Thursday, September 10, 2015

Character Sketch: Meet Scarlet

There'll probably come a point where I'll going through all my characters and saw how each of them is the manifestation of a different part of me.
Or just part of the female psyche in general. Particularly when it comes to relationships.

My original plan was to split this proceeding character sketch entry (I'll do one for each of my main characters once I have most of the information I need) between two characters: namely because they're twin sisters and I dedicated an entire composition notebook to the two of them.

But I decided to give each of them their individual entries because I have a better sense of one more than the other... although Scarlet still is a work in progress herself... up until this book's publication [not to get ahead of myself], I won't know 100% about anyone.
There's always the chance that I'll have a brainblast amid my 3rd or 4th draft and I'll have to make other adjustments.

There is also the fact that a) I'm currently hashing out Scarlet's story arc for the actual novel, and b) because I created Scarlet as one of Talia's two best friends, I felt she had to have more of a story... otherwise it's the whole question of "why is she here at all?"

After I had my protagonist Talia (who I wanted to channel Nelly Furtado ala her "Loose" album), I created the rest of my female cast using "SuckerPunch" as my baseline.
One of a few things I got out of this movie that I just couldn't get out of my head after going to theaters to see it :P it was also a good starting point because I wanted to have a certain number of characters to focus on to make my idea of this venue that stars Latin dancers more realistic.

Right now, I can't say for sure if Scarlet was one of the first characters I created or one of the characters from "SuckerPunch" I wanted to pay homage too... but I do know that the overall look of Jena Malone's character, Rocket, I wanted to have.
And really, the only things she has in common with her are her overall look (short pixie haircut with reddish hair) and the fact she has a sister.

Somehow, it seemed like a good point to make. Seeing how these two sisters who grew up around abuse emerged from it differently and how they handle this business they wound up finding their way to.
And just as I really hadn't written much about female friendships, I'd never really written about sibling relationships. I'm the oldest of two sisters yet it's not something I really focused on. The interactions we have, I don't feel as if there's much of a story there. At least not something that could go mainstream and be interesting for anyone else to read.

Regarding Rocket, I don't know why she was the character I gravitated to the most other than Babydoll [who I couldn't help but support because "SuckerPunch" is shown from her perspective]. Maybe it's because she was Babydoll's first friend at the Institute/brothel that showed her around.
Or the more logical reason... she was my token girl crush of the movie. I just loved her overall look.

Bits and pieces of Rocket's personality have come out as I wrote Scarlet in a couple scenes where she's interacting with friends and not much else is going on... but beyond that, when things get more dramatic, she's different. She's fun-loving and supportive, but when she gets super serious, you have to pay attention because she's very optimistic.
In fact, she's optimistic about others, but not herself- one of a couple traits she got from me.

As I've said, the common thread between the girls in my story (except for Emilia who is pure in practically every way possible when it begins) is that they come from abusive backgrounds.
Yes, it seems a little stereotypical... to impress that all girls who wind up in the adult entertainment business or around the industry are "damaged goods"... that it's automatically assumed that girls who sleep with roughly 100 guys a year do so because they were abused at an early age- whereas guys who sleep with 100 women a year, it's just stereotypical guy business and nothing to do with self-esteem issues.
[Practically quoting one of my favorite movies- and oddly spoken by one of my favorite actors].
Part of the reason I'm writing the story is to show that circumstances can change and people can change... you are not necessarily doomed to a certain way of life. And these girls are "no different than anybody else"

I knew I'd be dealing with some heavy stuff, stuff that scares me, but all of it does find a solution in the end.
What's unfortunate is that while Amber was born in a brothel and was subjected to pedophiles with fetishes for bondage... Scarlet probably suffered more than any other character I created for this book.

Fiona "Scarlet" Sawyer Rasmussen Castillo
Backstory- age 7-14

Fiona is the older of the two sisters. They live in a single-level (with an unfinished basement) 2-bedroom farmhouse in the rural outskirts of a town roughly 10 miles away from my story's city.

