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.

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.

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.

Plot Development

The second week of my Coursera creative writing class opened up today, and the topic is structure as it relates to plot.  The lesson was focused on a five act structure that is labeled as ABDCE (Action, Background, Development, Climax, Ending).  Those of you that know this already, I apologize.  I’m just laying a little background down.  So, the assignment was to write a 100-200 word short story about a trip to the doctor or dentist.  This is my entry.  It clocks in a little long (277 words), but it is based on a real experience of mine.  It feels very…basic to me.  But, I must learn to walk before I can run, right?

So, without further ado, here it is…

I noticed the curve ahead, and downshifted my motorcycle into 2nd gear to start decelerating into the sweeping turn.  It wasn’t tight as some of the other curves I had encountered on that mountain ride on that late May afternoon in 2008, but I wanted to make sure I was safe about riding through it.

I hadn’t been a motorcycle rider for long; just a few months in fact.  My wife and I took the safety class together, and after a weekend of closed course training 6 months prior, we came away with our motorcycle endorsements.  This was the first real mountain ride I had been on.

I saw the other motorcycle coming from the opposite direction, and I picked my left hand up off the handlebar to give the traditional “fellow rider” wave to him.  No sooner had I done that, than I felt the front wheel start to shimmy just a little bit.  In a panic, I grabbed the handlebar and tried to regain control, but it was too late.

The motorcycle slid out from under me, and all I really remember from the fall was slamming my foot down on the pavement to try to stabilize the motorcycle and then tumbling across the road until I came to rest on the shoulder.

The day culminated in my first and only helicopter ride to date as I was taken down the mountain to the hospital with a visit to the ER.  Fortunately, the only damage was a broken heel and an assortment of abrasions.  After a few months of recuperation, I was as good as new.  My motorcycle riding days were at an end, though.

There it is.  I welcome your comments, critiques, etc.  I know that as I get further through this series of courses, my writing will become more developed and polished.  Thanks for stopping by and reading.