Dysfunctional Families Are Wonderful Fodder For Fantasy

Today I’m thinking about Delmar’s uncles in Talbos.

Uncle Thorn, Uncle Elan, and Uncle Fallor

I’ve been spending a lot of time writing about uncles lately, without at all meaning to. Apparently that’s a theme in my current work. Delmar’s got, um, three . . . four uncles. One of them is a leechy hanger-on married to his aunt, so hardly counts as far listing out a family tree.

Delmar’s youngest uncle is the worst, but the two in the middle are quite nice. One of them, the man in the middle, is in charge of the city guards, and the older one is in the awkward position of handling power without having any right to it.

The Fourth Uncle Is The Kind Of Guy Everyone Ignores

The thing I love about dysfunctional families is how quickly everything changes when one person lays hold of a new romantic partner.

Fresh blood, emotionally speaking, disturbs the dynamic between all the older predators, and the younger, weaker people jostle to see how many scraps they can collect for themselves.

Power, Control, and Status

Have you ever watched a herd of horses assimilate a new member? There’s a lot of biting, and squealing, and chasing of the new horse into corners to be beat up and cowed. Ha ha! Horses being cowed. That’s funny.

The same kind of procedure happens in an unhealthy family (and let’s face it, a lot of families are run on poor authority and corruption). A new body shows up, connected to an existing member, and the head honchoes start to sniff around and pick fights, testing the waters to see how much they can get away with.

Delmar goes to see his uncles in Talbos, and he brings Ajalia with him. Chaos ensues.

Examples

Clumsy Construction (Bad Writing):

“Do you think your grandfather will come to see you?” Ajalia asked.

“No,” Delmar said. “He will send my uncle.”

“Who is your uncle?” she asked. “The one who manages the guard?”

“Yes,” Delmar said. He gestured with his chin to the entrance that lay ahead of them. “That is him now. His name is Elan. He is my father’s youngest brother. I do not think he will like you.” Delmar clammed up now, because Elan was drawing near.

Ajalia saw that Delmar’s uncle was near him in age; Elan wore a trimmed brown beard, and had eyes that were reminiscent of Simon’s hard dark eyes. Delmar’s blue eyes, Ajalia thought, had come from somewhere else in the family, since he resembled neither his father nor his mother. Coren, Ajalia thought, had looked rather like Simon, like Elan did.

Elan strode through the courtyard towards Delmar. He spared a glance for Ajalia, who was partially out of view behind the horse, and then turned his full attention to Delmar.

“What do you want, Delmar?” Elan asked sharply. Ajalia saw that Delmar’s uncle put little store in Delmar’s new position; she looked at Delmar out of the corner of her eye, and saw that Delmar was not embarrassed by his uncle’s rudeness.

“I’ve come to negotiate a renewed succession with the king,” Delmar said. Ajalia was quite impressed; she had thought, ever since Delmar had frozen up during the confrontation with the guards, that Delmar would be a mute accompaniment to her negotiation, but she saw now that Delmar was going to take the lead on the matter. She hoped that he was prepared for how ugly things would turn, if Elan did not like what was said. She began, very quietly, to gather up long veins of magic in her hands.

Elegant Construction (Good Writing):

“Will king Fernos agree to see you right away?” Ajalia asked. She was standing just to the right of the black horse, her hands folded and her best slave-face in her eyes. She looked exotic, expensive, and very discreet, even with her clothes wet through from the rain.

Delmar, astride the horse, glanced down at her with a smile, his hair and fine clothes still damp from the recently-ended downpour.

“No, my grandfather doesn’t see me officially. Now that I’ve come for an actual audience like this, he’ll put me off as much as he can. I imagine he’ll send one of my uncles, to see how much of a mess I am.”

“Your poor uncles,” Ajalia said softly. Delmar laughed and shifted in the saddle. Ajalia’s black horse made a heaving sigh that jostled Delmar. “You’re sitting well,” Ajalia murmured in the old Slavithe tongue.

“Thank you, darling,” Delmar replied in the ancient tongue, his mouth twisting in a grin and his reddish-gold stubble making an alluring shadow over his jaw. “Oh, here he comes,” Delmar said, switching back to regular Slavithe and nodding towards a young man stalking with clear impatience through the farther arch of the courtyard. “That is Elan, third son of the king, and master of the guard. He’s probably going to hate you,” Delmar whispered.

