Building a Minor Character

The Clockwork Spider thing from Nano a couple of years back returns to mind each time I sit in front of the computer to write. I wrote Mal’s half of the roadside picnic table scene two days ago—I don’t recall if I posted it or not. I’d done a fair bit of thinking about the plot for that story. I didn’t codify it though. I think I’ll do a little remembering out loud here today.

Malachi is an older mage dating Karen who is both younger than him and less experienced in magic than he. A clockwork spider Malachi constructed as a precocious youth holds the key to finding (and rescuing) their coven leader Prof. Palmer. Somehow a prison break was involved as well as a bit of world-hopping, a séance, and a jealous scheming runner-up.

Except for a bunch of tattoos and a roughshod look, Malachi didn’t have much characterization. Karen may have had less.

What other stuff I’ve written since my original musing implies that I’ve got Malachi collecting advice/clues/aid from less savory friends than belong to the coven as regulars. As I think on this it feels a bit like a montage or yak shaving. I suppose that isn’t bad as long as each meet-up increases the stakes and is closely tied to the conflict. But I ought to work out what it is Mal seeks with each meeting and why he doesn’t get what he wants.

Here’s a quick exchange with Steven Tattersall in Haast, NZ that came to mind…

After establishing Steven as a bit of a letch, Karen and Malachi depart.

Karen shrugged and shivered and stamped her feet like she was wriggling out of a cocoon. “I told you you wouldn’t like him,” said Malachi.

“You didn’t tell me how much you do though.”

Mal smiled instead of lying.

“What?” Karen crossed her arms. “What? You’re enjoying this too much not to be telling me something…everything. Anything. Whatever. What?”

“Steven’s gay.” [kinda think Mal might say ‘fag’ but I’m not sure how to resolve that]

“I wouldn’t have guessed that.”

“He wouldn’t want you to.”

“Why not?”

“Because he hasn’t either.”

356 words on day 983

Back Lightning

As payment for a week of slacking I’m just going to take the countstamp on my latest main writing source and use it for today’s writing. I think I’m technically a day or two ahead of this number, but I’m sure whatever I wrote, where ever I wrote it, isn’t worth the effort of finding and incrementing.

Malachi pinched the skin on the back of his hand together so it made the ink of a tattooed circle kiss the ink of a tattooed rose. It didn’t mean anything; it wasn’t a spell. His time-browned skin shone with age like he had a layer of still-taunt flesh under and almost-attached husk of cellophane. He released his grip; the circle and the rose drifted apart. He rubbed the back of his hand flat again before stuffing his fingers into a leather riding glove.

It was hard to hear what Karen was saying over the idle of his rebuilt Vincent Black Lightning. It was even harder when he twisted the throttle. He took a deep breath of New Mexican air and used his senses to find the warm hiss of Bluetooth from her cellphone. He warded it with only a little more consideration using another twist of the throttle to camouflage the effort. Karen would be stuck but safe. Pissed but alive…until the battery ran out.

223 words on day 979


Steven Tattersall, diviner and layabout, unlatched his leather-clad portmanteau and folded back the halves on the kitchen table. He tucked the lid all the way underneath the right side to help it lay flat. Some few papers tucked into the pocket of the lid caught Karen’s attention, but she could never after realize why. Steven carried on by unsnapping the top panel on the left side and propping up a folding-rack of bottles filled with liquids and powders. The little staircase of ingredients reminded Karen of a space-saving spice rack she bought on TV.

“Aces! I thought I’d lost that.” Steven pulled a small brown memo book from under one of the legs of the rack and flipped the pages.

xxx words on day 904

How Bad Could They Be?

Malachi ashed his Lucky Strike then decided to leave it there in the glass dish he’d brought; you couldn’t smoke in a Texas diner.

“You know,” Malachi looked away and thumbed a torn corner of orange leatherette on the back of their booth, “I was lighting cigarettes for two years before I ever smoked one?” He turned his attention back to Karen. “Ever tell you that?”

Karen shook her head small because she was being quiet and trying to ken his screen. A smoke screen, she thought; she almost laughed aloud.

“Suppose not. You probably can’t imagine me as a kid.”

She smiled and let go part of her stored up laugh. “No. Not really.”

“My great grandfather had a stroke when I was seven, or there abouts. That summer when I was out of school and my mom was working at the cleaners she’d leave me with him. Myrtle, his second wife—we never called her great grandma—was already dead. My grandparents, his son, lived in the house next door.

[one of the points of his story—why he smokes—is because even though he heard the warnings that smoking was bad for you he saw his stroked great grandfather smoking and never die because of it, so he figured it was safer than anyone said it was]

216 words on day 895

Somewhere East of Springer

Malachi twists the throttle and the bike rumbles in the shade of the cottonwood. Karen watches, stunned, as he taps the bike into first and engages the clutch. The bike and her boyfriend roll away, and she steps after them not knowing if she should call out his name or kick the both of them over. He quickly gets out of range of either.

Karen continues to walk in his wake like a leaf sucked up behind a semi. She stops when she reaches the middle of the two-lane highway. She watches his black silhouette separates from the highway as the wavering heat of the road turns him into a mirage and still as the slope of the long slow hill drops him completely from view.

“Well, shit.”

