Finding the voice for a character

I’ve been working on a novel of late, trying to piece it together. I’ve had the story in my head for quite some time, but my regular way of writing wasn’t working for it, so I thought I would attempt a new direction. In the process I realized I really didn’t understand the antagonist. Oh I knew who the protagonist was, and had a pretty good idea of his story arc, but the antagonist, the bad guy, well I didn’t have a clear picture of him.

So first thing this morning I opened up my word processor, like I normally do, and thought maybe I’d let him speak for a moment, to see if he had something to say. And let me tell you, he had something to say alright.

To give you some context, this story takes place near a thin spot in the Stratum, which is a placeholder name I’m using for the line that divides the souls of the living from those of the dead. The antagonist is giving a speech, or more accurately he is monologuing. To whom I don’t know yet. I don’t even know if I will use this at all. But he sure is a poisonous little creature, as you will see.

* * * * * * *

“I can see them. Everyday. They fall down here like a rain. ‘If only I had known,’ they say. ‘If only someone had told me,’ they say. They wear their regret on their sleeves like a badge of honor. A hundred clueless people a day. A thousand. They slough off your big cities like dead cells washed off a body. They fall down upon us by the thousands, by the millions.

“Do you have any idea how many people die in a big city each day? Do you even have a clue? In places like this where the Stratum is thin, they crawl across your soul like worms crawling over your skin. Each one complaining about their lives, like they didn’t know, didn’t understand. Each one acting as if they were ignorant of the fine print on the contract.

“But that is all so much bull shit. You know. All of you. You know. You just don’t want to deal with it. Reality gets in the way of your precious little lives. You don’t want to face the uncomfortable truth that you might end you existence one day because it will get in the way of your shopping, or of your stupid entertainments. It will spoil your precious plans to see the football game on Sunday. And God forbid your precious plans get spoiled over a little thing like death.

“And so you come down here complaining about the end of your days, poisoning the air around here with the last foul stench of your humanity. And then you move on, because it’s the other thing you do after blaming everyone around you for your own stupid ignorance. You leave. All of you. You go through the last door and fall into the river Styx, forever forgetting your lives, your loves, your regrets, all of it.

“But your passing leaves behind a cloud. A sickening smell. A stench. A miasma of regret. A pollution. And it clings to the underworld, and all of us who live in it until we are drenched in your decay. We are covered in your stupid shit. All because you don’t have the balls. You don’t have the cojones to live your lives like you know you should. To face your fate. You don’t have the guts. None of you. You’re all a bunch of spineless worms. And you come down here and think its okay to smear all of your stupid crap on us before you go.

“Well, I’m done with that. Done and past done. No more are we going to take your shit. We’ve had it. We’ve had enough. Which is why we’re here.

“There’s a crack down here, a weakness. And it happens to be in a thin spot of the Stratum, a place where the souls of the world and the underworld rub together. Well we’re going to hammer that spot. Hammer it until it breaks. Until it shatters into a million pieces. And all of your foul smelling regrets–the ones that have accumulated over the passing of millions of souls–will be released back up to the living. All of your sickness, your foul pollution, is coming back to you. Each of you. By a thousandfold.

“I hope you choke.”

Early 2015 clean up

Sand at Palm Desert

Sand at Palm Desert

L.A. is a desert. A desert with water. An ancient ocean-bed, dry and long buried, suddenly thrust back to the surface.

At any time, day or night, if you listen carefully you can hear the sound of the ancient sea, lost amongst the cacophony of millions of automobiles whooshing past or the harsh dry winds called the Santa Anas. The sound comes from the ghost of an ocean or some vast inland sea, calling up from the long dried mud on its bottom, begging to be wet again, to be submerged.

And the land responds. You can hear it whispering in the hot dry wind, or catch it rising slowly from the hot flat stretches of cement.

It says, “Never.”

It says, “No.”

It says, “Leave us alone.”

It says, “Goodbye.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

This morning I was going over my notes from the past year, many of which I wrote on the way to work and hadn’t yet integrated into my stories. I got in the habit of using the Notes App on my phone to write down ideas as they come, and then later integrate them into my flow. The entry above was one of the things I put down, way back on April 16 of last year.

Going back over them this morning was deeply refreshing. I kept finding these unexpected ideas and many of them were very good. It was a nice affirmation. One of those, “Oh yeah. I guess you can write after all,” moments.

Last year was not a good one for my writing. I really got bogged down in a lot of stuff which was all useful, but difficult to get through. Sort of a winter of discontent. Some things are like that; they are simply difficult to get through and there’s no easy way to get around them. There’s no shortcut. Grief is one of them. I supposed a long illness like cancer would be another. To get better you simply just have to keep going until you break through.

So I’m slugging away hoping to break through. Hopefully we’re near that point. I don’t know. I just keep putting my nose to the wheel and try to learn as fast as I can.