Defining Angelina Playwith

(Originally published July 11, 2007).

I am having trouble getting a handle on one of my secondary characters in FUR BALL FEVER. His name is Angus Cowperthwaite. I thought perhaps if I blogged about Angus, he would reveal the secrets of his character. I hope to end up with a character profile I can use while writing to create a character that acts and reacts consistently.

Some have likened this technique to an excavation process. I consider it more of a strip tease.

Frst and foremost, Angus, a.k.a. Angelina Playwith, is gay. Not only is he gay, he has always thought he should have been born a woman. A transvestite and drag queen, Angus performs in an Atlantic City extravaganza called ‘Queenz in Concert’. Tired of waxing his armpits, arms, legs, chest, and other more sensitive places, he is toying with the notion of using female hormones. Angus is not a transgender. Yet. Although he doesn’t realize it, Angus is still denying his true sexuality in order to placate his father. This may change towards the end of the book when he finds true love.

Until writing this blog, I was still trying to figure out Angus’ appearance. I toyed with both ends of the spectrum and everything in-between — from the macho look of a buzz cut, to a trendy Roman style, to cyber-inspired silver spikes, to a pared-back Mohawk called a fauxhawk, to long, flowing natural locks à la Fabio. In the end, I settled on a shaved and highly polished head. He justifies this by saying several admirers think bald heads are a turn-on, but the real reason is that shaved heads piss off his father.

The hair issue resolved, Angus is bald headed, brown eyed, 5’11”, and slim (almost dainty), with a willowy build and a delicate tattoo of a butterfly on his left shoulder. For everyday wear, he favors makeup in natural colors — Nude Shimmer lipstick, clear mail polish, a touch of bronze blusher to give him a nice, natural glow, and a light swipe of mascara to enhance his eyes. In his mid-30s, Angus is naturally graceful, well-coordinated, and a talented dancer.

He’s fun, irresistible, a smooth operator, yet not too responsible or dependable. He’s a playboy (playgirl?), a rogue, and he doesn’t commit in matters of the heart easily. Angus is not crazy about hard work (many have called him downright lazy). To him, performing is fun, not work. He is a renegade who skips through life ignoring the rules. The words, “You can’t do that” merely spur him on to prove that he can. He loves to shock people. He thinks nothing of slipping into a mesh tank top paired with low-slung jeans, a studded dog collar and matching clutch purse, to glide into a roomful of straight-assed lawyers and wreak havoc at one of his father’s stuffy cocktail parties.

Angus is a party animal, a meddler, and avid gossip, outspoken, with a smart mouth and a raunchy sense of humor. He keeps his ear to the ground and knows everything about the tight-knit community of Saltwater Village, including many residents’ most closely held secrets.

He owns a ferret called Fergus the Younger.

Although not necessarily relevant to the story, I learned that Angus’ mother is reconciled to his choice of career. His father, a successful criminal lawyer, is totally mortified and refuses to let Angus into the house until he cleans up his act. All his life, Angus has rebelled against his strict and overbearing parent. Becoming a drag queen is the frosting on the cake.

Although Angus is a secondary character, he should have goal, motivation, and conflict (GMC). His GMC may or may not hit the pages, but at least I will know what drives him. I went to bed not knowing the solution. When I awoke, the answer was clear. Overnight, Angus revealed to me that his internal goal is to accept himself in spite of his father’s excessive disapproval. His external goal is to help Grace find the monster who dog-napped Miss Coco Chanel, Auntie Beth’s poodle. Since he is in a position to enlighten Grace about certain events, he provides a credible motive for her prime suspects. He is also the perfect character to fill her in on the fetish scene when she decides to go undercover in her quest to nail the perp. His motive? He would do anything for Auntie Beth and Grace, who defended him at a Condo Committee meeting and are his staunch allies. The conflict? Read FUR BALL FEVER and find out.

Well, it is Wednesday morning, and time to post my blog. I think Angus has pretty much stripped down to a G-string and pasties, metaphorically speaking, but he’s not quite naked. Throughout the writing process, I’ll be constantly tweaking this profile as he reveals more aspects of his character to me. At the end of the book, he’ll be wearing nothing but his butterfly tattoo, a new crop of hair, and a big, bright smile.