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I'm the author of The Liberty Pole. I dabble a bit in blogging and have a fascination with early American history (late 18th century) as well as WWII. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A Character in the Making: Freedom Lewis

I tend to reserve this blog for historical and social/political musings, but every once and a while I may branch out into a bit more. Today is one of those days. I usually begin with a bit on history, but sadly this has little to do with our foundings and more to do with my own personal history in finding a place for a character that I created in my writings.

My second semester at university I enrolled in a philosophy class. The class itself obviously had little effect on me as I remember very few things about it. I believe it was in the morning, one of the books we read was Pride and Prejudice, the teacher had an affinity for knee-high boots, and it was during one of these classes that Freedom was born.

No, this is not meant to be some grand statement on the liberation of the mind, but an acknowledgement of finding the face and name of a character that I have grown to love very dearly. She had a heart-shaped face and dark hair that was bunched into dreadlocks. At the time she had several peircings (that she has since grown out of in her expansion as a character), a Chi Rho tattoo on her wrist, and was a bit of a gypsy. She was a free spirt and, because of this, she was very quickly given the name Freedom.
"Freedom's Dance" (c) 2006
(excuse the old, terrible art!)

She was fun, but I really had no place for her. She really was a free spirit roaming about my works with no place to settle down in. She had no setting, no family, and she didn't even have a last name that suited her. Every time I tried, it just didn't work. She wouldn't have any of it. So I continued to let her wander through my artwork, settling into a short story here and there where I tried with everything I had to come up with a backstory. It didn't fit.

For a short time in 2007 I was working on a story that I don't believe ever had a solid name attached to it. The idea was to take a look at various underground movements in culture and really dive into them. (I was a sophomore in college, it was that "finding yourself" bit I've mentioned before.) I thought that Freedom would be a nice balance for the characters, many whom would have fought and bickered regularly and her sweet spirit would act as a buffer.

That story line was fairly short lived. I moved on, working on other ideas that floated about in my mind, and Freedom resumed her status as my wandering character. She landed a brief stint in a short story that I wrote for a creative writing class that has since been lost.

Freedom on a political poster
(c) 2009
Then came the summer of 2009. While I have always been interested in politics, this was when I became vocal and active in various events, including peaceful protests. I noticed that many people created hand-written signs and the like, but as a cartoonist I was interested in using the hobby for something more than just enjoyment. As an artist, my art needed to mean something. So I began sketching and dug out my markers, hoping that they wouldn't dry out on the much larger project than they were used to.  Freedom, having no story home and being very much a favorite of mine, took center stage for my own poster.
Her peircings were gone and I still did not have a solid skin tone or eye color for her, but she was perfect.

Fall of 2009 rolled around and school began again. I had begun to think about a dystopian book project that would eventually form up into what has become The Liberty Pole. I knew at the time that I wanted many if not all of the characters to be heavily based off of historical figures. I had Nathan Thompson, a spy deep undercover in enemy territory that was based off of America's first spy Nathan Hale. I had Joseph Diem, a character that was originally meant to be based off of the fantastic Dr. Joseph Warren, though the character's father (Warren Diem) really took on more of the founder's personality as I wrote. I had the general in Alec Lewis, a silent and sturdy man that may bring about thoughts of George Washington, and, of course, there is the novel's lead protagonist: Bethany Adams.

As I began doodling out characters and forming up plot ideas I remember thinking how well Freedom Lewis flowed. As I thought more on it, on Alec and his wife Margie, on their adopted son Nathan, and on Bethany who was in great need of a friend to help her through the trials she faced, Freedom seemed the only plausible answer. After all, a young woman that goes by the name Freedom simply belongs in a story that's plot line is the struggle for liberty.

"Let Freedom Ring"
(c) 2010
"Freedom is Never Free"
(c) 2010
I can't begin to describe how excited I was to finally have found a place for this beloved character. She had a name, a past, and a family that she loved. It was just so right that I'm not sure how I could have ever pictured her in any other story line. There was no forcing her into the plot, there was no awkward shifting of other characters to accommodate her. She belonged in The Liberty Pole.

Most characters (or at least mine) set out on their journey at the beginning of the story that they are in. Alec, Bethany, Nathan, and the other characters of The Liberty Pole developed as I wrote, telling their story. Freedom, to me, had already been through so much. There was no questioning what she would do in a situation, because I knew the character inside and out. I knew her wants, her dreams, and her desires. It was comfortable.

I feel I'm having a hard time wrapping this post up, but I think that's because her story's not quite over. It may never be, as I do hope that others will enjoy her journey as much as I have. I would dare think that every writer would hope to produce something of worth that will change the status-quo and shake up the wrongs of this world and it would be well within this particular character's personality to be involved in that.

Freedom Lewis
(c) 2012