“Thank you,” Ajalia said, and she sank into foreign-slave mode entirely, her expression smoothing into a pleasant, docile kind of readiness. She saw Elan glance irritably at her as he drew near the enormous black horse and exquisitely attired rider.

In Conclusion

Embrace dysfunction in the families of fantasy environs. Humor and drama lie therein, and however awful bad families are in reality, they make wonderful fodder for fiction. Exploit them. (Bwa ha ha, etc.)

You’re reading Victor Poole, and I’m in the midst of stylistic rewrites. Come back soon for more novels. Like, a lot of them. Cough, cough.

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The Fool As A Touchstone In Plot

A nonsensical, foolish character is a valuable tool to illuminate and frame morality and provide context and perspective to a novel’s plot.

What is a Fool?

Stupid characters are delightful, even more so when they are able to be laughed at without emotional pain.

I knew a kid a long time ago. He was blind, because of an accident with a gun. He was a very nice kid, but very stupid. I never made fun of him, and I never saw anyone else make fun of him, either.

On the other hand, I knew another boy who was not blind and who made a game of trying to give himself homemade piercings with safety pins.

Lots of people made fun of that kid (I don’t generally make fun of people, so I didn’t, but other people did). No one, including the piercings kid, got particularly ruffled over the process, because he knew he was being stupid and didn’t care.

Shakespeare’s Fools

Bill of the pirate-style earring had a knack for using smart, morally sound people as fools, which does a couple of things to his plots:

  1. Using a morally clear character allows the fool to act as a frame of reference for the plot as a whole
  2. Everyone in the whole story says whatever they are really thinking to the intelligent fool, because there’s no social pressure when you’re talking to a walking dumpster fire

Fools in Contemporary Fiction

How can you make your very own walking dumpster fire? There are a few key elements here.

  • Your fool should be more damaged, in terms of past abuse, than any other character
  • Drinking helps
  • The fool must have processed, in a healthy manner, nearly all of his own emotional pain
  • Some reference to sexuality is usually wise

Examples

Terrible Fool

Rodgen drew the covers of his bed over his face most comfortably and sighed as he slept heavily through the alien alarm.

His roommate, Baris, had already gotten up and was almost ready to put on his shoes. Baris had no idea how Rodgen could sleep through noise like this. I wish I could, Baris though, and he pulled on his sock. The alien slave ship made an uncomfortable rock to the side, and a wave of alien water leaked through the door and crashed over the whole room, spilling into Baris’s open shoes.

Rodgen, not waking up much, spat some drips of slippery alien water out of his mouth and turned over to go back to sleep.

“Rodgen, my shoes got wet!” Boris said irritably, looking down at his soaking shoes.

Rodgen, being asleep and very wet, did not reply.

Baris was tempted to throw a soaking shoe at Rodgen’s head, but he put the wet shoe on instead, and felt angry at himself for not leaving his shoes in the cubby where they would have been dry.

Excellent Fool

Rodgen pulled the covers of his bed over his face and pretended not to be hearing the blasting alarm. He knew the aliens would dump something wet on him if he didn’t get up this time. They’d warned him, and he didn’t care.

Damn, how I hate Monday mornings on the alien slave ship, Rodgen thought, as he braced himself against the inevitable bucket of amniotic fluid that crashed over his head when he didn’t get up in the first minute.

Rodgen spat some drips of burning alien fluid out of his mouth and tried to go back to sleep.

“Rodgen!” his cell-mate roared.

“I’m tired,” Rodgen said from under his blanket.

“You got my fucking shoes wet, Rodgen! Seriously, get out of bed and take a nap on the floor next time! Shit!” Baris threw a soaking shoe at Rodgen’s head, and the impact was, at last, enough to motivate Rodgen to remove himself from his soaking bed.

“I don’t like living here,” Rodgen said with dignity.

“Gosh, and here I thought you were on vacation in the fucking Ritz. Jesus, Rodge. Give me your shoes. Are they dry at all? I’m taking yours.”

General Qualities of a Fool

  • A quality fool has foundational morals and an unerring grasp of sexuality and interpersonal ethics
  • The fool has extensive personal history of abandonment, addiction, or abuse
  • The fool is absurd and/or funny
  • The fool is emotionally detached enough to make commentary on other characters
  • The fool becomes the touchstone of the plot when they encapsulate the essence of the theme in a living body and become, for all intents and purposes, a mouthpiece for the novel’s intent

In Conclusion

If you haven’t got a fool in your current work, think about utilizing one in your next piece. Fools are charming, pleasant things, and if you make your fool the central character, you might accidentally end up writing Hamlet.

