I have one major work I am supposed to be working on. "Between the Lines: The Life and Times of Tony Bumper." I have probably 25% of the whole book actually written in a form I'd consider readable, which is Chapters 1-4, and the last chapter. Trouble is, I started writing the book in first person, which made it hard to advance the subplots. I have to rewrite it in third person to make it work. The next problem is I haven't put all the pieces together neatly yet in my head. I know two huge middle pieces, but how they work into the story I want to be clever, not just thrown in there like an odd collection of shorts. There's one big crucial scene that takes place in a mysterious desert, and while I know how he gets there, I want to have a good explanation as to why he agrees to go there. The main protagonist, Tony, keeps getting bumped along his story without much control, which is how the Punk walrus books were, and I am sick of my characters always doing what they are told. Why? Because when they make any decision, it makes them seem out of character. I want these characters to be believable, something the reader could identify with, instead of them shouting, "Come on, fool!" That's a big problem because I feel I am being bumped along the banks of the river of life, without a whole lot of direction except at desperate moments to avoid rocks.
Bits and pieces come to me when I write. Then I have to make them fit the book. That's hard. I enjoy writing characters, but I can't have 500 main characters in my books; the Bible has that problem, which is why it's such dry reading. For example, here's a tidbit from my hard drive:
Koko sat on the edge of the wall overlooking a small parking area next to an apartment complex. The air was heavy with humidity; summer had come early, and summer in DC was always muggy. Tony was glad he could finally wear his outback clothes. While he was following Koko to this area, his hand reached into his pocket and he pulled out a piece of dried leaf. It must have been there since he left Australia. It had been less than a year, and yet, seemed a lifetime ago. He wondered if the bush this leaf came from had any idea it would end up so far away. Too bad it wasn't a seed, because Tony would have liked to plant something to remind him of the place he had come from.
"I think it's over here," she said, peering at the top of a tree that was level to them due to it being rooted at the bottom of the wall. A few starlings hopped around in interest as Koko squinted her eyes and peered about.
"What is?" asked Tony, sitting at the wall next to Koko. The wall was in the side of a hill, possibly holding the dirt back to keep from sliding into the street below them. It gave the hill a cliff to sit on, and swing your feet at the cars parked about twenty feet below.
"The gate. It's here, I know it. There are starlings."
"Koko, there are starlings all over this county."
"Yes, but not so many."
Tony looked at the starlings, made a quick count, and said, "There's only seven," he added with frustration, "and that's counting the two on the roof of that house down th--" but Tony stopped. Koko was gone. In her place was a starling, hopping about the flip-flops Koko had left next to her. Tony looked in all directions. She had totally vanished. Or become a starling. Either way was nearly impossible to believe. Tony's brain looked down, because all logic of such a rapid disappearance could only be attributed to a sudden fall off the wall. Yet he heard nothing, and the car below them was devoid of a corpse of a small Asian girl.
"Koko?" he asked to empty air. Two starlings in the tree tops in front of him argued. "Koko? Where have you gone?" All he could hear was the white noise of local traffic.
"I was about to ask the same thing," said Koko behind him so suddenly, Tony nearly had a heart attack. He whirled around, and saw her walk towards him. "I forgot my shoes," she said, and kneeled down to put on her flip-flops.
"Hang on," said Tony. "How did you do that?"
"Well, I guess we both have to go through the gate at the same time. And there's only one way to do that," she said. She grabbed Tony's head, and positioned it just so. "Don't move." She sat down next to him. "Now, without moving your head, look at where those power lines cross. See how they--DON'T LOOK DOWN!"
Tony realized his head wandered. "Sorry!" he said in defense, and he let Koko rearrange his head. "Is it bad to look down?"
"No," she said. "I just like scaring you. You follow orders better that way," she smiled.
"Okay, look at the power lines where they cross," Tony repeated.
"Yes," said Koko, holding onto Tony's hand. Her hands felt warm and soft, and Tony's stomach did loops. "But look past them. Like I taught you. Like ... the book taught you."
Tony tried his hardest, but try as he might, they looked just like power lines. He could see the dark rubber casing, the dust that had settled on the top ... but then there was more dust, and suddenly, the air went dry and he realized he was in the middle of a vast red desert near a thorny tree. The whole area had gone.
"ACK!" he said, and was right back to the wall and the starlings.
"Really," said Koko. "You must stop doing that."
This entry was originally posted at http://www.punkwalrus.com/blog/archives/00000123.html