Sometime around this age, their mom dies... I'm still vague on the details how she died. But I do know that their father blamed Scarlet for it...

Originally, the abuse was physical. Scarlet, being the oldest, was beaten when she didn't perform well in school. And she wasn't allowed certain privileges until her homework was done.
[While writing this portion of the back story, I didn't get into too many specifics.. namely because the following page would start pouring on the heavy stuff].

Then the abuse turned sexual when puberty happened... I believe when she was 12... [Given how much a monster their father was, I don't know why he bothered to wait for that particular time window... maybe pedophilia is the only line he wouldn't cross or just that he wouldn't get the same satisfaction until she was officially "sexually active"].
He'd tell her to spend the night in his room, he'd take advantage of her (and threatened for her to cooperate or he'd do the same to her sister) and he would drop off in the room she shares with her sister after she passes out.

Without having to say a word, of course, Ruby understands what's going on. [Unbeknownst to Scarlet, Ruby had been victimized herself starting after their mom died, but in a different way].

There's also an episode where Ruby gets a boyfriend and their father "beats sense into her," saying that being 12 is not old enough for her to have a boyfriend. She's unable to go to school for several days and Scarlet has to lie and cover up for her. And their father cuts Scarlet's hair to turn off any boys from being interested in her either.

The climax of this part of Scarlet's story arc is what ultimately leads to her escape from it. Ruby wanted to audition for a school play and Scarlet agreed to go with her. Ruby gets the lead role, but the teacher calls the house to tell their father how talented she is. Scarlet covers up for her sister, saying she wanted to do it and asked her to audition with her (when it really was Ruby's idea).
This assault is particularly vicious because it takes place in their basement, he ties her to a makeshift bed and... to put it mildly, had she not gotten out when she did, she would have died. That's the amount of damage that was done.

Ruby comes up with the idea to get Scarlet out. There's a small window leading out of their basement and she finds tools to unscrew the bars to get her out. She pushes her way out, but doesn't come with her because she has other things to take care of.

Namely, Ruby pledges loyalty to their father, agrees to his advances whenever he's "in the mood"... basically, having her believe that she's on his side and she would never leave him with the hope he'll forget about Scarlet and not think to pursue her.
It works for a while, but eventually, Ruby does have to take charge of the situation and ensure that he can never hurt anyone again.

Age 14-16
[While I was thinking about what brought all these characters to the same place, I also thought about in which order they arrived and which friendships and loyalties would be forged in which order... in this process, I decided that Scarlet and Amber would be best friends].

Paying homage to her sister, Fiona takes the name "Scarlet" and struggles to find an apartment because of her age. She comes upon the apartment complex where Amber (then Carmen) lives and Amber offers to take her in. She's living with two of the servers at the restaurant they work at... which later evolves into the dance club.

Of course, she's very vulnerable and broken up about the fact she had to leave her sister alone with their monster of a father... even when staying behind was a choice she made and couldn't be talked out of.
So much of the back story that I wrote for her, she's relaying to Amber, who is very supportive. And even though she'd gone through a lot of trouble in her own life, she truly feels that Scarlet had suffered more than she did.

Because the brothers who own the restaurant helped her, Amber asks for them to recommend a doctor for Scarlet... she doesn't show signs of any physical ailments, but she's very depressed and dejected, so she wants to make sure that she's really okay.
But in the examination, they find out that the monster knocked her up. Regardless of how it came to be, she does agree to go through with it because she wouldn't forgive herself if she terminated it. Not long after the diagnosis, though, she miscarries.

It's clear then that whether she'd die from the injuries caused by the rape or the retribution for the miscarriage... she wouldn't have survived in that house of horrors much longer.

