I finished up a final proofread and formatting project on the novel I am re-publishing on Amazon, Magical Miss Morgan.
And, you know what? The story made me cry again. An unbroken record. It is about the fifteenth time I read through it. And every single time, the little three-inch-tall fairy is killed again, and I can’t keep my eyes dry.
He’s not even based on a real person as so many of my characters are. It’s not like it is someone I know and love. It’s a fairy. Not even remotely real. And I’m the one who decided he had to die in the story because because good comedy stories always end with at least one main character dying… Don”t they?
But I can’t help feeling things about the characters in my stories. I don’t love them all. I hate some of them. But, they’re the ones you are supposed to hate. They are villians, bad guys, characters based on real people who hurt me in real life.
It’s not just my stories that make me feel. I have read Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities twice, and both times Sydney Carton made me cry. I read Dickens’ Old Curiosity Shop only once. And Little Nell made me cry so hard I could never reread that book. And there’s Simon in The Lord of the Flies, and, of course, the old Yeller dog in Old Yeller by Fred Gipson… I’m a sucker for heroic deaths and tragic losses. They touch and twist my little blue heart.
But I cried for the fifteenth time, and I survived it. I will probably cry again if I read it again. That is what life is like. That is what fiction is for. To make me think and feel and… love.
I am past the 50,000 word mark. It is almost finished. Here I wish to show you the main characters of the novel through illustrations I have created over the years..
Milt Morgan is one of the four main narrators of the novel.
He is a fifteen-year-old Belle City High School freshman in 1976. He is the most imaginative of the Norwall Pirates softball team and liars’ club.
He tells his portion of the story in the form of journal entries.
Anita Jones is the most central of the four narrators in that she is the cousin of Icarus Jones, the character at the center of the whole plot.
She is a fifteen-year-old freshman girl who has had a steady boyfriend since the spring of 1975. She tells her part of the story by writing letters about Icarus and the things happening in the little town of Norwall in the summer of 1976. She is writing to her cousin Dot who is much more interested at the start about Anita’s boyfriend Eddie than she is about cousin Icky.
Brent Clarke is the high school freshman athlete and leader of the Norwall Pirates. He is interested in becoming a policeman or detective, and as one of the four narrators, he tells his part of the story through his investigator’s notes which he takes religiously on practically everything.
He feels responsible for all the Pirates, especially Icarus when he comes under attack during the adventure in the summer of the Bicentennial year.
The fourth narrator is Sherry Cobble who has a twin sister named Shelly and is dedicated to being a nudist. In fact, she very much wants to convince all the Pirates to be comfortable with their own naked bodies. Realizing that dream, though, is complicated.
Especially because it’s Bible Belt Iowa and her nudist family is looked at as being the somewhat crazy hippie-type kind of people that are barely tolerated by the law.
She writes about it all in her Lovely Nudist’s Diary where she can write about her naturist beliefs, successes and failures, and her boyfriend, Brent.
Icarus Jones is the central character of The Boy… Forever. He tries to kill himself early in the year of 1976 and finds out by jumping off the MacArthur Bridge in St. Louis that he cannot die naturally. And worse is in store. Beyond the fact that he is an immortal, he is being pursued by an undead Chinese wizard who is a dragon in human form.
Fiona Long, usually called Fi, convinced her stepfather to move to Norwall, following Icarus as he moves to Norwall from St. Louis. She tells everyone in her freshman class that Fi is really short for Firefang, and she is a red dragon in human form.
She becomes friends with the Pirates. She learns to trust and like Anita and Sherry. And she is mightily attracted to Brent who is actually Sherry’s boyfriend.
Fi’s stepfather, Tien Long, is the villain. He is in reality a Chinese Celestial Dragon in human form. He also needs Icarus’s blood to continue to live his long, nearly-immortal life.
It is almost done, this novel. And as you can probably tell from the character pictures, this is not the first novel about the Norwall Pirates. So, it is a pirate novel with dragons and immortals in it. It has been fun to write. And soon it will be complete.
As a writer seriously immersed in a particular work in progress, I find myself talking more and more to certain people who exist only in my head. They are the characters in my novel, The Boy… Forever.
The novel is itself an epistolary novel. That means, like Bram Stoker’s Dracula, it is made up of letters, notes, diary and journal entries, and other personal writing of the central characters. It also means that I have to become the different people who write these things. At least while I create each individual artifact that goes into the mosaic of first-person narratives.
Anita Jones, pictured here, is the letter-writer who starts the plot in motion when she gets a very disturbing letter from her cousin, Icarus Jones.
Icarus writes about his problem with becoming a midget, and his response to it being a plan to kill himself. It seems that he simply stopped growing at the age of ten. Now, being a fifteen-year-old in the body of a ten-year-old, he writes a suicide note in the form of a letter, and then goes to jump off a bridge into the Mississippi River. But when he does, he survives. Or, rather, he succeeds, but cannot remain dead. He doesn’t know it, yet, but he has become a human mutation known in the secret world of unknown things as an Immortal.
Icky’s problem becomes worse when it is discovered he is being pursued by another immortal, a sort of vampiric immortal who needs to consume the essence of other immortals to stay alive. He is a three-thousand-year-old Chinese Celestial Dragon who is able to assume a human form.
Neither Icky Jones nor Tian Long the dragon, though, really needs to be in my head. Icarus himself only writes the first and last letters of the book. Tian Long, the villain, does not have a say at all in telling the story. The only part of it he writes are the wizard spells he uses to confound everyone, and most of those are in Chinese.
