Category Archives: characters

People in My Head at the Moment

Anita Jones

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.

Tian Long, the Celestial Dragon

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.

Milton John Morgan, the Wizard of the Norwall Pirates

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.

Brent “the Cat” Clarke

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 nudist, calls herself the smarter and more beautiful twin.

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.

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Filed under characters, humor, novel, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney, surrealism, work in progress, writing humor

Novel-ty Art

Valerie Clarke in the Snow for Snow Babies

Some Art is created for the sake of illustrating my novels. So, today’s artwork is all about that.

Running for the Bus in The Boy… Forever
Re-done cover art for Superchicken
Francois and Mr. Disney for Sing Sad Songs
Davalon, Tanith, and George Jetson from Stardusters and Space Lizards
Silkie and Donner in Magical Miss Morgan
Mike Murphy and Blueberry Bates from Magical Miss Morgan
Invisible Captain Dettbarn, Valerie in Squirrel Form, and Mary Philips from When the Captain Came Calling
Anneliese the Gingerbread Girl from Recipes for Gingerbread Children
Grandma Gretel, Todd Niland, Sherry Cobble, and Sandy Wickham from Recipes for Gingerbread Children
Zearlop Zebra the ventriloquist’s puppet, Terry Houston, and Murray Dawes from Fools and Their Toys
Orben Wallace, The Bicycle-Wheel Genius
Torrie Brownfield from The Baby Werewolf
Milt Morgan from The Baby Werewolf
Dorin Dobbs from Catch a Falling Star
Ged Aero from Aeroquest 1 & 2

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Character References, Part 3

When choosing whose picture to publish of all the many made-up people that live in my head and my fiction, I often wonder, do I have an accurate sense of who is important and who is merely minor?  I offer now some characters I don’t feel comfortable leaving out.

Mazie Haire

Mazie Haire

One of the Haire Sisters, rumored to be a witch, and proud to prove it to you, Mazie is a severe and highly focused individual with a knack for seeing and convincing you of the truth.  So, maybe she really is a witch.

She appears in;

Snow Babies

When the Captain Came Calling

Miltie223xx408

Milton John Morgan (Milt)

I can’t tell you about the witch without mentioning the wizard.  Milt Morgan is the Merlin of the Norwall Pirates (an adventuring gang and 4-H softball team).

He is one of the founders of the gang and the one who got them into the most trouble in the 1970’s.

He appears in;

Superchicken

The Baby Werewolf

The Boy… Forever!

The Wizard in his Keep

Torry2 (640x480)

Torrie Brownfield

Torrie is the hair-everywhere boy with hypertrichosis, the werewolf-hair disease.  He was genetically doomed to life looking like a werewolf.  He was discovered living in hiding in Norwall by the Pirates’ gang who decided they simply had to make him a member.

He is, of course, the main character of;

The Baby Werewolf

And also appears in;

Recipes for Gingerbread Children

Harker

Harker Dawes

Harker is a clown-character based on a real person living in the real town of Norwall.  He buys the local hardware store and runs the business into bankruptcy.  He is not only a ne’er-do-well, but he also is a truly loveable fool.

He plays a key role in;

Snow Babies

He is also in the upcoming novel;

Fools and Their Toys

dils1

Dilsey Murphy

Dilsey is Mike’s slightly older sister who seems to be in a lot of my stories.  She is a tomboy and a Daddy’s girl.  She is also beloved by her irascible Grampy, Cudgel Murphy.  Mike Murphy both hates her and loves her, but mostly just depends on her.

She is in;

Magical Miss Morgan

The Bicycle-Wheel Genius

and a large number of upcoming stories

cudgels car

Sean “Cudgel” Murphy

Grampy of the Murphy Clan, Cudgel is the meanest old man you’d ever want to meet.  He is excellently suited to the job of teaching kids to swear.  And he only drives his Austin Hereford, “The finest car made anywhere in the whole goddam world in 1954!”

He appears in;

Snow Babies

The Bicycle-Wheel Genius

Crooner

Francois Martin

Francois, the French orphan, is the main character in my novel,

Sing Sad Songs.

He paints his face in clown paint and sings beautifully enough to save his Uncle’s business.  I am halfway finished with this new novel.

So, now I feel like I have exhausted myself in character introductions and will probably eschew a “Part 4”.  But with Mickey, there are no guarantees.

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A Character Reference, Part 2

Yesterday an inconvenient internet outage interrupted my fountain of character gushing.  So let me splash a couple more on here.

tim

Tim Kellogg

Tim is a school teacher’s son who is sorta, kinda, based on my own oldest son… and maybe a little bit on me.  He’s clever, creative, a natural leader, and only slightly evil part of the time.

Tim is a main character in;

Catch a Falling Star

The Bicycle-Wheel Genius

Magical Miss Morgan

Grandma Gretel

Grandma Gretel Stein

Gretel is a German survivor of the concentration camps who sees and talks to fairies on a regular basis.  She also bakes magically delicious gingerbread cookies.  And loves to tell stories to those who eat her cookies.

