Guys, Pinterest has some great resources for studying anatomy. I’m working on shoulders and hands right now. I’m like a has-been that never fully was. Oh well. Anyway, today I want to talk about how to dredge more juice out of your characters.
An odd thing happens when you have a familiar character about whom you write; you both know them well enough to feel cozy writing them, and frustratingly distant enough to be unable to force them to do what you need them to do in the story. (Kinda like when you’re the boss, and your underlings are stubbornly and slipperily evasive, instead of tractable and easy to command.)
I’ve heard people talk fondly about stubborn characters before; to me, they are nuts asking to be smashed open with a hammer. See, below:
An Uncracked Fellow:
Vince aligned the sights along the barrel of his ZQ-Bombast rifle (limited edition chrome) and waited for the fallow-parling to stand up from its nest. He fired, and the alien shrieked and crumpled out of sight. Vince slung the rifle over his shoulder and hoisted himself up the trunk of the F-aklen tree, which had oddly-curved rocks embedded in the bark.
He reached the nest and glared down at the bleeding parling; it was a female, and half her left shoulder was blown open. Vince dug for a bend-chip in his belt and knelt over the crying parling. She beat at him with her right palm, but her limbs were weak, and he pinned her and slid the chip into the opening under her skull. Her cries morphed slowly into words.
“Foolish ugly man-child,” she complained, “and after the season, you’ll be hunted by my brothers! They will strip out your lungs and use them as toys for our bargels!”
“That’s as may be, but I want your bones,” Vince said. She breathed in sharply, and her body grew still. Vince smiled at her, and pink tears sprung into her eyes.
“Mama!” she shrilled, her voice echoing through the copse with a ringing jangle.
“They can’t understand you anymore, darling,” Vince said. He pulled a leather belt out of his bag, and bound up the parling’s shoulder until the skin pinched white.
“No, no!” she screamed. “You must not take my wings.”
“Only your arm, lovey,” Vince soothed. “It’s hardly anything you’ll miss.”
“Mama, save me!” she howled, as he pinned her neck under his knee and unfolded his lapse-saw.
What An Unsavory, Uncracked Nut!
Here we see Vince wrecking mayhem on a winged lady on the planet Vhuar, and he seems quite a villain (from the perspective of the parling).
Now, if we tell Vince to let the lady go, he will laugh in our teeth and take her leg just to show that he cannot be controlled.
My Word, Victor, You’re Violent!
I won’t crack him in this scene; this would necessitate the addition of a third character.
We shall take him in a later scene, after he has obtained his ill-gained parling bones and is in the process of selling them on the Obloogo black market. We find Vince meeting with a new character, Hole.
Hole shall serve as our metaphorical hammer, and I shall bring him down resoundingly upon the unsuspecting Vince. See, below:
Vince, Smashed Into Docility:
Vince threw the black bag onto the table; the delicate objects within made a musical jangle.
“How many?” said a deep voice from the shadows.
“Five pieces,” Vince said. His eyes combed through the darkness; he could not see Hole, but he knew the ugly man was there.
“Three arms, one leg, and a whole tail extension,” Vince said. He folded his arms; his Perso-fin pistol made a snug bump against his left hip. “All female, and pure through,” he said.
“They’ve been asking for the male bones particularly,” Hole said, coming into the light and lifting the bag. “Harder to fetch in the males,” he added, glancing up with a smile.
“I’ve no interest in killing,” Vince said.
“But at maiming, you excel,” Hole mused. He lifted an exquisite golden bone from the bag. “How did you clean them?” he asked.
“Trade secret,” Vince said at once. Hole fixed him with a beady eye, and snorted.
“I told Crikey you’d come in soon,” the hideous man said, as if offering a pleasantry. Vince’s shoulders drew together, and his palm twisted towards his gun. “It won’t work in here, my friend,” Hole remarked. He nodded at the pistol, which was disguised as a utilitarian flashlight. “These are wonderful, all of them. I’ll take the lot, and in exchange, I won’t kill you for Crikey,” Hole said. Vince launched himself forward, and smashed against a translucent force field. “Oh, these are new,” Hole said with a smile. He pointed at the ceiling, where a hint of green illuminated the boundaries of a square. “Thank you for the bones,” he added, dropping the delicate pieces back into the bag.
“He’ll kill me!” Vince shouted. His eyes had gone wild, and a peculiar, animal-like fear was in his whole body. Hole paused over the table, and took in the vivid terror in Vince.
“Yes, I think you’re right. But I’ve been promised a great deal of work out of you first,” Hole replied. “Rumor has it, Crikey is going to train you as a retrieval hound, and send you out hunting.”
“Hole!” Vince shrieked, throwing himself at the invisible barrier. It held like iron beneath his blows, and Hole chuckled as he turned away.
“I’m sure you’ll look very handsome as a hybrid,” the ugly man called.
Ha! Now He Is In Nutty Fragments
The key to breaking down a recalcitrant character is to force him (or her) up against the most formative, purely-instinctual fears in his physical being. Once your man (or woman, or thing) is in emotional shambles, you can build a great story around them, and use them without any holding back or irritating unwillingness on their part.
May you have much luck in your own smashing endeavors!
You’re reading a blog about writing by Victor Poole. My books are here. I’m about to fry some homemade burgers, with cheese and pickles on top.