You’re reading Victor Poole. Your pediatrician probably hasn’t read this book, but you could read it this weekend.

The Natural Way To Build Character Context

How to use what you already know about people to naturally add intriguing, original context to your characters.

Organic Character Context

When you meet a new person in real life, at first you only know what they look like, how they move or dress, the tone of their voice, and the actual words they say to you. You don’t generally meet someone and instantly know their precise eye color, their favorite memory of a birthday, or the name of the dog they owned when they were seven years old.

Those are facts you might learn later on, if you and the person develop some sort of relationship, whether as friends, colleagues, or romantic partners, but they aren’t things you know right away.

When you build a character with great context, the process, to be organic, begins the same way. You start with a basic introduction, either of the character’s looks or of their words.

Let’s Build A Character Right Now

As an example, I will begin with a gender, let’s go with male this time, and say that his name is, um, Levi.

Now, I’m not going to jump into character charts, or secret planning over here. I’m actually going to treat Levi as if he were a stranger that I was encountering for the very first time right now.

Hello, Levi!

Levi, wearing a denim jacket and a pair of bright pink cowboy boots, along with a very dirty pair of brown leather pants, sauntered into the laundromat looking very much like a gunslinger of old. Instead of a pistol, he was packing two wrapped stacks of quarters in his pockets, and instead of a saddle he had an enormous, noisy black garbage bag of filthy sheets and clothing slung over his back.

Levi swung the garbage bag onto the moderately filthy linoleum, dug a purple bottle of Suds’ Soft detergent out of the mass of dirty clothes, and began to sort through his clothes and sheets. His jaws were busy over a wad of pink bubble gum, which he occasionally snapped and blew into a translucent bubble before bursting and chewing the pink gum back into his mouth.

And Now, Organic Context

When you introduce yourself to a character without predetermined ideas of his past, his predilections, or his particular manner of brushing his teeth, your subconscious goes into overdrive to explain and justify every detail supplied by your working imagination.

For example, Levi chews bubble gum and wears a very ugly and dirty ensemble of clothing. Why? I don’t know why yet, and I also have no specific idea how old he is, aside from realizing he is probably an adult, and might be over thirty.

If we continue to explore Levi, our minds will naturally and organically supply character context that supports our pre-existing details about him.

Adding Context Organically

Why is organic context valuable? Can’t we just slap some authorial homework over Levi that fits our chosen narrative? Well, yes, we could, but that would probably not result in a satisfying story arc or a rhetorically pleasant character in the end.

Your mind is already used to sorting through tremendous amounts of information about people and the patterns their behaviors and habits imply about their lives. Tap into your brain, and save yourself a lot of time constructing painstaking, artificial character context.

If you allow your mind to meet a character from the ground up, just like you meet a new person in real life, your creative vehicle will begin to supply organic context automatically, because your brain wants to understand and label the character, and your subconscious will do that by digging down the roots that you don’t necessarily realize consciously are there.

Artificial Character Context

I had a client several years ago, an author who was working on a project about packs of wild, knife-fighting crime groups in Anywhere, USA. She wanted help to make her project better, and I worked over the draft with her a few times.

She had taken one character in particular, a main female romantic interest, and drawn up a contradictory and artificial context to make the character as pitiable and conflicting as possible.

The Character Forced To Serve Drama

The female character, in the actual work, read like a schizophrenic person, because there was no organic explanation at all for why she behaved or spoke as she did. The author had a predetermined function for the character and set up rigid and artificial constraints around her backstory to force her to create conflict in the plot.

The result was awful, because underneath this artificial context, the natural, organic context of the original character idea was clearly struggling to come through (and was being choked to death by the author’s artifice).

Levi With Artificial Context (Very Bad Writing!)

Levi started his laundry and went to sit down in a plastic chair with a deep sigh, remembering the time on his fourteenth birthday when his beloved dog Rex had perished in a tragic road accident. Levi Nelson, forty-two, was a complex person, and he hated to sit alone.

He stared around the room, which was empty, and then stood up and went to peer into the office door. He thought perhaps he would meet some sympathetic person who would commiserate with his dour mood on this, the anniversary of his father’s abandonment of their family.