She is a main character in;

Recipes for Gingerbread Children

She is an important character in;

Superchicken

The Baby Werewolf

The Necromancer’s Apprentice

ginger1

The Primary Cast of Recipes for Gingerbread Children (left to right) Grandma Gretel, the cookie baker, Todd Niland, handsome young farm boy and cookie-eater, Sherry Cobble, nudist and junior high cheerleader, and Sandy Wickham, cookie-eater and Todd Niland’s crush.

My Art 2 of Davalon

Farbick

He’s the alien Telleron pilot and good guy aboard Xiar’s space ship who gets shot during the failed invasion of Iowa and helps save the planet in the near future.  He’s a main character in;

Catch a Falling Star

Stardusters and Space Lizards

Davalon (re-named David by the couple who adopts him)

Dav is the alien boy accidentally lost on earth in Catch a Falling Star, and leader of the young explorers in Stardusters and Space Lizards.

Superchick

Edward-Andrew Campbell, the Superchicken

It is possible E-A is really me.  He bears my high school nickname.  He is a boy trying to cope with being the new kid in a tightly knit little Iowa farm town.

He is the main character in;

Superchicken

I fear I am still a long way from done with referring to characters in my books.  But more waits for another day.

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How NOT to Tell a Story – Part Two

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.

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How to Talk to Real People

While visiting in Iowa, I ran into an old high school friend at a local eatery. I remember how in high school and junior high, I played basketball on the same team with him, I listened to his exaggerations about a probably non-existent sex life, and helped him on one or two occasions to get answers on Math homework (even then the teacher in me wouldn’t let me just give him the answers, I always made him work out the answers step by step).

Now he is a judgmental and basically crabby old coot. He is a Trump supporter, hater of immigrants who take American jobs, and an unpleasant arguer of politics. And the sorest point about his intractable coot-i-ness is the fact that, as a classmate, he is the same age as me and I am, therefore, just as intractably coot-y as he is.

So, how exactly do you talk to a mean old coot?

Well, you have to begin by realizing that it is not like the dialogue in a novel or TV show. This is a real person I was talking to. So, I had to proceed by accepting that he thinks I am an idiot and anything I say and think is wrong. Not merely wrong, but “That’s un-American and will lead to a communist takeover of our beloved country!” sort of wrong. I can then laugh off numerous Neo-Nazi assertions by him, make snarky comments about his praises for the criminal president, and generally get along with him like old friends almost always do. I play my part just as furiously as he plays his, and we both enjoy the heck out of it.

We are both of us crazy old coots, likely to say just about anything to get the other one’s goat. Getting goats is apparently vital to the conversations of real people. But we have more in common than we have as differences. We don’t keep score in our world-shaking debates, nor do we count how many goats we get. And that is how you talk to real people.

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Imaginary People

Millis 2

It pretty much goes without saying that, since I am an author of fiction, determined to be a storyteller, I spend most of my time talking to people who exist only inside my goofy old head.  Sure, most of the imaginary people I create to keep me company are at least loosely based on real people that I either once knew, or still know.  You can tell that about Millis, the rabbit-man, pictured here on the right, can’t you?  Sure.  I had a New Zealand White pet rabbit that I raised as a 4-H project.  His name was Ember-eyes… because, well, yeah… red eyes.  It just happens that my goofy old memory transformed him into an evolution-enhanced science experiment in my unpublished novel, The Bicycle-Wheel Genius.  But he was a real person once… ’cause rabbits are people too, right?

farmgirl1

Anita Jones, a character from my unpublished novel, Superchicken, is based on a real person too.  I admit, there was a girl in my class from grades K through 6 that I secretly adored and would’ve done anything to be near, though every significant event I remember from my life that involved an encounter with her, involved red-faced embarrassment for me.  That’s why I remember her as having auburn-colored hair.  Charley Brown’s Little Red-Haired Girl… duh!  I would’ve died sooner than tell her how I really felt, even now, but by making her into one of a multitude of imaginary people who inhabit my life, I can be so close to her that sometimes I am actually inside her mind.  There’s a sort of creepy voyeurism-squared sort of thing.

dorin 003

Dorin Dobbs, the main human character of my published novel, Catch a Falling Star, is an imaginary character based mostly on my eldest son, though, in fact, I started writing that novel five years before he was born.  Like most of the imaginary people in my life, I talk to Dorin repeatedly even when the real Dorin is half a world away in the Marine Corps.  And even though the Dorin I am talking to is not the real Dorin, he is still constantly using language that is extra-salty far beyond his years, and is often defiant of my fatherly wisdom, and always argues for the exact opposite of any opinion I express.  That’s just how it is to be the father of an imaginary son.

