off Ross’s debts and pays for the food that keeps the poorer denizens of Cornwall from dying of scurvy. She also marries Dwight, knowing full well that he is a step down and that her marriage will be frowned upon by some people.
Caroline could have easily been a paint by numbers character: the spoiled rich girl, the character who chooses to live by society’s rules instead of by their own rules. But because she takes a stand for what she wants out of life and gives back to others without expecting anything in return, she is revealed to be a character who surprises the audience.
To sum it up: The writer needs every now and again to surprise their audience. Just when the audience thinks that they know the character, throwing them a curve ball is another incentive to keep the audience engaged and involved. Dull and predictable characters will not hold your audience. Interesting and different characters will hold your audience.
On a personal note, I want to thank the readers who have allowed me to experiment with a new series of blog posts. It has been a pleasure to examine how writers can create engaging and fully formed characters that keep the audience on their toes. In the next few weeks, I will be examining the characters from the original Star Wars trilogy. I’m looking forward to it.