Character Development

I successfully completed the first course on Plot Development, so now it is on to character development.  Here’s my first week’s assignment.  Basically, we were asked to pick a couple of characters from a movie or book that we were familiar with and identify their primary desire.  Then, we were to create our own character, provide them with a brief intro and then write a 400 word scene with our character and one of the characters we picked.  Here’s my submission…

I have chosen two characters from Stephen King’s multi-book series of The Dark Tower:  Roland and Eddie.  Roland’s sole focus is to reach the magical Dark Tower.  It is believed to be the center of Roland’s world, and has great power over it.  He has no other desire or ambition.  Eddie is a traveling partner grabbed from the streets of New York and brought to this different world.  Eddie’s initial desire is to score a heroin fix.  However, as the series goes on, Roland’s quest becomes his as well.  So, his ambition is to reach the Dark Tower as well as keep his wife, Susannah safe as they travel.

 

My character is Thomas.  He is a drifter traveling the opposite direction of Roland and his companions, and the scene below is his encounter with Roland (with many apologies to Stephen King).

 

“Hail, wanderer,” Thomas said to the curious looking man who approached him.

Roland cautiously approached the wiry individual that stood before him.  He was a bit shorter, perhaps standing around five foot, seven inches.  He wore a pair of canvas leggings that hung limply from his slight frame, and was practically swallowed whole in the threadbare woolen serape top.

“Hail to you, too,” came the response.

Thomas squinted his brown eyes and let out a strange sound.  “Are you a Gunslinger?”

“I am,” Roland replied.  “Are you a wanderer?”

“Yes, I am.  I am heading to Mid-World to seek my fortune.  Have been for many years, but things do not always cooperate for me, so I am left in places like this from time to time.  Where are you headed?”

Roland wasn’t sure he wanted to tell the truth, but felt like this drifter in front of him posed no threat.  “The Dark Tower.”

The gasp was audible from Thomas.  “The Dark Tower?  That is a cursed place, Gunslinger.  Many may attempt it, but no one ever makes it.  You must be touched to chase after such madness.”

“Aye, perhaps.  But it is what I seek, what I am compelled to seek.”

The scraggly drifter shook his head.  “Best of luck to thee, then.  Gods know you will need every last bit of it.”

Roland nodded his head in agreement.  “Best of luck to you as well.  Any journey these days regardless of the direction can be a perilous one.”

“Indeed.  There is something unsettling across the land, and it is causing some very odd things to happen.”  Thomas went into detail as he described an encounter he had with what could only be described by Roland’s companions as a “robot” of some sorts.  It caused him to flee an abandoned encampment quite rapidly about a fortnight back.  “I never had seen such a thing, but had only heard about these things in the stories the elders told years ago.  I thought they were mad telling such tales, but it is true.”

“These are interesting times, to be sure.  Best of luck to you, wanderer.  May you seek what you are looking for. “

“And you as well, Gunslinger.  It’s a damned fool’s errand if you ask me, but you as well.”

Thomas shuffled past Roland and continued his trek to Mid-World, shaking his head as he went by to reveal his true feelings of the Gunslinger’s errand.

Father’s Day

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Brief intro to this post…I started writing this on Mother’s Day.  I wanted it to be thought out and coherent, and I’ve spent a fair amount of time tweaking things.  I think it still holds true to my original intent, so that’s a good thing.  Anyway, enough preamble.  Also, be warned as there is some mild “adult” language in here.  Here’s my Father’s Day post.

This is the first Father’s Day in over 30 years that I’ve purchased only one card.

That realization hit me about 5 or 6 weeks ago when I was going through the process of buying Mother’s Day cards for my mom and step mom.  Since 1983 or 1984, I’ve always bought 2 Father’s Day cards (my mom and step dad were married late June of 1983 – I can’t remember if I gave him a card that year or not).  One was for my dad, and the other for my step dad.  I love my dad very much, and he has done tons for me, but fortunately, he is still around.  My step dad on the other hand, is not.  Thus this post is about him.

I first met Ron when I was around 10 or 11 years old.  I had lived a fairly sheltered life up to that point, so this general contractor with the permed hair and the wild eye who was blunt in the way he spoke was a bit of a shock to my system.  I will admit that he was not a welcome addition to my life at the time.  My parents had recently divorced and I was still reeling over that and I was a very sensitive kid back then.  I tolerated some change well, but this was one that I wanted nothing to do with.

It was a bit of a roller coaster ride navigating the depths of adolescence, emotional fall out from the divorce, and integrating a new father figure into my life.  Looking back at things, I certainly could have handled them better.  Ron, though, handled things very well.  He “adopted” my brother and I like his own sons.  He tried teaching me some basic handyman type skills that I now wish I had paid better attention to.  He loved us both unconditionally.  I look back at that now in wonder.

