The People – Part 2


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

The People – Part 2

By Nandy Ekle

Last week we talked about giving our characters layers. We talked about the surface layers. So, as promised, we will go deeper into character development. A little knowledge of psychology is helpful, but the main tool is to know people around you. And people watching is an excellent way to gather information.

For one of my short stories, My Sweet Prince (in the anthology One Murderous Week, available in print from any bookstore), my main character came to me after driving home from a weekend trip. I stopped at a convenience store for a cup of coffee and the store clerk was sitting on a stool behind the counter, chewing a wad of gum and reading a romance book. And suddenly I could see several layers behind her eyes. Here was this young woman working all night long in a store. She likes to read romance books, probably as an escape from a dull job pulling a boring shift. The gum smelled like bubble gum. Personally, I like to chew gum to help stay awake when I need to. But I also noticed a bruise on her arm. The bruise could have come from anywhere, and that was the whole point. I really knew nothing about this woman other than the little clues I could see in my fifteen minutes in the store.

So, back to Jack Torrence from The Shining. His surface layer was arrogance and anger. And Stephen King made the statement later that he didn’t like Jack’s arrogance. But really and truly, the arrogance was necessary because it hid a deep well of layers that would only work if there was a hard shell to cover them up. He has guilt, anger, shame, confusion, sadness, and self-loathing. And every single time I read the book, I stumble on a layer I had not seen before. The reason it all works so well is if arrogance is all there was, we would never be able to sympathize with Jack. However, if the story opened with all the deeper darker layers instead of the surface, Jack would not have been a believable character.

Next week we’ll talk about some of the psychology involved in creating a believable, likable character your readers will cheer/weep for.

Your homework, think about a situation you’ve been in recently where you meet a group of people for the first time, like a party. Think about one interesting person you met. List the clues you see to tell you something about this person. What is it about this person that stands out in your mind? How can this become one of your characters?

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Excerpt From “Miss Bitsy”


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

Excerpt From “Miss Bitsy”

By Nandy Ekle

“We’ll keep working on that mystery. This cake is wonderful! and the caramel brownies,… I think I died and went to Heaven. Miss Bitsy, you’re amazing.:

“Oh, thank you, Dear. It’s just the same old recipe I’ve always had”

“Now you said you last saw Anton about a month ago?”

“Yes.” She stopped and looked up the stairs as if she’d heard a noise. Her expression changed to a dark frown, then back to her sweet, smiling self, as if a could had crossed her face.

“Miss Bitsy, are you okay?”

She turned back and smiled. “Oh, yes, I’m fine. I just thought I heard something. Must be squirrels up there. Yes, I think it was about a month ago. I’m afraid we had a little disagreement. You see, some of my things disappeared. Oh, nothing big, but gadgets I was fond of. I’m afraid I accused him of taking them. I just can’t imagine why he would want that stuff. He said he hadn’t touched them, but he was the only other person here.”

“Do you think he stole your stuff and left town?”

“Well, I don’t know about that. I certainly wouldn’t have dreamed of him taking anything from me. If he had just asked I would have given him anything.”

“What things were missing?”

“Let’s see… things missing… well, my rose colored Pyrex dish… my green apron… oh, my marble rolling pin, and my flour sifter.”

Jeremy looked at her, incredulous at the list of missing items. The Miss Bitsy he remembered would never have made a big deal out of losing something as inconsequential as a Pyrex dish. Surely she had plenty of dishes to cook in. “Are you sure Mr. Easley took those things? What kind of monetary value did any of that have for a college student?”

“Well, I don’t know why he would want them, but he was the only other person in the house; it couldn’t have been anyone else. He said he didn’t take them, but there was no one else here.” Again she looked up the stairs as if she’d heard something, and once again a frown momentarily creased her brow.

“Miss Bitsy, let me go look for the squirrel to pay you back for the cake and brownies.”

“Oh, Jerry, I could always count on you to do little jobs for me, but I think this is a job for someone else. Don’t you worry about it.”

He swallowed  gulp of milk and nodded. “Exactly what did Anton say when you asked him about those items?”

“He said he didn’t take them. He said I’m like his grandmother and he would never steal anything from me.” She turned back to the stairs, frowning, and after a moment she stood up, shook her finger at the rooms above her head and began to yell. “You can’t threaten me like that anymore, Eli Bevel! I know you’re dead ‘cause I killed you myself!”

An excerpt from the anthology, One Murderous Week. A book of seven short stories written by Nandy Ekle, available at a book store near you, or amazon.com, Barnesandnobles.com or from carpediempublishers.com. 

Excerpt From “Miss Bitsy”


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

Excerpt From “Miss Bitsy”

By Nandy Ekle

“We’ll keep working on that mystery. This cake is wonderful! and the caramel brownies,… I think I died and went to Heaven. Miss Bitsy, you’re amazing.:

“Oh, thank you, Dear. It’s just the same old recipe I’ve always had”

“Now you said you last saw Anton about a month ago?”

“Yes.” She stopped and looked up the stairs as if she’d heard a noise. Her expression changed to a dark frown, then back to her sweet, smiling self, as if a could had crossed her face.

“Miss Bitsy, are you okay?”

She turned back and smiled. “Oh, yes, I’m fine. I just thought I heard something. Must be squirrels up there. Yes, I think it was about a month ago. I’m afraid we had a little disagreement. You see, some of my things disappeared. Oh, nothing big, but gadgets I was fond of. I’m afraid I accused him of taking them. I just can’t imagine why he would want that stuff. He said he hadn’t touched them, but he was the only other person here.”

“Do you think he stole your stuff and left town?”

“Well, I don’t know about that. I certainly wouldn’t have dreamed of him taking anything from me. If he had just asked I would have given him anything.”

“What things were missing?”

“Let’s see… things missing… well, my rose colored Pyrex dish… my green apron… oh, my marble rolling pin, and my flour sifter.”

Jeremy looked at her, incredulous at the list of missing items. The Miss Bitsy he remembered would never have made a big deal out of losing something as inconsequential as a Pyrex dish. Surely she had plenty of dishes to cook in. “Are you sure Mr. Easley took those things? What kind of monetary value did any of that have for a college student?”

“Well, I don’t know why he would want them, but he was the only other person in the house; it couldn’t have been anyone else. He said he didn’t take them, but there was no one else here.” Again she looked up the stairs as if she’d heard something, and once again a frown momentarily creased her brow.

“Miss Bitsy, let me go look for the squirrel to pay you back for the cake and brownies.”

“Oh, Jerry, I could always count on you to do little jobs for me, but I think this is a job for someone else. Don’t you worry about it.”

He swallowed  gulp of milk and nodded. “Exactly what did Anton say when you asked him about those items?”

“He said he didn’t take them. He said I’m like his grandmother and he would never steal anything from me.” She turned back to the stairs, frowning, and after a moment she stood up, shook her finger at the rooms above her head and began to yell. “You can’t threaten me like that anymore, Eli Bevel! I know you’re dead ‘cause I killed you myself!”

An excerpt from the anthology, One Murderous Week. A book of seven short stories written by Nandy Ekle, available at a book store near you, or amazon.com, Barnesandnobles.com or from carpediempublishers.com.