What wasn't clear to me right away was how much the miscarriage affected her. How much she really regretted "failing" in that capacity. And ultimately, her dream is not only to be able to fall in love, but also to have a family.
That's a part of womanhood none of my characters really had. I contemplated putting Talia in that position and even wrote an entire scene about it... but realized that it just wasn't right for that particular character. Scarlet had endured the miscarriage and never forgave herself for it... it only seemed right for her to fall in love and have that addition as well.

Age 16-25

Two years after Scarlet arrives, she meets Talia... and things start to change... and Amber is not happy about it because she feels as if she's losing her best friend.

The thing that makes them grow apart: Scarlet wants to talk about her past and continue to work through it. And Amber really doesn't want to go through with that. She's not even comfortable enough with herself to be forthcoming with personal information about where she came from.

Scarlet is kind of an emotional being in that she needs to talk through her emotions or else she feels like she'll explode.
Talking with Talia about how things have gone wrong in her life, she feels comfortable with telling her own back story. And somehow the two of them find a common bond... I guess Talia feels the kinship because Scarlet had also been wronged by a man in her life. Scarlet feels the kinship because they can be open with one another.

Shortly after they met and Scarlet brings up Amber's idea to bring dancing to the venue as entertainment... Talia starts coming up with ideas for performances. Plus she wants to subject herself to prostitute to pay back the debt her stepfather incurred while working for the brothers... and also to help bring money back to the venue because like many places in town, the books are in the red.
She also looks to recruit her childhood friend Vanessa to help. She remembered that she had a talent for dancing, but thanks to what's been going on with her stepfather, she hadn't been able to see her in years. She finds her in a relationship with an abusive/controlling boyfriend and helps her out of it... the brothers get personally involved in making sure this guy never comes near Vanessa again.

Then the trio of Talia, Vanessa and Scarlet is born... and when Amber sees them perform their first number together, she's incensed... for many reasons.
One of the biggest ones is that Scarlet seems to have found new friends and she not no longer matters to her.

Then they hold auditions to find another principle dancer/siren. Amber auditions, but Talia says she's only doing steps- not really living her choreography.
Then Ruby shows up with a couple of her friends (from a strip club she'd been working at) and wows Talia, getting the final spot.

Seeing the sister reunited, her dancing not being taken seriously by Talia and Alejandro clearly more interested in Talia than her, Amber decides to leave.
Scarlet is heartbroken by this, but she is eventually able to move on.

I don't have much figured out for what occurs in the years when Amber is gone... other than the fact that Scarlet is not comfortable with the idea of prostituting herself... Talia is more than willing to do it [but of course it was her idea]. Vanessa does it for a while to help bring in the funds. And Ruby does it to help pay for their apartment (the rent is high on the side of town- despite the fact it's barely surviving), but also because she'd been exposed to it that way of life longer (between the strip club and dealing with their father), she wants to do it so her sister wouldn't have to.

When she performs, Scarlet either does duets with Ruby (where they capitalize on the fact that they're twins, both with dancing and their clothes and makeup) or she performs with Vanessa and Talia.
Talia suggests for her to do a solo number and she does come with some choreography for it... but when she tried to do it in rehearsal, she couldn't bring herself to go on with it. Going solo is terrifying for her... maybe because it reminds her of all the times she was alone with her father with no way of escaping.

Yet when she performs karaoke, she's completely comfortable on stage. Her signature song is to the same song she choreographed the solo number to ("Genie in a Bottle" by Christina Aguilera)... for whatever reason, singing the music is perfectly fine.
I never figured out why... other than the fact that maybe she was meant to be a singer instead of a dancer.

Towards the end of this time period, Emilia comes along. There're doing auditions to find another back-up dancer. Talia leaves this up to Scarlet and Vanessa to run the auditions because the past several dancers haven't worked out. She's looking for someone who could make the transition from back-up dancer to siren. Emilia's audition is the first one she's come to in a long time.