A woman was sitting at a desk, combing over a crossword puzzle and looking shallow and unsympathetic. Levi sighed meaningfully, but she didn’t look up with her crystal blue eyes and ask him to explain his obvious sorrow.

Levi, being a tragic and a blasted character, owing to the transient manner of life he led, leaned into the office and knocked at the door.

“Is something broken?” the woman asked, without looking up.

“Hey, you’re so beautiful, and you must have a kindly soul. Do you want to get lunch and fall in love with me?” Levi asked.

“No,” the woman said.

“Do you want to stare soulfully into my eyes?” Levi asked, leaning a little into the door to examine her blonde hair. She made no reply, and he sighed meaningfully and went back to his chair to wait for his wash cycle to finish.

Levi With Organic Context (Good Writing!)

A woman with sparkly silver heels came out of the laundromat office and leaned against a washer. Levi ignored her until he had loaded two machines and started them. He spat his bubble gum into the ratty laundromat garbage can and slid conveniently near to the woman, who was in her early thirties and had a messy bob of blonde hair tied up in a knot.

“Hey,” Levi said.

“You didn’t come in yesterday,” the woman said. Levi’s hand inched sorta kinda near to the woman’s hand. She ignored him, and he grew bold and stroked a finger along a silver bangle she wore around her wrist. The woman stifled a sigh.

“I had to play a private gig until super late,” Levi explained. The woman adjusted her hand so that her skin came under his stroking finger. “Did you miss me?” Levi asked, a hopeful glint in his eye.

“You never missed a Tuesday before,” the woman explained, tilting her head as if she were making up her mind.

“Yeah, but I never got called in to work all night on a Monday before. We didn’t even get back until late yesterday afternoon,” Levi replied, sliding a bit closer. She slid away.

“You could have called,” she said in a reproving sort of way.

“But you won’t give me your number, Val, and you said I shouldn’t call the laundromat,” Levi hedged. She inched a bit closer herself.

“Well,” she said.

“Hey,” he murmured. She made a shuddering sigh and glared at the big windows at the front of the laundromat.

“Well,” she said again. He slipped a bit closer and kissed her mouth. His hand tangled into her hand, and she sighed and snuggled a little against his denim jacket. He pulled his mouth away, but stayed right close to her. “Do you want my number, then?” she asked.

“Mm-hm,” he agreed, and kissed her again.

In Conclusion

Let your brain do what it already does; as soon as you meet a character (by writing them down, and observing as much about them as you would see in a stranger you met for the first time), your subconscious goes to work to explain everything about them, and if you will release into your existing social skill set, an organic and satisfying character context will easily emerge.

You’re reading Victor Poole, and I’m sort of sick today. I have now successfully disposed of my Christmas tree, and it is Thursday today.

The Secret To Writing A Devious Character

Victoria had been late for the train once too often, and she was pulled in for questioning by the Matron of Societal Punctuality.

“What’s going on, Miss Delton?” the Matron asked.

“If you please, ma’am, my alarm has been behaving strangely. I have a new one on order, ma’am, and there was a delay at the shop.”

Victoria studied the Matron’s purple nails, which curled haughtily around her wide green sleeves. Victoria had not had any trouble really with her alarm, but her sister Fiona had a newborn, and Victoria had been doing breakfast for the toddlers the last couple of weeks. This shouldn’t have made her late, but little Doris was in a throw-food-on-the-floor phase, and Victoria hated to leave wet cereal for Fiona to clean up.

“Hm,” the Matron said in a steely sort of voice. “How’s the pairing going, miss?”

“If you please, ma’am, I have been rejected by the last two men on the grounds that my figure is too stumpy.”

“Can’t you get into a body shop?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Do that. I’ll let you off with a warning this time, but you’ll be whipped if you’re late for work again.”

“Yes, ma’am. Thank you ma’am,” Victoria said. She curtsied and left the room. She tramped back through the busy Hornswaggle square, and got into the elevator for the Trans-Continental Finance building.

“In trouble with the law, Victoria?” her supervisor, Gordon Hill, asked when she came into the office.

“Yes sir,” Victoria said.

“I’ll have words with you about that, miss,” Gordon said, the slightest hint of a threatening leer in his face.

Victoria produced an appropriate shudder of maidenly horror. Gordon followed her into her apportioned, closet-sized accountant’s den and shut the door.

“How’s your sister doing? I found some chocolates in the blackmarket last night. She still like those? Have you been holding up all right?” Gordon asked, in an entirely different tone. He proffered a wrapped bundle, which was adorned with a velvet ribbon, and Victoria blushed.