It seems like all the entertaining childhood stories that I have involve him.  One of the best was a time when I was probably about 16 or 17.  I was in his truck and I was poking around the glove box and found a magnet.  I took the magnet to the dashboard mounted compass and had a great time seeing what a magnet did to a compass.  Needless to say, the compass was never the same again!  He got into the truck, saw what I was doing and said in that gruff voice of his, “Christopher, you’re like a damn monkey.  If you can’t eat it or  shit on it, you break it!!”  I think I was mildly hurt at the time, but I look back on it now, and howl at that comment.  He wasn’t wrong.

His health had been going downhill the past several years with a mini-stroke or two, a broken hip, and heart issues.  The final straw, though, was lung cancer that metastasized to his spine.  Not a surprise considering he smoked for most of his adult life, but still a blow.

They had moved back to Michigan in May of 2015 to be closer to family (they had been out in Colorado with me, but when I moved they decided to go back to Michigan).  They had come out to visit us in October when my son happened to be in town visiting.  He was still doing fairly well then, but was starting to tire more easily.

The next time we saw him was Christmas, and he was still looking fairly good.  I was able to see him once more in January and again in February a few days after his 79th birthday.  His birthday was one of his last really good days, and started to go downhill right after that.

The plan was for me to come over again the weekend of March 19th for another visit (it’s only about a 4 hour drive from here to there).  I received a text that I knew was not good news.  “Call me.”  That’s all it said, and it came in late morning of Tuesday, March 15th.  I stepped outside and called my mom.  The conversation was brief, but the message was clear.  “Come now.  It’s time.”

I drove home, threw a few days worth of clothes in a bag and hit the road.  I arrived around 6:00 pm, and Ron’s youngest son was already there.  He had flown in from San Francisco a day or two before.  His oldest son and  his family arrived shortly after I did.  We had a wonderful evening of sitting by the hospital bed in the living room, taking turns holding Ron’s hand and telling stories of years gone by.

Ron’s sons were never much a part of my brother’s and my lives while growing up.  That was through no fault of their own, I discovered.  It turns out they had to sneak out of the house to go to the wedding because their mom had forbidden them from going.  Hearing these things now really cleared up some misconceptions that I had back then.

Ron died around 5:30 on the morning of Wednesday, March 16th.  My mom woke me up right around 6 to let me know.  I felt more of a sense of relief than of sadness at that moment.  He wasn’t in pain anymore.  I think that I had done most of my grieving leading up to that moment.

The memorial service was scheduled for a couple of weeks later, and we all assembled again.  I wanted to say a few words and share some memories at the service, like the story above, but that was probably a bit to risque for a church setting.  What I did say, though, was much of what I have already said in this post.  He loved Josh and I without hesitation or conditions.  We were as much his as his biological sons and he would go miles out of his way for us.  He helped to teach me what it means to be a decent human being.  I made it through without breaking down completely, but it was close.

It has been 3 months since he left us, and I feel his absence every day.  I know that the acuteness of it will ease up with time.  But, I never want to get to the point where I don’t feel it.  He was an extremely important part of my life for a long time, and much of who I have become was because of him.  I know that the other holidays this year and his birthday next February will be a bit difficult, but I also know he wouldn’t want us to mourn over him too much.

I love you and I miss you, Ron.  Happy Father’s Day.

Tired

I’m tired.  Not the physical kind, but emotionally.  I, like many others, awoke to the news yesterday of another mass shooting, this time in Orlando.  It made my heart hurt.  This post isn’t intentionally about politics, or gun control, or any other hot button issue.

I made the mistake of getting on Facebook yesterday after this happened.  And rather than seeing posts about remembering the victims and their families (to be fair, I did see some of those), I was flooded with equal amounts of anti-gun and anti-Islam vitriol.  It gets old, and it gets us nowhere.

What happened to the golden rule?  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  I know that is so difficult to do sometimes because it feels like there are so many people out there that don’t think that way.

I would like to think that once upon a time, people could have differing opinions and could express them in a respectful way.  Looking back on history, though, shows that really wasn’t the case either.  What makes things different these days is that there is a much wider platform thanks to social media.  So, conversations and arguments that happened around water coolers, barrooms, living rooms, barber shops, etc. are now there for all the world to see, and it isn’t pretty.

We are humans with all the imperfections that come along with it.  We all have strong opinions about some things.  Many of those opinions are based on strong beliefs.  I respect that.  I have my own beliefs about things that I feel very strongly about.  I guess this is one of those.  How hard is it to be respectful in a difficult situation for just a little bit.

I’m not saying that people shouldn’t be able to express these views.  What I wish I could see is a bit more time elapse before jumping into the arena to express them.  Let those that lost love ones have a little time to grieve.  Let those that were injured have time to process what happened to them.  Stop using them as pawns to further your view.