Besides the letters that Anita Jones writes to her cousin in Dallas, Dot Jones, the story is also advanced in the journal entries of Milt Morgan, one of the leaders of the boys’ gang in rural Iowa known as the Norwall Pirates. He has been asked by the Freshman English teacher to keep a daily journal and write every day in 1976. This he struggles to do, but gains writing and typing skills as he goes along, especially when he befriends Icarus and learns about the dragon pursuing Icky.
Milt is full of imagination and a sense of adventure, a thing that makes him an unreliable narrator, not above embellishing the truth as he writes his not-so-much- daily-as-infrequent journal entries.
The story is also taken up by Brent Clarke, the leader of the Norwall Pirates. Brent wants to be a policeman or a detective or something like that when he grows up. He takes careful investigation notes on everything, and he is the first one to become suspicious of the Chinese man and his step-daughter who pick a house in the town of Norwall that they want to live in right before the actual owner and occupant of the house mysteriously dies in a falling accident. Brent befriends the local Sheriff’s Deputy and sets out on a serious possible murder investigation that yields some very disturbing results. His notes are very detail-oriented and generally fact-based. He carefully records his own eye-witness accounts of everything.
Sherry Cobble, the more outgoing of the identical twins known as the Cobble Sisters, is a happy nudist with a very positive body image for herself and her twin sister. She is a very positive person over-all. She and her sister Shelly had started out keeping a “Lovely Nudist’s Diary” between them, but Shelly is not nearly as interested in writing and storytelling as her sister. So, Sherry takes over the diarist duties with the same sort of glee and enthusiasm she has for promoting nudism to her friends, especially the Norwall Pirates. It is her goal to eventually see all of the kids in Norwall naked and happy just as she and her sister Shelly always are.
Those four different character voices are the main voices I have to work with in telling this fantasy adventure story in much the same way as Stoker tells the story of Dracula.
So, if I begin to seem like I have a disordered mind full of multiple personalities, it’s because I am a novelist, not a mental patient or a vampire or even a Chinese dragon in human form. I am simply trying to tell a story by allowing four distinctly different characters to live inside my head.
Yesterday, in Part 1, I tried to convince you that, “You should never take too long a time writing a story” because I have written some twenty-plus-year-long novels that took me forever to write, and I am an unsuccessful writer. So, you should not do things the way I did. (Some might accuse me of trying to use a little too much irony, claiming I am a bit too obscure about what I am actually telling you that you should actually do… But, remember, I advised you not to take advice from Mickey. And you need irony in your diet anyway to avoid irony-poor tired blood.) Therefore I am going to advise you further that, “You should never make your characters too complex and interesting.”
After all, there are Mickian characters that are literally blue with red patches on their cheeks that absorb harmful gamma radiation and make those characters immune to radiation sickness from exposure in deep space. You don’t want to make readers so curious about a character that they waste time reading more and more closely to discover more about that character.
Junior Aero, the alien Nebulon boy in the AeroQuest stories is just one example. Not only is he a member of an alien race that are belittled as “Space Smurfs” and treated to racial bigotry based on skin color and not being able to speak English at first, but he is also gifted with mental “Psion powers” that allow him to telepathically read computer minds, even the sentient and intelligent ones.
And some of my characters are green with shark-like fins on their heads. They were born on Starships and orbiting artificial satellites like the one going around Barnard’s Star. They are like George Jetson here, named after his father, Xiar’s, favorite Earther cartoon show character from the 60’s. Not only is he a green-skinned amphibious humanoid life-form from a different star system, he learns a lot about himself in the adventure he has in the novel Stardusters and Space Lizards. He goes from being a narcissistic space-pilot wannabee into becoming a humble crash survivor and expedition leader who helps save an entire planet from ecological disaster. And he even gets a girlfriend out of the deal in Menolly his nestmate and fellow survivor.
Characters like that are far too interesting and developed to be good for your reputation as a serious producer of money-making fiction stories. And you certainly don’t want to waste time on developing the same characters in multiple books.
I used the character of Valerie Clarke in the book When the Captain Came Calling as an eleven-year-old protagonist who loses her father and has to rely on older kids and good friends to save herself from depression and the trash-pits of despair.
I used her again as a main character in Snow Babies where she befriends a mysterious stranger and also finds a runaway boy who makes her think seriously about life and young love, all in the middle of a deadly blizzard.
She’s also in the book Sing Sad Songs where she learns to negotiate love with a boy who also lost a parent, in fact, both parents and a twin sister, in a car crash that made him a lonely orphan. She not only has to face the loss of her own loved ones, but has to help somebody else to face the same thing, in fact, more than one other somebody.
She’s also a character in The Bicycle-Wheel Genius and Fools and Their Toys.
It is unthinkable to use a character that much and make her grow and change in so many different ways. She should be used only once in a simple and clear way. Like, maybe, Mark Twain’s use of Huckleberry Finn.
Huck, as a character was only used in the books, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer Abroad, Tom Sawyer, Detective… and… never mind. Forget I even said anything about Huck Finn. In fact, maybe this whole post is so ironic it’s making my story-teller gears all rusty. Never-the-less, let me threaten you with a possible part three.
In my newest book When the Captain Came Calling, there is a fantasy character who is basically an invisible man. Captain Noah Dettbarn is the captain of a ship called the Reefer Mary Celeste. It is an ill-fated ship on a fatal voyage. It runs afoul of a mermaid with man-eating intentions, a witch-doctor with a hungry volcano-god to feed, and a beautiful young girl who bewitches the captain.
All of this happens in the log book of the mysterious invisible captain who has returned to the Iowa farm town where he was born and raised just as the local kids’ adventurer’s club, the Norwall Pirates, is being re-organized with a girl as their leader.
Today’s first Paffooney is an illustration that I intend to use in the book.