Storytelling: Falling From Grace
Grief, anger, denial, frustration – There are many emotions that go into a character who has fallen from grace. These are the men and women who have done something bad, when they’re not supposed to be bad. These can also be the people who have lost their way, forgetting their purpose. These are the sad, heart-wrenching characters who help you invest in a story. We’re all human, we all occasionally forget what we’re fighting for – And this is how I’d portray them in writing.
A tough part of any story is dealing with characters who lose their way; who fall from grace; who succumb to some form of mental breakdown. A character doesn’t have to be a stalwart hero to have this kind of fall, either. It could be a simple everyday townsfolk who suddenly snaps; or it could be a nobleman who commits a dishonourable deed – Whatever the reason, falling from grace and the portrayal as such is hard.
These aren’t always tragic characters, but they must have some form of turmoil, or conflicting emotions to their usual. Let’s imagine that you have a chirpy, happy-go-lucky adventurer who has decided that it’s time for them to hang up their boots. How do you think that adventurer is going to feel? It’s very unlikely that they really are still happy-go-lucky for it; their whole sense of purpose is now gone. Perhaps they want to start up a new venture, like a shop – But their days of adventure is now over.
Let’s look at another example of falling from grace – let’s look at an existing example in Arthas Menethil, an impeccable example of someone who has fallen from grace. He was a Paladin trained by Uther the Lightbringer. Seeing the undead Scourge rise from the dead, Arthas became more and more aggressive, wanting nothing more than to eradicate the evil. He slowly descended into madness, becoming more and more convinced his actions were right – But in turn, he became what he hated.
Naturally with Arthas, we got the story where he got that vengeance he so sought… At the cost of him sacrificing many people along the way. He didn’t regard human life important anymore, instead he wanted to just kill the one responsible for the scourge. He fell from grace hard; no longer was he a follower of the light, but now he was a bringer of death, by wielding the very weapon that would corrupt him to become the one true king. Worst of all? Killing his own father to create a kingdom for his Scourge empire.
There are many great ways to do this, but this isn’t something that can be done in a matter of pages. Our adventurer from earlier in the article, what made them come to this conclusion? Did they have one last adventure? What inner turmoil are they now facing? What’s the new goal or direction that this character will now take? These are all hugely important questions for the character that’s fallen from grace.
And now, similar to our last storytelling article of how the Hero Fights the Monster, it’s time for me to tell you a really short, basic story to convey a character that has fallen from grace.
Anthell the Angellic
Anthell was a nobleman of great fame and wealth, which made him more famous for his distribution of finances. A gold coin or two to the poor was no skin off his back, although he would always be careful not to let the gold end up in the wrong hands.
Not only was he of great fame and wealth, but he was a man of a great stature. Tall, muscular and incredibly handsome, even if he did tell you that himself. The ladies – and men – of the land swooned over Anthell! Not only was he wealthy, he was big and he had an aura about him which many would call angelic. Wherever he went, people could swear they saw a holy light emanating from him. He was a very good egg, indeed.
One day, Anthell was told about a troubled man, whose whole family had ended up catching the plague. This was troublesome, as the man had no means to keep his property, as he earned so little for his farmyard work. Further to this, the man had to pay for his families healthcare – Potions and lotions don’t come cheap, especially when you have so little money to begin with anyway.
Knowing a fellow man was in trouble, Anthell donned his trusty travel cape and travelled across the town, ending up just outside of the gates. From beyond the walls, there was a lush, vast sea of vegetation which had been meticulously cared for. Anthell noticed all of the work that had gone into the land and couldn’t help but nod to himself – He was thankful for all of the hard work that people had put into ensuring the people had food to eat and coin to bring in.
The Man Anthell Fell
Approaching a small wooden shack in the middle of the farmyard, Anthell looked down the dirt path leading to the front door. The wood was rotting, seemingly teeming with an infestation of rot, bringing maggots, flies and other manners of insect that would love nothing more than to burrow inside of human flesh. Anthell felt his stomach churn, unable to believe someone could live in such a squallor. He put his hands together and dropped down to one knee, saying a quiet prayer for the man and his family.
Getting back to his feet, Anthell dusted himself off and approached the door. He knocked three times, loud, booming knocks with each touch.
Dnn, dnn, dnn!
Loud coughing quickly approached from behind the door, when a small man opened it and stood before Anthell. Quickly dropping to his knees, the man grovelled to the giant.
“I knew you’d come, yer lordship!” The man blurted out, pleadingly. “‘Ere, come on in! I’ve got a proper brew waiting for you!” The man turned to rush back in.
Anthell felt that stomach churning once again the moment his eyes fell upon the man, who was very shabbily dressed. The man’s skin was rotting, blackened. His left arm was clearly broken and his left leg was so badly torn up that it looked like he had been mauled by a bear, or worse still, a rabid wolf.
“Uh, thank you… But I’m okay without a tea, thank you.” Anthell felt disgusted by the man in front of him. Not only was this poor being still going, but he was almost oblivious to his own pain. The man beckoned Anthell in, who obliged.
Upon stepping into the house, Anthell looked around. Water had been leaking in, putting the very integrity of the structure at question. What was once furniture was now just wood and degrading fabric. The man smiled sheepishly at Anthell.
“I am but a poor man, but I need your ‘elp. I’ve been spendin’ so long lookin’ after me family, that I’ve been unable to feed meself.”
“Where are your family?” Anthell questioned, examining an open wound on the man’s right cheek. There were all manners of flesh eating parasites gnawing at him.
“Oh, unfortunately, they all died. I’ve only ‘eard of their passing this mornin’.” The man said, a tear in his eye. Anthell’s heart fell for the man – He knew the man had attempted everything, but this was what he was left with. Anthell approached the man. “Tell me your name.”
“Thran. Thran Escabod.”
“Very well, Thran. It is time for you to have some relief.”
Anthell then pushed back the cape he wore, revealing a longsword. Before Thran had time to recognise what was happening, Anthell kicked Thran with no mercy to the ground. He quickly lunged onto the man, before sinking the long sword deep into the man’s throat. No one should have to hear the struggle.
It took twenty agonising minutes for Thran to finally be put to rest.
Anthell, the Fallen Angel
They say a man is driven to his worst when he is forced to commit a crime, especially when he had no original intention on doing so. His mind was breaking, his sanity had shattered and his life was changed forever. Anthell knew he should turn himself in, as he stood there over the lifeless body of the already decomposing being he once thought of as a man…
“… Thran was far beyond help, anyway.” Anthell uttered, as he stepped back out of the wooden shack. He looked up the dirt path, noticing a small section of farmhands. The window had been open, bearing witness to his terrible crime.
“Murderer!” “Violator!” “You’ve gone insane!”
“No! I’ve righted a wrong with this world.” Anthell quickly took off, never being able to hold his head up again.
Naturally, how you deal with the fallen from grace character is down to you, but now I’ll throw the question back at you – Have you ever had to deal with a character who had so much inner turmoil? What did you do? As ever, share your thoughts and opinions below, or over on Facebook or Twitter.