Monday, September 15, 2014

Sometimes it just doesn't work

The other day I wrote a Smitty short story.  A short short story.  Numbering not much more than 580 words.  What I was trying to do was create a mood.  Create a mood and a distinct mental image that would linger in a reader's imagination for some length of time.  All in as few of words as possible.  I think I succeeded.  Apparently I'm the only one who thinks so.

Smitty, as you may or may not know, is a character I created who basically become the counter balance to my Turner Hahn/Frank Morales characters.  Turner and Frank are the good guys.  Two homicide detectives who try to follow the rules a civilized society dictates to its police force in how to handle and solve violent crimes.  Smitty is just the opposite.  Smitty is a hit man.  And the rules he follows are his own.  Neither civilization nor society have little to say in the matter.

What makes Smitty interesting . . . . well. interesting to me at least . . . is this; how do you make a dark character who is decidedly anti-social an interesting, and . . . dare we say it? . . . . a believable character who can actually generate some sympathy and affection from the reading audience?

You must admit.  An interesting conundrum.

Well, anyway.  Here's the short short story entitled, Sammy.  Read it and tell me what you think.


            She was sixteen.  Sixteen and in tears.  Long black hair, as black as a murder of crows, fell well past her shoulders. Her hair reflecting brightly the few shards of sunlight piercing through the fall foliage of the park's old trees.  Just a child.  Thin. Almost anemic. Without feminine form yet.  Yet the orb of her face was young and flawless in complexion.  Promising soon a beautifully exotic flower about to bloom.
            He sat down on the park bench, and, with one gloved hand stretching out, deposited a worn, tattered, but much loved old teddy bear onto her lap.  Startled, wiping a floodgate of streaming tears from her eyes, she stared at the scruffy looking child's toy in silence before turning to look at the man sitting beside her.
            The chill of the morning air promised a hard winter.  The riot of colors of the deep Fall foliage a visual feast to behold.  The small park setting in the middle of a small city almost empty of human presence this early in the morning.
            "This . . . this is Sammy.  My toy," she whispered softly.  Almost inaudibly.
            "I know," the man with the dark eyes and the gloved hands of a concert pianist replied with a similar soft whisper.
            "I kept it at Dad's house.  The last time I saw Dad it was sitting on the dresser in my bedroom. But that's been five, six years ago.  How did you get it?"
            "He asked me to give it to.  I promised him I would."
            "You knew my Dad?"
            "We were friends.  At least, I considered him my friend."
            "Someone broke into Dad's house last week and killed him," she whispered, eyes flooding with tears and streaking down her cheeks as she watched the dark man stand up and step in front of her.  "Do you know who killed my father?"
            Above her, hidden deep in the bowels of the canopy of a grand old birch tree, a robin began chirping.  Behind him a squirrel leapt from a tree and began running madly across an open stretch of grass toward another tree.  Paralleling the park the city street had a heavy flow of cars and trucks rumbling slowly in queue from one traffic light to another.  Yet in the distance they both heard the sudden, startling, extremely loud squeal of tires screeching across hard cement.  A half second later a moving mass of steel and glass traveling at a high rate of speed smashed into an immovable object of immense weight.  The resulting crash generated an unbelievable explosion of noise and destruction.
            The infinitely black eyes of the man glanced toward the direction from where the sound of a horrible accident had just occurred.  But then the dark orbs turned back to face the young girl in front of him.
            "You asked if I knew the man you killed your father.  Yes, I used to.  But he's no longer anyone's problem.  Go home, Cindy.  Go back to your mother.  She needs you.  Like you, she never lost her love for your father.  She suffers as much as you.  Go home.  The two of you put this behind you.  Make yourselves a new life.  It's all over now.  All over."
            He turned and walked away, gloved hands in the pockets of the heavy blue coat he was wearing.  Just walked away.  Leaving her clutching to her heart with both hands the tattered, raggedy old form of an ancient teddy bear, with memories of her laughing father clouding her vision.

Friday, September 5, 2014

When do characters/series you love start to become irritating?

Original cover
Right up front; a statement of fact.  I love reading the Jack Reacher novels.  They are superb reads covering the trials and tribulations of a man who is, by any definition, of mythic proportions.  Reacher is six-feet-five in height, weighs in around 220 pounds, with fists as hard as sledge hammers.  He's like a search and destroy weapon when he latches onto a problem.  He never backs off.  He never gives up. He as tenacious at solving a problem as a pack of wolves are as tenacious tracking down their next meal.

He's an ex-Army major out of the Military Police.  More or less forced into retirement, he now roams the country like a bum.  He usually owns no mode of transportation, lives in very cheap motels, occasionally works menial jobs so he can make enough bucks to buy a bus ticket to move on to the next city or state.  And wherever he lands, he always, always, always gets his ass into trouble apparently only he can dig his way out of in his own fashion.

Like I said, the guy is of mythic proportions.  And maybe . . . just maybe . . . that's getting to be a problem.

It's hard to identify with a myth if he wins . . . all the time.  Hard to identify with a myth if he is far superior in his skill sets to any and all enemies he faces.  Sure, all of us want to be invincible.  All of us ultimately identify with some entity that seems to posses all the qualities we do not have.  We are human.  Meaning  we sometimes win a few battles, but usually we lose the vast majority of our little ruckuses and ultimately learn how to move on and live our lives out in average mediocrity.

Think about it.

Sit back and think of all the books you've read, all the characters you've stumbled over and discovered; all the adventures you've had while buried deep in the bowels of a good book.  Now ask yourself  . . . did any of these hero-types have any frailties, any weaknesses, which limited their ability to triumph in their struggles?  Did any of them get into a sticky-wicket and wind up losing.  Even though they were the 'good' guys?  I suspect the answer is NO. Probably not.

Jack rarely does.  And when he thinks he's wrong, it winds up he really wasn't.  And then he has his quirks, his little peccadilloes, which irritate the crap outta me.  He blue-collar through and through even though he comes from a professional military family (father) and a rather European-elite intellectual society (mother).  There's really nothing blue-collar.  Yet . . . he prefers shopping in the nearest local Goodwill or Wal-Mart store for just about everything.

And then he's got this almost psychotic shtick about not being tied down owning any possessions.  So he doesn't own a house.  He doesn't own a car.  He shies away from modern electronic devices.  He never stays in one spot for more than a couple of months at a time.  He constantly is moving on.

Okay, I know this sounds like I'm complaining loudly about someone I don't like.  In fact, it's just he opposite.  If Lee Child (author) writes a Jack Reacher novel, I'm buying it and keeping it in my library as a treasured memento.  I haven't collected all of the Reacher novels yet ('cause . . . you know.  I'm a writer myself in the classic sense.  I'm piss poor).  But I'm making headway.  Eventually . . .

Nevertheless.  At some point in time I suspect this mythic-hero hubris is going to start to wear a little thin on me.  Fortunately, that doesn't look like it's gonna happen until we're to book 100 or more in the series (we've got about 89 books to go yet).