“Oh, Hill. You’re so sweet,” she murmured, and snuggled against him for a kiss.

“I love you, Vic. How bad was it today?” Gordon whispered, amidst their affectionate kisses.

“The matron ordered me to a body shop before my next official pairing.”

“Damn! When is the next one?” Gordon asked. He wrapped his arms around her waist. Victoria twisted and deposited the chocolates on her desk, to prevent accidental melting.

“Two weeks, my love.”

“Mm,” Gordon said. He nuzzled her cheek, and sighed against her hair. “I’ve been bribing the higher-ups to give me a slot. They don’t like that I’m your boss.”

“I could quit,” Victoria mumbled.

“No, sweetie. That never works. I’ll try some more grease on the wheels tonight, and push through to get you first. I love you, Vic.”

“I love you too, sweet Hill,” Victoria replied. They kissed and extricated themselves with a shared sigh.

“And if you’re late again,” Gordon cried, so that his voice echoed a little through the closed door, “I’ll take this up with Human Resources!”

He kissed tenderly at Victoria’s hand. She created a stifled, piercing sob, and she smiled, and he kissed her mouth once more and slipped out of her tiny office.

Victoria concealed the illegal chocolate under the fraudulent tax files from last season, which no one dared to touch since she’d gotten permission to foist the clean up audit on anyone who bothered her about them, and began to work.

You’re reading Victor Poole. It is now December, which intimates holiday-making. Also, today is Sunday, which intimates weekend-ness. I think our cat has begun to hibernate, a bit.

The Quickest And Easiest Way To Correct An Emotional Typo

There are two types of emotional slip-up in fiction:

  1. Internal motivation is missing to such an extent that the scene is too harsh or is contextually incomprehensible.
  2. One or more characters retreat from caring about the others, which makes a snarl

The first problem is very easy to fix. All you need is to add more context and internal motivation, however much is sufficient to make the scene completely clear.

The second problem general requires a redraft of whichever piece fell apart. If the emotional deviance occurs early in a story, much of the story may become functionally unusable, and must be rewritten with more present, caring characters.

Examples:

Missing Context and Internal Motivation

Flora wasn’t really fond of her parents, but she didn’t mind having the house to herself when she got into the end of her apprenticeship.

“Don’t say anything in front of the cat. He can repeat things,” Flora told her boyfriend, Greg, when she brought him home the first time.

“Uh,” Greg said, for he wanted to ask some very pointed questions about the cat’s other abilities.

“He won’t mention anything he sees. He just thinks it’s funny to repeat phrases. My sister had her girlfriends over, and they played a dating game. It was awful, afterwards.”

“Why?” Greg asked. He looked at the front door, which was beginning to seem attractive to him.

“I can’t tell you in front of Mr. Mouser,” Flora explained.

“I don’t know how to respond to that,” Greg said honestly.

***

Fixed

Flora’s parents trained the cat to repeat spoken phrases, as a safeguard against inappropriate conversations between Flora and her friends. This backfired, as the cat began to pick up a varied vocabulary and a dictionary-like intimacy with pop culture and the latest trends in boy bands.

Flora’s father tried to untrain the cat, but it was too late. Mr. Mouser was a talker, and Flora’s mother said it was hardly acceptable to expand the feline’s awareness of the world and then lobotomize the animal.

“I wasn’t going to take the whole brain! Just the language centers,” Flora’s father said. Mr. Mouser crooned repetitively to the lyrics of “My Heart Pumps Only For You, Bu-Be-Baby,” in the background. Flora’s mother sighed.

“We could try a catnip gag, or something,” she suggested.

The catnip turned the crooning, spoken lyrics into drunken singing. Flora’s father signed up for a long project at work and stopped coming home. Flora’s mother took to wearing industrial-strength earplugs.

“It’s only a few more years. This breed only lives to about twenty,” Flora’s mother told herself every afternoon as she kneaded the bread.

“Hey, watch out for my cat,” Flora told Greg, her brand new boyfriend, on the first afternoon she brought him home through the back door.

“What’s wrong with your cat?” Greg asked. Flora hesitated on the threshold. She pulled Greg back onto the porch and glanced up at the windows.

“He can talk. He repeats things,” she whispered.

“Like, anything?” Greg asked softly.