Realistically, I have to admit that even the flesh-and-blood people in my life are imaginary.  No one ever actually inhabits another person’s head except through the magic of imagination.  Even though I am talking to you at this moment, you are only an imaginary person to me.  I don’t even know your name as I write this.  And I am the same to you.  You may have read my writing enough to think you know something about me… but you really only know the Mickey in your mind that I have worked at putting there with my words.  And I really have no idea what that imaginary Mickey you have in your head is like.  He is probably really the opposite of who I think I am.

mANDY

I am, after all, married to this girl panda, Mandy Panda from the Pandalore Islands, and my three children are all Halfasian part-panda-people.  Yes, this is the imaginary person who is my real-life wife.  The secret is, we only ever know the imaginary people we have in our goofy little heads.  We don’t know the real person behind anyone in our lives, because it is simply not possible to really know how anybody else thinks or feels, even if they write out their lengthy treatise about how all people are imaginary people.  That stuff is just too goofy-dippy to be real.

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How to Talk to Real People

While visiting in Iowa, I ran into an old high school friend at a local eatery. I remember how in high school and junior high, I played basketball on the same team with him, I listened to his exaggerations about a probably non-existent sex life, and helped him on one or two occasions to get answers on Math homework (even then the teacher in me wouldn’t let me just give him the answers, I always made him work out the answers step by step).

Now he is a judgmental and basically crabby old coot. He is a Trump supporter, hater of immigrants who take American jobs, and an unpleasant arguer of politics. And the sorest point about his intractable coot-i-ness is the fact that, as a classmate, he is the same age as me and I am, therefore, just as intractably coot-y as he is.

So, how exactly do you talk to a mean old coot?

Well, you have to begin by realizing that it is not like the dialogue in a novel or TV show. This is a real person I was talking to. So, I had to proceed by accepting that he thinks I am an idiot and anything I say and think is wrong. Not merely wrong, but “That’s un-American and will lead to a communist takeover of our beloved country!” sort of wrong. I can then laugh off numerous Neo-Nazi assertions by him, make snarky comments about his praises for the criminal president, and generally get along with him like old friends almost always do. I play my part just as furiously as he plays his, and we both enjoy the heck out of it.

We are both of us crazy old coots, likely to say just about anything to get the other one’s goat. Getting goats is apparently vital to the conversations of real people. But we have more in common than we have as differences. We don’t keep score in our world-shaking debates, nor do we count how many goats we get. And that is how you talk to real people.

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Characters From Superchicken

Superchick

These are a few of the main characters of the old story which is now my newest novel.

Superchicken is Edward-Andrew Campbell.  He is basically a me-character.  His embarrassing nickname, from a Jay Ward cartoon that used to be on TV Saturday mornings, was actually my nickname in junior high and high school.  Many of the emotional changes he goes through and the embarrassments he endures to be a super hero were based on my own experiences.  But he definitely embraces the nickname as his superhero name in a way I can only wish that I did.

Brent

Brent Clarke is the outgoing athlete sort of kid who was definitely not me.  He becomes leader of the Norwall Pirates because he pitched for the softball team, and because anyone who met him naturally assumed he was the most important kid in the group.  Others look to him for leadership even when they don’t need it.  Making friends with Brent is one of the most difficult and important tasks the Superchicken must undertake.

Miltie223xx408

Milt Morgan is the wizard of the group.  He is obsessed with magic and imagination. And though Brent is nominally the leader of the group, all their evil plans and hair-brained schemes come from Milt’s imagination.  The picture of Milt is drawn from me as a boy, but in reality he is the other Mike from my childhood, the one with a rather tough life and a heart of… well… maybe not gold, but at least silver.  He is also the one who insists on making Edward-Andrew part of the gang.

Sherry Cobble22

The Cobble Sisters, Sherry and Shelly, are a pair of identical twin girls.  They are both nudists at home on the farm place and at the nudist club in Clear Lake.  They are problematic for a shy boy just discovering girls, but Sherry definitely pursues a crush on the Superchicken and tricks him into a family camping trip at the nudist camp.

Novel Pix sc2sc

Sherry at the Sunshine Club

anita n supe_n

Anita Jones is the shy girl who has a crush on the Superchicken.  And he secretly has a crush on her.  But she is also the girl who becomes, completely by accident, the first girl that Edward-Andrew sees naked.  Love and hate, embarrassment and attraction, she is the one girl whose opinion seems to matter most.  I, of course, will never reveal the real life girl she is based on.  I could never live that down, even though we are both now more than sixty years old.

So those are a few of the main characters that make this novel work for me.  They are real people to me now that the novel is written, just as they were once real people when I was a boy and living the nightmare of being a mere boy in a world that needs heroes.

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Critical Characters in My Fiction

Valerie Clarke
Ricky Porter
Poppensparkle the Butterfly Child
Horatio T. Dogg
Mickey the Wererat
Grandma Gretel Stein and General Tuffaney Swift the Storybook Fairy
Blueberry Bates
Tim Kellogg
Devon Martinez
Francois Martin
Derfentwinkle and her Master, Sorcerer Eli Tragedy

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