I have my own opinions about all of this, but I’m not going to share them.  Perhaps I’m doing the exact same thing that I’m railing against by posting this.  If I am,then I acknowledge my hypocrisy, and I apologize for that.

Bottom line, just breathe.  Take some time to think things through and to think of someone else before posting online.  I’m taking a break from Facebook because of this.  It may be time to pare down my friends list, or at least heavily filter stuff.  I know the world isn’t all sunshine and rainbows.  I’m not putting my head in the sand when it comes to the world today.  I just want to filter out the extra noise.

If you are still around through this rant, thank  you.  And try to remember what Abraham Lincoln once said:  “Be excellent to each other.”

Going to Town

Living in the sticks requires a bit more forethought and planning at times.  I remember this from my high school years as we lived about 5 miles from a very small town, and I’m relearning that now.

It isn’t necessarily a simple matter of running to the corner store if we are out of milk or want to get something quick for dinner.  There is a grocery store in town, so we aren’t completely out of luck if we need something quick.

However, trips to box stores do necessitate more planning.  The closest are in Janesville, about 25-30 minutes away or Madison, about 40 minutes away.  If we are really on the ball, we will stop by one of those places after work or over lunch since we are already up there.  Otherwise, it is a trip on the weekend, usually over to Janesville.

In some ways it is reminiscent of days gone by, when the bulk of the population lived outside of town on farms.  Going to town was a big thing, almost an event.  I think for the most part, those living on farms had most of what they needed on a day to day basis.  But, occasionally, they needed more than what they or a neighbor had.  Thus, going to town.

As I wrote in a post this past week, I like the solitude that comes with living where we do.  So, I view trips to town in that light.  It’s a necessity sometimes, but it makes me appreciate the quiet when I get back home even more.

 

Longer Story

So, here’s a longer scene.  We were introduced to editing in this last module, and I haven’t done any on this particular scene.  We were to write about 1000 words and put it up for the other class participants to look at.  We have a couple of questions to answer about each submission we view, and the hope is things make sense.  I think long term, it is to get us thinking about our audience and making things better for them to read.  Anyway, I hope you enjoy…

Dan sprinted down the empty street, not sure where he was going but he knew it needed to be away from where he was.  He thought he heard footsteps behind him, but couldn’t see anything in the gloom of the night.  The streetlights were casting a faint glow in the fog, but they did nothing to cut through the night.

Things had started earlier in the day with a chance encounter at the store with an old work acquaintance.  Dan had been shopping for a few groceries when he saw someone he thought he recognized.  This person was staggering down the aisle towards Dan, and it took a moment before he did indeed identify this person as Frank Thompson.

Dan and Frank had worked together at a software company for a few years.  They were in different departments, but their paths had crossed a handful of times depending on the various projects they had been working on.  Dan barely recognized Frank now, though.  He had lost a lot of a weight and his skin appeared jaundiced.

Frank’s eyes flashed in recognition when he saw Dan staring in his direction.  He stumbled towards the shocked man and nearly fell into him.

“Dan…Dan…I thought that was you.  I don’t have much time left.  Take this.”  He shoved a small envelope into Dan’s hands.  “Don’t let them get it.  In fact, get out of here.  Go far away.”

Before Dan could get a word in, Frank stumbled away towards the door and out into the world.

Dan just stood there, speechless.  He had no idea what any of this was about, but he wasn’t sure he wanted to know or be mixed up in it.  Before he could put much thought into it, though, he heard a commotion coming from the back of the store.  The sound of boxes tumbling down and people shouting reached his ears.

In a split second, he realized that the sound he heard was likely related to what he had just experienced.  Before he could put more thought into it, a base instinct told him to get the hell out of there and worry about things later.  He listened to his gut, left his basket behind, and followed the path that Frank had taken just moments before.

He had no idea what to do or where to go, but whatever he had inadvertently gotten himself involved in required quick thinking and a safe place.  He ran to his car, got in, and started the engine and left the parking lot.  As he was pulling out of the lot, he saw two men dressed in dark suits come running out of the front of the store looking around to see where Frank may have gone.

At least, Dan was assuming that was who they were looking for.  He thought that there was no way that they could have known that whatever Frank had been carrying had now been passed off to him.

He drove down the road, trying to figure out where to go when he saw a man stumble and collapse on the sidewalk.  All too late, he realized that was Frank.  He fought the urge to turn around and help him.  He had a feeling that to do so would spell his own demise.  He just wanted to get somewhere where he could stop and think and determine what was going on.

He looked in the rear view mirror and saw a dark SUV pull up to the curb near where Frank had fallen and saw the same two men get out.  They checked Frank, and looked away in disgust when they realized that Frank was dead and he no longer had the package they were chasing after.

