Crafting a Perfect Foil Part 1: Devon Middleton

Every protagonist needs a good foil — someone to make the reader laugh or cry, to provide contrast to the hero’s struggle.

SatS Cover Lo-resMy latest novel, The Sword and the Sorcerer, has two. They’re very different, but they both have important roles to play in the story thematically and plot-wise.

Today, I’ll focus on the larger of the two, Devon Middleton, former soldier, courtier to Duke Boordin of Dalasport, and, most importantly, my main character Calibot’s lover.

A Softer Side

The principal purpose of a foil is to provide contrast to the hero, and Devon does that largely on an emotional level. Calibot is fiery and passionate. Devon is calm. Calibot is angry and frustrated. Devon is soothing and supportive. At times, Calibot is reckless. Devon is thoughtful.

Throughout the novel, Devon stands as a rock for Calibot, who is pulled in myriad directions by the grief and anger he feels at the loss of his father. Estranged from him for five years, Calibot is already in pain over his failed relationship, when his father’s death exacerbates these feelings. But Devon knows how to cool the flames of Calibot’s grief.

Devon leaned forward and kissed him on the forehead. Then he sat back and stroked his face.

“I’m so sorry, my love,” he soothed. “How terrible it must be to not feel your father’s love.

“But feel mine. I love you. I love you more than anyone ever has or anyone ever will.  I’m yours, Calibot. I always will be.”

Calibot stared back with tears in his eyes. Devon always knew what to say to ease the pain, salve the wound.

Wisdom and Insight

Calibot is a poet. He is a member of Duke Boordin’s court, but he knows almost nothing about politics or strategy. His job is to entertain.

Devon, on the other hand, was a soldier for the duke before becoming an advisor. That makes him an important asset to Calibot when the two are drawn into an assassination plot designed to change the balance of power. While Calibot is wrapped in the grief of the news of his father’s death and his assignment of the morbid task of recovering the body and laying it to rest, Devon is thinking about the implications.

The quartermaster turned away and trudged back into his storeroom. Devon proffered the breastplate again.

“I’m not wearing that,” Calibot said.

“Just try it on.”

“Why?”

“Because,” Devon said as though it should be obvious, “you are traveling to Eldenberg to recover the body of the most powerful magician in the Known World. Said wizard was murdered, which means whoever did so is very dangerous. You need to look as if you are not to be trifled with and that you have the full backing of the Duke of Dalasport. You need the Council of Elders to take you seriously, Calibot. That means looking like a warrior with friends in high places.”

Calibot looked at him in surprise. He hadn’t considered any of this, and here was Devon taking charge and acting like he knew what he was doing.

“I still don’t understand,” he said.

“Calibot,” Devon said, “this was almost certainly a political murder, an assassination. Whoever did this will assume you have the backing of Zod the Fearless. They clearly think they can take him. But if you make it appear that you have not only the support of Zod’s army, but Duke  Boordin’s as well, they’ll have to think carefully about whether to oppose you.”

Calibot needs someone to think strategically for him. He has no experience in that arena. Without Devon, he’d be lost.

Moral Compass

As the narrative unfolds, Calibot changes. His father, the world’s most powerful sorcerer, is manipulating him from beyond the grave. A sinister and subtle spell slowly transforms Calibot from naive poet to calculating conqueror.

Devon is distraught at this metamorphosis. The person Calibot becomes is not the one he fell in love with. Rather than abandon him, though, Devon resolves to stick by the man he loves. He is wise enough to suspect there may be magic involved, and Devon is determined to break the spell.

[Devon] felt blindsided. Suddenly, Calibot had a grasp of strategy and tactics. His mind — once warm and creative — was now cold and calculating. What did he need Devon for? He didn’t need a military advisor, and he didn’t act like he wanted love — not that Devon was interested in this strange person Calibot had become.

He decided, though, that Calibot needed a conscience. Whatever had happened, whatever spell Gothemus Draco had cast on him, Calibot needed someone telling him right from wrong. He’d lost that compass. The murder of the gate guard proved that.

Devon would see this through to the end. Calibot’s soul depended on it.

Once again, Devon provides contrast. At first, he is the wise one. As Calibot changes, he becomes the moral one — the character who tries to steer his friend, the hero, onto the right path.

Foils complement the protagonist of a story. They cover weaknesses and enrich the narrative  with a style that differs markedly from the hero. Devon Middleton is the perfect foil for Calibot. He offers love and wisdom to a hurting young man faced with an horrific task.

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The Sword and the Sorcerer is available now. Click on the links below to purchase it. Twenty percent of the sales benefit Freedom to Marry, the national campaign for marriage equality.

Click to purchase the Kindle edition from Amazon.com.
Click to purchase eBook formats from Smashwords.com.
Click to purchase the print edition CreateSpace.com.

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