“Yeah. Don’t talk to me at all, okay?” Flora said. She grinned at Greg, who flushed.

“Okay,” Greg said, for he was imagining all the things they could do instead of talking. Flora pulled him into the house and up the back stairs. Her mother hummed pleasantly in the kitchen, and Mr. Mouser, repeating the names of every boy Flora had ever had a crush on, stalked through the house until he twined through Flora’s bedroom door. His lamp-like eyes turned placidly toward Flora and Greg, who were not saying any words out loud at all, though they were having a conversation of sorts with their mouths. Mr. Mouser settled down to watch. He got bored after a while, and began to sing, “My Love, I Am Hunting After Your Blue Eyes,” as he pounced after dust motes in the air. Flora stifled a giggle mid-kiss, and Greg, feeling that he had discovered his one true love, held in a heart-felt sigh and pulled her closer.

You’re reading Victor Poole. Today, I believe, is Thanksgiving. My grey cat has been attempting to scale inappropriate surfaces lately.

The Quick And Dirty Guide To Writing Human Nature

Bad Writing:

Elton was having a very bad day. His date stood him up, his favorite hunting dog turned into a cat, and the prophesied comet fizzled out fifteen feet before it hit the appropriate mountain.

Elton had been waiting several years for the promised comet, and he had based several of his life goals around the fact of Mt. Halber being pretty much leveled, and half the population of the world destroyed.

Elton, you see, was an evil overlord, and he had been working to secure the loyalty and fear of the other half, the supposed-to-survive half of the world’s people for most of his life.

Now the comet had come, and there were all the people, going on living as if nothing had happened at all. Elton was annoyed about this. If he’d been ready for a cosmic failure on this scale, he would have built an undertone of religious warfare into the scriptures he’d been feeding his followers for the last fifteen years. He hadn’t known, and now he was scrambling for an image adjustment.

Good Writing:

Elton was having a very bad day. His date had flipped when he stood her up, his favorite hunting dog had been turned into a cat, and the prophesied comet had fizzled out fifteen feet before it hit the appropriate mountain that morning.

“If you had married that nice girl from our village, Elton, none of this would have happened,” his mother told him over the enchanted conch.

“Mom, Ellen Ripple died ten years ago of supin cough. So I couldn’t marry her, and if I had, she would be dead now. Then my life would be more of a mess,” Elton said, as he watched the bridge master torture his latest magician, who had failed to make the newly-christened Whiskers back into Spot. “It’s kind of a bad time, mom. I have to go out and get that cosmic dust from the comet. I’ll call you back.”

Elton had been waiting several years for the promised comet, and he had based several of his life goals around the premise of Mt. Halber being pretty much leveled, and half the population of the world destroyed.

“Sweetheart, that’s only a dirty old rock, and you’ve already accomplished all the goals on your sweet little checklist. I still have it on my fridge. ‘World domination.’ Sweetie, you did that one already. Just forget the comet, and get ready for Jasmine. I’m sending flowers in your name, so she’ll already like you.”

“Mom, I’m not seeing Jasmine tonight, I have a war council to run. Goodbye. I love you.”

Elton, you see, was an evil overlord, and he had been working to secure the loyalty and fear of the other half, the supposed-to-survive half of the world’s people for most of his life.

Now the comet had come, and it had fizzled, and there were all the people, both halves, going on living as if nothing had happened at all. Elton was annoyed about this. If he’d been ready for a cosmic failure on this scale, he would have built an undertone of religious warfare into the scriptures he’d been feeding his followers for the last fifteen years. He hadn’t known, and now he was scrambling for an image adjustment. His mother’s persistent attempts to hook him up with good-hearted females from her neighborhood was doing little to ease his way, partially because they were all sweet women, and partially because Elton had to readjust into evil mode whenever he spoke to them, to let them know his mom was misrepresenting the situation.

He’d spoken to Jasmine only this morning, and she had shrieked when she learned that Elton Yurbo was actually the dread majesty Rakendo, Bringer of Death. Elton sighed, and watched Whiskers push himself, purring, against the howling magician’s leg.

You’re reading Victor Poole. This week is the feasting week, and the sky is still blue where I live. Today was not at all like a Sunday, though tomorrow will most decidedly be like a Monday. (I like Mondays.)