Karen circles on the New Mexican highway and finds herself alone from horizon to horizon. She walks back to the feeble roadside rest area. Stepping from the asphalt to the gravel she twists her ankle.

163 words on day 795

A Wiser Authorial Voice

Day 443

Where do the last several days of work leave me? I’ve never created this many real pieces of a story. So I’m not certain what happens next.

I’m going to resist the urge to throw down and try some writing. This wiser authorial voice tells me my pile of scattered scenes needs to be riffled and tapped into a crisp deck for proper dealing. I’m going to first finish the scene fattening. Then I’ll return to the book on story structure I bought and match up the scenes to the structure that book advises. I expect I’ll come up both short and long and wrong, but I’ll be closer than I have been before. It’s not hard to add or remove or improve. (sorry)

However, none of that qualifies for writing on 1000 Days.

Dammit. So close.

Thirteen More Scenes Go Off Their Diet

Day 442

Yes. I coulda did this Saturday or Sunday. I didn’t.

  1. [snip]
  2. Malachi gathering help to battle dragon – Pretending I didn’t have a slightly better version of this below, I’ll say that I don’t know what I had in mind here at all. I do think that taking a dragon down requires help in the form of enginuity and strength. In stories it’s one guy that does the deed, but those stories are always in other stories and always in the past. I’m familiar with very little first-hand dragon slaying.
  3. Finding out if dragon is metaphor or literal-ish – When I concocted the logline I wrote dragon so that it would sound menacing and immenant. In my original thinking I just had another mage. Also, this isn’t really a scene. But maybe the dragon is able to transform into a human. Being able to would facilitate a number of plot elements that involved disguise or just plain getting around town.
  4. Daughter having complications – Nothing special hear I suppose. Once I work out the nature and source of her conditional I’ll need to worsen it to increase the tension and the pace. I’ll have to wait to determine if the complication will be merely a heavy beat of the clock reminding us she’s still out there needing help or if it will be some outside influence jamming the dial closer tot he bell. The first option might do well as an environmental element inserted frequently along the way where the later could be a real plot point.
  5. Dragon directly threatening daughter – Taled about this earlier int he sense that the dragon may be the source of her condition. If not, I’d like to demonstrate the dragon actively attacking Malachi’s reason to hunting it down i the first place. The dragon is going to be doing all it can to win as well. It will even be doing it from a place of preparation not from a place of desperation like Malachi.
  6. Mentor divulging secret to unraveling magic – this probaby needs to be done twice. Once in the safety of the mage confines—where disguised dragon might overhear parts—and a second time to the dragon under duress. The first sets the stage for the whole thing the later really drives the screws home with Malachi’s agenda. The unraveling will need to be something substantial. Something the dragon could learn about and then have to setup. Unraveling can’t be just pulling a trigger unless Malachi is able to reverse it. Or unless Malachi isn’t looking to stop the dragon but to thwart him via reversal.
  7. Escaped Malachi hounded by police – Malachi simply cannot get out of prison without police hunting him down afterward. This may be the hardest part of what I have to do. Not making their involvement to flat or too round.
  8. Malachi committing crime – Flashback or dialogue but probably not real time. I’m thinking I’d rather not have this be a dubious sort of crime where the reader sees that Malachi was truly serving justice. TO keep Malachi gritty I think this needs to be a straightup crime type crime. But not too crimey.
  9. Malachi being sentenced – Meh. Drop this.
  10. Malachi chatting with lawyer – You can see I was getting repetative and desperate at this point in my list. This could certainly come to play in the normal course of events but it may be fine as part of a propelling dialogue as well. “I talked to my lawyer and he said…”
  11. Mentor teaching Malachi – These guys need to have some interaction prior to the big events of the story transpiring. And potentially prior to his mentor’s degrading condition. I’ll need to learn up on Alzheimer’s and maybe use some magic to make him lucid as needed. Maybe not teaching but talking about his illness prior to Malachi being imprisoned. “When you get out, I’ll be gone…” Maybe the Mentor prepares for this somehow.
  12. Dragon attacking police chasing Malachi – This was in the movie scene thinking. Using it still works for a book of course, but I like the idea of our scrappy hero trapped between trying to hunt the dragon while bhimself being hunted by the police. Since the dragon wont care who gets killed all that much it will attack both with impunity.
  13. Malachi convincing police to help him battle dragon – Which naturally makes it easier for Malachi to enlist the aide of the police in hunting down the dragon. Let’s work together to kill the dragon then we can work out our issues with my escape. Plus this feels scrappy.
  14. Dragon beginning the process to unravel magic – I can’t decide if unraveling magic should be facile or laborious. If it’s laborious then it could become part of the plotting of the dragon. If its facile then it could contribute well to the tension of the last part of the story.
  15. Malachi discovering that unraveling magic will do more that threaten just his daughters life – FATTEN
  16. Discovering why/how magic supports his daughters continued life – FATTEN
  17. Dragon capturing mentor – FATTEN
  18. Mentor in captivity – FATTEN
  19. Malachi communicating with mentor somehow – FATTEN
  20. Prisonyard brawl to characterize Malachi – FATTEN

Time ran out before I addressed the last five.  I’ll look for time before the end of the day.  I want to be done with this exercise before tomorrow.