Invisible

file4241270227593 (2)             She sat in the assigned seat although her demeanor expressed dislike in leaving the far back corner of the classroom. The corner protected her from sounds of gun shots fired in the middle of the night, boisterous laughter, groans, cursing, and rhythmic squawking of the lone bed separated by the thin wall of her room. The smell of smoke, crack, meth, and putrid body odor seeped through the rotting wall’s cracks and crevices. Even the cockroaches ran over each other getting to the bare floors of her room.

Wearing the jacket over the bulky sweater she wore night and day to disguise any resemblance of a girl with female parts, she sat huddled on the single bed, back against the wall, eyes glued to the door.

The girl’s fear burned at a constant level while her mother worked the streets and spiked each time a second pair of footsteps returned with her.

She relived every second as the tape played inside her head. It happened two years ago. Ten years old but far from innocent, no child should hear, see, or experience what she had. His putrid taste and smell stayed with her no matter how strong the mouth wash, or how red her skin turned as she scrubbed. Her mother promised that it would never happen again, but the words offered no consolation.

They found her underneath the bed, the sanctuary she visited when she escaped to that place in her mind with grass, daisies, sunshine, and blue sky.

A voice crackled through the police car radio. She sat in the backseat with her jacket pulled over her head, but it wasn’t the dispatcher’s words she tried to deafen.  The sounds of kicking, splintering wood, and firing gunshots rang in her ears.

The woman in the second police car hadn’t lied.

 

 

Do personal struggles and those of friends and family affect the way you relate to characters in a story? Does personal tragedy enhance the story and create an emotional bond to the characters? Please share your thoughts.

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The old woman next door

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Three summers now, rude words cut through the cool morning air followed by a window shut with force that rattled the glass.

The old woman next door started that damn lawn mower every Saturday morning at 6:45 am sharp. You could set your watch by it.

A chain link fence, four feet from his bedroom window separated the properties. The landlord made it clear that seniors made up most of the quiet street. He assured the landlord, early or late, he never threw parties. In fact, he did his partying after work before he came home in the wee hours of the morning. He slept late, and returned to the club where he and three others played music from nine to one o’clock in the morning. If anything, learning of the quiet neighborhood drove him to sign the rental agreement without reading or asking questions.

He never admitted the early Saturday morning routine had turned into a game. He could have left the window unopened that one day of the week, or used earplugs.

As it turned out, a game so ingrained that he woke up 6:45 sharp every Saturday morning from the first Saturday the lawn mower failed to start. A habit that continued after they took down the for sale sign.

Have you experienced a conflict with people and discovered that you missed them and the conflict after they were gone?

Losing the will to survive

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He wavered as he walked down the sidewalk clutching the brown-wrapped bottle against his stomach. Two more, you can make it two more blocks, legs. He looked down at the bottle and imagined the taste, the feel of the amber liquid sliding down his throat, into his stomach, veins, bringing relief to each cell of his body.

Numbing his mind, that’s what he needed most of all.

He looked at the guitar, it’s shiny finish dulled with years of dust. It brought back memories of a life that was no longer his. Friends, wives, children, jobs. Memories that stabbed his heart.

No knocking at his door, not even those toting Bibles. He understood. He stopped liking himself years ago. Stopped liking life itself the past year, or was it longer. It didn’t much matter, he had given up. Overwhelmed by it all. Ready to quit. One day, he wouldn’t get up from the old sofa the boys across the street had carried into his house when their family moved it to the trash.

Trash, that’s all he would be.

There was something about that bottle handed to him each morning all wrapped and ready the minute he entered.

The liquor store lady will miss him.

Photo: Giving Up by Cellar_door_films

Do you know someone who gave up? How can we help those who become overwhelmed with life, or can we? Comments are welcome.

I never met a dog I didn’t like

photoAnnie

There are people I don’t like.  Will Rogers claims to have never met a man he didn’t like, but that is a stretch for me. I’m not saying some are worthless to the core. I want to believe a redeeming quality lies somewhere in the vilest person.