The Easy Way To Write That Feels Like Playing

  1. Start with a strong image. Include at least two details that can be seen, felt, or smelt.
  2. Introduce a character with a phonetically-friendly name. (Bad name: Blithgirou. Good name: Biltog.) Give said character a task that, again, includes one or two sensory packages (these are like bacon bits in a salad, unless you hate salads, in which case they are like cherries in the poison of your choice).
  3. Follow the well-named task-performing character until a lull appears in the action.
  4. Introduce another, more boring-named character. (Bad name: Hyacinth. Good name: Ginger.) Write some work-a-day dialogue, with as much humor as you can stir up.
  5. Blow everything up. If you don’t know how to destroy a narrative, learn how. Your only rules now are: ONE: Biltog and Ginger must always say “yes” with their hearts, and TWO: neither of them can die or get chewed up beyond the point of functionality.

Then write what happens to make Biltog and Ginger ONE: stay together, TWO: like each other, and THREE: get free of whatever trouble is chewing on their heels.

OBSERVE . . .

The morning sun blistered over the Hulon sea, making purple mist spin up into a sky that smelled of new roses. The air was hot, but not unpleasantly so, as Biltog paddled his aluminum boat through the shallows. The splash of the dark water and the hum of the singing fish made Biltog sigh with pleasure. There was nothing so beautifully quiet as going out for the morning catch of merl-kits all alone. He savored the solitude, and the feel of his paddle as he carved through the sea was satisfying against his muscles.

The collection of the netted merl-kits went without any hitch, and Biltog had stowed his boat and was halfway up the slope to the road when a long, echoing scream shattered the morning air. Biltog frowned and turned, examining the landscape. He could see no one. The scream came again, and Biltog looked up.

He shouted in surprise and ducked just in time to miss the rocketing form of a tidy female who was ploughing through the air like a drunken sea-hawk. She crashed most unceremoniously into a grassy knoll, and Biltog dropped his nets and ran to her.

“Are you okay?” he demanded. She scattered wildly back, her hair in enormous tufts and her skin flushed.

“Uh, yes,” she said, staring at him. He blushed. She was quite pretty, if tousled, with dark brown hair and terrifically bright green eyes.

“You’re nice-looking,” Biltog said blankly. He gasped, and hurried towards his nets. He heard the female laugh behind him, and he hated himself a lot, because her laugh was even prettier than her face.

“Wait! Hey, wait up! I’m sorry for crashing at you,” she called. He heard her coming after him, and he walked faster, his eyes wide and his mouth in a snarl of embarrassment. “Hey!” she cried, and some very soft fingers caught at his arm.

Biltog gasped again, because he felt very foolish. He twisted to the side and stared at her legs. She was wearing a sort of home-made flight suit, and had thick patches over her knees.

“I’m really sorry, miss,” Biltog said.

“I’m not. I’m glad you think I’m pretty. What’s your name? I’m Ginger,” she said brightly, holding out her hand.

“Uh, Biltog,” he said. He reached out, for she seemed determined in a way that intimidated him, and shook her hand. He let go as soon as he thought was polite and snatched up his nets. “I don’t know why anyone would call you Ginger,” he added, and blushed again.

“Because my hair’s not red. My mum named me for my aunt. What are you named for?” she asked.

“Where’s your—what were you flying with?” Biltog asked.

“Only this,” she said, turning to show a set of green tubes sewn into the back of her clothes. “It was going really well until I got into that sea air. I think the vapor got into my intake valves. I should stay away from this part of the coast.”

“Oh,” he said. They stared at each other for a minute. “Um, I’m named after a big star from my father’s home system,” he said quickly.

“That’s very nice,” Ginger said. He nodded. Biltog scraped his boot over the road.

“Well,” Biltog said.

An explosion to their left made them both jump. The purple sea expanded massively, a wave surging up as if an enormous boulder had landed far out in the water. Biltog stared at the sudden flight of winged fish that burst from the sea. Droplets of water flew like shining crystals behind the scaled bodies of the creatures.

With a roar that made Biltog think the world was tearing in half, a huge cylinder of metal rose up from the disturbed waters of the sea. It was as large as a building, and it throttled up into the clouds. Slender vessels peeled from the sides of the monstrous shape and flared out in all directions. A cluster of the ships rocketed straight for the hill upon which they stood.

Ginger grabbed Biltog’s hand. He dropped his nets and closed his fingers over hers.

“Run!” he cried.

You’re reading Victor Poole. My science fiction heroes met a notorious gang boss lately. Tomorrow is Sunday, which means it will no longer be Saturday.