I wrote a quick scene where, at Talia's request, Scarlet takes Emilia out for a bite to eat and gives her an overview of what to expect. She also lets her know that the other girls there have gone through trials in their lives and they won't all be as forth coming with that information. It's an unspoken rule that each girl's backstory is their own to tell.
It's a scene that's kind of in homage to when Rocket shows Babydoll around the institute/brothel in "SuckerPunch"...

Age 25- [the main story]

Vanessa and Scarlet both serve as peacemakers of sorts.

Scarlet tries to keep the peace between everybody when things get intense... and she tries to be the optimist in the situation.

She suggests that they do karaoke that Friday night because they hadn't been in a while and she wanted to change the flow of a tense situation.
Not only does Talia meet her future love interest, but Scarlet also meets hers... and it's someone she'd seen a couple of times before, but they've never spoken before.

Among the sirens, Scarlet is among the least intimidating, so a lot of guys have asked her out and she's always said no. She has a good relationship with Alejandro and the brothers (his uncles) because they helped her when she was going through difficulties. But as much as she wants to find love, she's very shy around the opposite sex.

But with Javier, she decides to give herself a chance because there's something about him that she feels confident about.
I'm getting to the point where she's second guessing herself about him... after she'd had time to sleep on it and also because she said she'd give him the address of their next performance... she has to ask Talia anyway about whether it's okay to give him the address because she doesn't like surprises.

But the fact that Javier comes ensures that Talia will see Juan Paulo again... because the two of them are old friends.

Once some of the other girls meet Javier and give their second opinions about him (all positive), Scarlet feels comfortable with taking on this relationship.

There will be a double-date scene with Scarlet and Vanessa- Vanessa agrees to go out with Juan Paulo to check him out for Talia but also to tell him more about her, to explain why she's so standoffish about him. Some valuable information is told to him and later he unwittingly repeats it to Talia and it contributes to their break-up.

Around the time Talia breaks up with Juan Paulo, Scarlet sleeps with Javier- the first time she has sex with someone she cares about and who genuinely cares about her. Leading up to this point, Scarlet is so uncomfortable around the institution of sex (because of what she went through) that she can't even be in the same apartment with someone having sex. When Ruby is entertaining at their place, she stays the night with Talia and Vanessa. There's a scene early on where Vanessa returns home to find Scarlet huddled in the common room because Talia had an impromptu booty call.

Then after she has sex with Javier and she's staying the night with him, she has a nightmare where her past comes back to her. She gathers her things, explaining everything to Javier, who is very understanding, but her confidence is gone and she has to leave.

Eventually, her story arc comes full circle with another pregnancy... which she is very happy about, but it makes her reconsider Javier because she knows he would be a great father. It's just being ready to talk to him again and tell him what's going on. Trusting that he will still want to be with her.
Amber is the one that gives her the courage to get back into contact with him... after Amber's true identity is ousted and the two of them rekindle their friendship.

...what I'm just realizing now is that I really don't have any planned interactions between Scarlet and her own sister, Ruby... not yet anyway... I do have a chapter coming up with the two of them and Talia have a paid gig at a small new club that's owned by a business partner of the brothers...
and I did start a chapter where the two of them act a revenge number that's targeted at their father and Ruby confesses how she got away from him. Up until this point, she was vague, just saying "I gave him no other choice but to let me go."

Ultimately, there's always going to be room for improvement: not everything is set in stone yet with anybody.

Just recently I figured that I might need a new last name for these sisters. I just started with Rasmussen because I thought it was a unique last name- I got from Carmen Rasmussen from "American Idol"... I got Carmen for the character from the musical duo Karmin- some of their songs inspired her backstory and I came up with the whole fact that Amber was a name created for a new identity.
And considering where my story is set (somewhere in South America), I want the last names to be Spanish (although only Talia and Alejandro have any measure of an accent in my head when I read their dialogue)


[totally girl crushing right now...]

Everything about Jena Malone's "SuckerPunch" look... except Scarlet would be strawberry blonde with some red highlights (Ruby would be the opposite- red hair with some blonde highlights).