Dogs are different. Sure, they may have one or two bad qualities. More, in most cases. Same as people, they have bad habits. They pee on carpets, steal food from the table or your hand and run. They chase mail carriers, track in mud, get on the furniture when you turn your back, leave teeth marks on your favorite shoes, and send expensive obedience school manners down the drain when company arrives.

But they love you.

Even when you drink too much, let gas, belch, scratch your stomach, or take more than your share of the bed.

Rin-Tin-Tin was awesome in movies. So was Benji, and a host of amazing dog movie stars. But, I’m talking in your face dogs, those that meet you at the door, the huggers and kissers. The slobbers and droolers. Those that save lives, protect, warn of fire, danger and intruders.

Dogs that point out the bad people.

I will stretch. I’ll check out Will Rogers’ famous quote and look for underlying qualities before kissing off people. I’ll jump start unconditional love and do my best to keep it running.

That’s what dogs do.

The Missing Character

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Family

Born at the turn of the century from hard working good people. Dropped out of school at age nine to care for younger siblings. Calloused hands and bent fingers told a story of work. House, field, serving others.

Blue-gray eyes told tales beyond their years.

Raised a family of seven, and never missed a day of work. Smile creased lips belied the struggles, cries of pain, suffering deaths of children before their time.

Pin a blue ribbon, hang a gold medal. Five stars are not enough.

The missing character is my mother.

 

Do you have an unforgettable character?

Keep them strong

strong characters

It’s the fight. It’s not winning the game.

Protagonists of contemporary fiction might not win or come out on top, but they remain strong throughout the conflict. If they lose, they go down fighting.  Additional strong characters support and help the protagonist achieve victory. If not joining the fight itself, they offer compassion and empathy.

Life struggles can kick our butt no matter how hard we fight, or how tough we are. The people and objects creating the conflict are strong as well. However, the taste of victory remains until the person, place, or thing behind the struggle wins. If the protagonist fails, we know it wasn’t lack of moral fiber.

Readers identify with the main character. They identify with struggling through problems, tough times, sometimes making it, sometimes not. They rely on the strength of the character. They feel it. They need it. Many people are either undergoing personal trauma and conflict or know someone who is. They know survival requires strength. It’s fighting the fight, not giving up. Character behaviors are transferred to the reader.

Strong characters give hope. Hope that we can make it through the most basic human conditions.

Believable characters: Dime a dozen

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Get out of the office. Stand on street corners, visit coffee shops, go to a bar. The world is full of characters. Believable? Hey, I believe anything. Doesn’t the juiciest gossip begin with You won’t believe this, but . . . ? 

Weird-ass quirky character material is as close as my family tree. I don’t have to leave the house to find it. Change the sex, give them an entire make-over. Use mannerisms and physical descriptions from people you observe. They will never know.

Eavesdropping should be tax deductible for writers. Master the art. Use your imagination. A Facebook follower overheard a neighbor tell a friend, “My fingerprints are on the knife.” My imagination kicked in so fast, I forgot to read the rest of the post.

After all, the people writing contemporary fiction are authors. Writers come with imagination and a weirdness of its own.

Contemporary fiction addict

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I love books with screwed up characters. Characters that take the wrong road at every intersection. Down and out. Messed up people living horrible lives. Characters that fight to get out of bed, then struggle to get into their trousers.

Why?

They make me feel normal.

They fall, come close to giving up. Life slaps them in the face. I feel their pain. I root for them. They find someone, or some thing that struggles with them; helps them dig through the muck.

Sometimes they make it, sometimes they don’t. Doesn’t matter either way. The point is, people find company in life’s struggles. Encouragement comes knowing that someone else swims upstream through life.

I finish the book knowing that others have the same problems, or worse. That’s why I tend to root for the underdog. After all, someone should make it.