Dan knew that he was in deep to something he hadn’t signed up for.  He kept driving until he found himself a couple of towns over from where he had started from.  He realized all too late that he was running out of gas, and there was no gas station to be found.  He pulled the car over to the side of the road and sought out shelter.

He found an abandoned building and ducked in there to gather his thoughts and to see what it was that was so important that it had people chasing his old co-worker.  He looked around, and took in the empty space.  There was only the one door and one window facing out onto the street.  The room he was in was dusty, and it appeared that it hadn’t been touched in some time.

He sat on the floor against the wall so he could see out that window, and took the envelope out of his pocket.  He opened the flap and let the contents of it fall into his open palm.  It was a USB drive, so he assumed that it contained files of some sort.  Unfortunately, he didn’t have a computer with him to see what might be in those files.

He looked out the window to see a flash of light go by.  He realized that it was the same SUV that he saw a couple of hours ago as all of this was starting to develop.  He knew that he had to get out of there, and quickly.

It had gotten dark, and a fog had rolled in as he ran through the deserted streets, completely unaware of where to go.

He thought he heard footsteps behind him, but he realized too late that they were in front of him and he walked right into their waiting trap.

“Dan Willis, we know you have the stick.  Give it up and things will be easier for you.  We know you weren’t involved in this, but just a victim of circumstance.”

Dan realized that he had been outsmarted, and had no choice in the matter if he wanted to live.  He raised his hands above his head and let one of the men reach into his pocket to retrieve the envelope.

Months passed, and he still had no idea as to what happened to him.  He had been questioned for hours on end, and he did not have any clearer explanation for what happened than when things started.  He just knew that he had been mixed up in something much bigger than himself.

Solitude

I’m a solitary creature.  I need my alone time to be a functioning adult, and if I don’t get it on a regular basis, I become cranky and irritable.  I don’t do well in large crowds, and sometimes I have issues with small gatherings.

I’m not sure why any of this is, other than it is.  It bothers me sometimes.  I feel like I should be more social, that I should have a wider circle of friends.  But, being around people can tire me out.  I recharge my batteries by taking the time to seek out a quiet place.  Whether I’m reading, or writing, or golfing, or taking a walk this is my time.  My needed time.  My if I don’t get this, I won’t function well time.

One of the beautiful things about the human race is the variety of people and their individual needs.  I know some people that need a large crowd or a gathering of friends at the bar to recharge.  Good for them!  I just know that for myself, I’m more tired after something like that and usually am withdrawn by the end of it all.

I’m grateful to have a place where I can be invisible from the world.  I’ve tried living in a larger area, and it’s just too crowded for me.  I cherish my solitude and all that comes with it.

Creating a Scene

Okay, here’s my latest assignment from my writing class.  This one had us craft a 400 word scene using the “Show, Don’t Tell” methodology.  We were to write a scene where someone wants a physical item more than anything.  We were to include an action, dialogue (not necessarily conversation) to deepen the character or advance the plot, specific intimate details, an inner point of view, and a definite starting and ending point.  To twist things around, we were to introduce a disease that would kill him in 24 hours.  To further twist things around, we would then give the character a choice between that physical object they crave so much or an antidote to the disease.  Enough rambling about the assignment.  Here’s my effort.

 

Ben was running down the hall to get to his office.  He knew that he left an important document in there that would make or break his career, depending on whether or not he could find it in time for the meeting that started in an hour.

He was subconsciously counting the doors of other offices as he passed by them, knowing that his was the 10th door on the right.  He was at seven, and could see that his office door was open just a crack.  He came to a halt right in front of his door and pushed it open.  He could see his desk against the far wall, with the flat screen monitor on the left side of it.  He reached for the middle drawer in the oak desk he called his work home.

Ben started to rifle through the papers to find this one document.  His grand idea for the company to send it into the future.  He thought he had found it when he was startled by his desk phone going off.

“Hello,” he answered.  He was silent for several moments before he slumped into his chair.

“I understand.  Thank you.”

He hung up feeling completely defeated.  He had just received word that he had a rare condition that would take his life within 24 hours.  He realized that the search for the document was pointless.  He wouldn’t be around to see the business reap the benefits of it.

He took several minutes to look back on his life and saw that it was defined solely by work.  He didn’t have a family, no kids, no interests outside of his job, nothing.  He was feeling sharp pangs of regret of a life wasted.  What good is the career he built if he had nothing to show for it, especially now that he was dying?

He thought about it, and decided that he would search for that document anyway.  Maybe he could be memorialized in some way by giving the company this future even if he wouldn’t be around to see it.

Ben had almost found it when the phone rang again.  He picked up the phone and listened.  It was the doctor again, and an antidote had be found, but it must be administered within the hour or it would be too late.

He thought about it briefly, but made his choice.  He walked out of his office, drawer still opened and headed for his car.  He wanted that second chance at life, and was determined to make the most of it.