My main writing project at the moment has a fair amount of deep-and-dark in it, and when I fear I’m becoming a bit too mired in that sort of thing, I need to take a step back with something a bit more light and flighty. Lately, that’s been the cast of misfit characters from “Finding Mister Wright,” my short story/novella from this past winter holiday break.
I usually write for Marshall’s life when I take up these characters again, but, this time, it was Rob who commandeered my brain. What’s funny is that the original story idea I had for these characters centered around Rob, Paige, and Daniel. In my earliest notes, Marshall barely played a role beyond counterpoint to Daniel. Of course, that changed when I finally started putting voices together in my head, and I found Marshall had a (rather significant) story all his own. The relationship story between Rob and his own family took a backseat to that of the Wright brothers, and Marshall and his loves in particular. But, Rob’s story has remained important, at least to me. He’s just as complicated as Marshall proved to be, but in a way that’s somehow more relaxed.
After my husband read “FMW,” he made the comment that he thought all the characters worked for their own reasons, but Rob was his favorite. “At first,” he told me, “you think he’s just one thing. Then, you learn a little more, and he becomes more than that. And then, there’s [a conversation], and you realize, oh, this guy really has three dimensions to him.” While it might have offered me a greater ego boost to hear my main protagonist was my husband’s favorite character, a part of me was really happy that Rob’s original story shone through in his few scenes, to the point where he made an impression on a reader.
A moment of weakness led to this six-pager (it clocks in at around 2,900 words), which I wrote over three commuter train rides and a lunch hour. It’s rough and a bit scattered, but that’s one of the reasons I find free writing so…well, free. No worries over themes, scope, flow, or any of the important parts of a mature work. It’s just my fingers translating for my brain.
“Romance-in-the-Dark” (PDF, 314KB)
I hate to have to offer a warning about this, but be aware: the principal romantic relationship depicted in this particular free-write is about two men. There’s nothing explicit herein, but if you’re uncomfortable with the idea, just skip it and watch the lovely lady in the video below, instead.
The whole thing – Rob’s story, the original idea for “Finding Mister Wright,” as well as this free-write – is heavily inspired by the lovely and awesomely talented Catherine Russell’s rendition of Lil Greene’s jazz standard, “Romance in the Dark,” which you can listen to and watch below. It’s a mainstay in my FMW writing playlist, and I usually hit repeat at least once when it comes up in rotation.
Before we get to Ms. Russell, here’s my question for this week: Have you ever had a minor character hijack a story for his or her own? If so, how did the story turn out?
Well, you know how much I already enjoy these characters and there stories. 🙂 And it’s also nice to see a couple that continues to be in love over the years. I don’t need every story to have happy, well-adjusted relationships, but they are few and far between these days. In my mind, a good relationship doesn’t make for a dull story. And yet, when I read what some agents and editors want from writers, their minds obviously do. So I for one hope you will keep with these characters!
Argh!!!! THEIR stories! Damn my fried brain!
Thanks, JM! I know what you mean about the happy, well-adjusted couples. They don’t create much conflict, but I think sometimes that’s okay. I couldn’t imagine Meghan having to solve a mystery while dealing with a broken home life! I always thought one of the reasons she could keep cool and persevere was because she had a support system in her corner, with her family and friends. Granted, an entire story where the Bodes go house-hunting and everything is hunky-dory and perfect along the way through to the end might not work for more than a character piece, but it’s the balance of that happy home life with the messes she encounters at work that make that character so relatable, to me. I’ve tried to play with my own characters the same way: Marshall’s main conflict is with a woman, but he also has a burning desire to have what his brother has. So, why wouldn’t Daniel’s life be great?
Hope your move-in continues to go well. I’m looking forward to more of your stories, either real or fictional, whenever you decide to return. 🙂
Ha ha! 🙂 No worries. Relax that brain!
Sounds intriguing! I’m just doing a quick blog hop around right now, so I haven’t read the actual story, just your post, but I will come back and read it because I’m keen to do so! Just reading your comments with JM there, it’s true isn’t it – happy well adjusted relationships are rare in books, or if the couple are perfect for each other and happy and all is smooth then some tragedy will strike! Of course there has to be conflict in a story, and there has to be conflict between characters, but why does the conflict always have to be between the couples!
I don’t expect many to read these PDF free-writes, if only because they’re rather long and follow a universe all their own – but I do have a soft spot for adult relationships that have many different facets to them. Even in a crime story, it’s the relationships between people that give a murder impact. If these people didn’t care about each other or have deep connections in some way, I wouldn’t feel as much for them. Naturally, we have to be able to strike a balance between compassionate and compelling from a conflict perspective, but even my dark-and-dirty characters deserve a little bit of downtime and happiness every now and again. Those “breathers” in a story, as it were.
Funny you should ask that. My editor told me to cut him back. It wasn’t his story and he was taking up way too much page count. But in future books I’ll write more of him. 😉
Ha! Yes, that’s why I changed “FMW” to being about Marshall instead of being about Daniel/Rob/Paige. I knew I’d be spending more time on Marshall’s story than I would on the one I was originally supposed to be writing.
Which character was this? 🙂 Or, is it someone different from what we’ve seen in Six Train?