The Other Man [and another "Finding Mister Wright" Free-Write: "Romance in the Dark"]

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?


Love and Marriage, for all

Overnight station shifts often meant solitude while he waited for a call to come in, a trial Scott considered a lonely necessity at its best and a nerve-wracking tedium at its worst. Some of the other men on the squad appreciated the quiet away from wives and children. Not Scott. Noise and commotion had become a part of his life these last seven months, but it was worth it for the blessing of little Emma.

Finchy wasn’t nearly as exciting to be around as his daughter (or his wife), but he was company to keep the silence and boredom at bay well enough. And, he seemed lonely, of late. He was also a more than passable cook, so his offer of bringing supper to the station to hang out was one Scott couldn’t refuse.

“That was great, mate,” Scott said as he eased back a bit from the duty desk. “Thanks.”

“Sure,” Finchy replied easily, and took a long swig from his water bottle.

Looking at his empty plate, Scott chuckled. “I love my wife, but I’m lucky she knows how to use a microwave. You’ll make some lady very happy, some day.”

Finchy blew a snort from around the mouth of his bottle. “I don’t think there’s any woman to satisfy me that much.”

“You just haven’t found the right one, yet.”

“Yeah,” Finchy muttered in a lazy drawl. “Rub my nose in it.”

“Maybe you’re looking in the wrong place,” Scott told him. “There’s a lot more than just this village, you know. I mean, I didn’t meet Venus here.”

“I know,” Finchy said. “I was there, too.”

Scott fell silent, reminded of that flashy, crowded club on the first night of Newquay’s Blue Surf competition almost three years past, where Finchy had spotted that Black beauty with the killer smile and unflappable attitude. Every member of their crew – save Neville – had tried to pull her, with no success. Of course, the next day, they’d found out she was a surfer in her own right: Vee, they called her, “for Victory,” though she’d introduced herself to Scott in particular as Venus Pritchard. Thinking back on it, now, his scores that comp had been shit…but he’d had a hell of a night in her bungalow to make up for it.

Lost in those memories a moment, he didn’t notice Niall swoop in from the outside and plant himself in the other seat across the desk until he opened his mouth:

“Did you know Nev is-” He dropped his voice. “-a poofter?”

Scott looked at him in mild surprise, while Finchy furrowed his brow and said, “Yeah, I know. And don’t call him that.”

“Whuh-!” Niall said, leaving his mouth hang open a second. “You knew? How long have you known?”

Finchy shrugged. “He told me, like, two years ago.”

Niall pointed at Scott. “Did you know?”

Scott nodded, feeling a bit lame. “Yeah. He told me and Venus a while ago, too.”

Niall fell back against his chair. “Did everybody know but me?” He turned to Finchy. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Why?” Finchy said, and raised his brow with sudden interest. “Are you gay, too?”

“No!”

“So, if you’re not interested in him, why should you care?”

Niall paused a second, his face gone blank; Scott figured he hadn’t thought that far. Of course, he didn’t usually think at all….

“Well,” Niall struggled out, now. “What if…What if he fancies me?”

“He doesn’t,” Finchy replied readily.

“How’d you know?”

“Because no self-respecting human – gay or straight – would ever fancy you.

“All right,” Scott muttered, extending one hand. “That was a little uncalled-for. We all have to work together.”

“That is exactly my point!” Niall said, pointing one finger around at them again, as he half-stood from his chair. “I-! I mean, we all are in…very close quarters…a lot, and…well, sometimes, I don’t wear anything under my suit, and what if, you know, when I take it off, that’s, like, too much a temptation for him? Or something?”

“Jesus!” Finchy said, scolding. “He’s not a rapist.”

Niall went from looking ill at ease to pained. “No, I’m not saying that, but-!”

“Listen,” Scott told him in a low voice, leaning across the desk. It felt a bit like speaking with a special needs child, but Niall did have some special need, at the moment. “Nev’s always been this way. You’ve known him for years, and it’s never bothered you before.”

“Well, I didn’t know before!”

“What difference should it make? He’s still Nev. He’s still ace on his board, and he’s still our mate! The way you feel about him shouldn’t change just because you suddenly found out he’s gay.”

Niall paused, as though thoughtful. Scott couldn’t easily tell; the look of contemplation on his face was so foreign.

“Yeah,” Finchy said then. “You’re an idiot, but that doesn’t change the way I feel about you.”

Shooting him a guarded look, Niall murmured cautiously, “How do you feel about me?”

“You’re an idiot,” Finchy repeated, making Scott snort a chuckle under his breath. Then, sitting up from his lackadaisical lean, he added, “And another thing: Whenever you go straight skins under your suit, you don’t take that off in front of any of us. Nobody wants to see that!”

Alianca braille

By Luistravasso (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

Earlier this week, news came of the passage into law in England and Wales the ability for same-sex couples to marry. Some stipulations still apply, of course, because government doesn’t make anything easy, these days. But, it’s a step forward toward the equality that should have existed for couples of all variations years ago. Here in the US, the status of a person in general – including marriage – is determined by the individual states, so it creates a much more divided issue, depending where you happen to live.

I won’t get into any controversy of marriage – or laws associated with it – here. The news did prompt me to scribble down this bit of free writing, though, which I always appreciate, no matter what the impetus.

I’ve always seen Scott as “the dad” of the crew. Because he is one, but I also thought his perspective – coming from being in an interracial relationship – gives him an extra insight into other less traditional romances. And, I like the idea of hearing from some of the supporting characters in the story.

As for Niall…. Poor Niall. At heart, he’s a good guy. He’s just…not terribly quick. I hope his struggle with his own articulations, here, paints a picture of someone who’s just a little confused, not truly bigoted, especially against a friend.

Now, it’s stiflingly hot, here, so I’m going to grab my own wetsuit and head for the beach. And maybe I’ll go skins, too.

How do love and marriage figure in your stories, if at all?

100-Word Challenge: Precious Promises

100 Word Challenge for Grown-UpsThe prompt for this week’s 100-Word Challenge for Grown-Ups is “Ruby,” to celebrate the 40th week of this challenge.

We have 100 words to fulfill the prompt, and – while my idea is pretty cheesy – I hope that you enjoy my take. 🙂

“Precious Promises”

Amid riffling chiffon, she presses back against the door. It clicks, and she smiles.

He turns, tails flapping. “You shouldn’t be here-!”

Three strides, and she’s in his arms, silencing him with a kiss that makes him hum…and leaves a ruby smear across his lips.

“Sorry!” she laughs, and starts to thumb the smirch away.

He doesn’t laugh, though, but holds her tight. “Promise you’ll still kiss me like that after today?”

The question’s as important now as it will be in an hour. So is her answer. So she rises, seeking his smudged lips again, and whispers, “I do.”

Sally and Larry

“Precious Promises” by Mayumi-H
(I think I spent more time drawing this little doodle than I did writing this week’s prompt!)

I know that most of what I write with these 100-word challenges are fluff. But, I think, subconsciously, I need to be writing fluff, right now. I’m in the middle of a first draft novel that has a lot of heavy emotional drama in it, and I find these lighter-toned pieces of simple love and family life to be cathartic.

As for the doodle, I did a quick, small sketch in my pad during my train commute, and just had to flesh it out. It’s tiny, so there isn’t a tremendous amount of detail, which makes it quite cartoon-y. But I had much fun drawing and coloring something so simple with my Prismacolors.

So, how did you interpret this prompt? 🙂

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