How to capture the reality of authority.
I started a business once (spoiler alert: it failed miserably).
The first thing I learned was that being in charge is nothing like you think it will be.
After my first business failed, I started another one, and when it failed, I started another one.
As I went through the different iterations of my boss-self, I learned more and more about how employees react to employers, how people outside the company think and change towards you as an authority figure, and, most importantly, how much you have to rely on yourself in order to succeed.
Here are a few pitfalls to avoid when writing a king as a character:
- The King is an impersonal figure who issues commands
- The guards are loyal and responsible
- The King gets mad when he is not obeyed
Now, here are examples that incorporate the falling-into and successful avoidance of these king-traps.
Bad Writing (spoiled king):
The king looked imperiously down at Bantor, who trembled on his knees before the throne.
“You have committed great crimes against our throne,” King Calin said. His voice boomed through the room like an angry drum.
Bantor squeezed closed his eyes, and waited for the dire pronouncement.
“You have one chance to redeem yourself,” the king said. Bantor caught his breath, and looked up.
“Keep your head down, recreant,” a guard hissed, and a wad of spittle hit Bantor’s cheek. Bantor’s face burned; he turned his eyes to the floor.
“What can I do, oh king?” Bantor said, in a trembling voice.
“Courtiers, leave,” the king commanded, and a shuffle resounded through the chamber as the men and ladies departed. When the doors were shut, the king stood, and gestured his hand towards a table. One of his guards went to the place, and retrieved a slim letter. “You must deliver this missive to my great enemy, or you shall surely die,” King Calin intoned. The guard brought the letter to Bantor, who grasped it with shaking fingers.
Good Writing (realistic king):
Bantor studied the threadbare carpet that ran below the seat of the king, and waited to hear his death sentence. I won’t get off, it’s too much against me, he thought, and he felt his palms growing warm and moist.
“Leave us,” King Calin said; his words swept through the throne room like a tempestuous riot of energy. Bantor heard the shuffle of many feet as the courtiers filed from the room. A booming sound announced the closure of the doors. “You can get up now,” the king said, and Bantor held his breath. Bantor held his head lower still, and waited to feel the edge of a knife, or the crash of a heavy fist against his body.
“Bantor, stand,” the king said impatiently. Bantor looked up cautiously, and saw that the room was completely empty.
“Your guard,” Bantor said, his mind blank.
“I need a man like you,” the king said. “Do you want to live?” Bantor nodded so swiftly that his head felt ready to wobble off his neck. “Good,” the king said. Bantor watched the king take a packet of papers from the table near his throne. King Calin held out the packet. “Take this,” the king said. “You’ll be taken to the keep. When the guard turns his back, climb the wall. If you’re seen in the country again, you will die.”
Bantor studied the king.
“Where does the packet go?” Bantor asked. The king was still holding out the sheaf of papers; Bantor took them. They were like whispering shadows in his hand.