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Hello, writers. We've had some discussions in the comments the last few weeks about what I suppose could be called self-motivated characters. Characters who run off places on their own. Roamin' characters.

They are both a good thing and a bad thing.

They're a good thing because

1. It means you've succeeded in creating characters who are so real that they have wills of their own. Go you!

2. It means that, ideally, your story won't seem contrived or patched-together to the reader; it's character driven.

They're a bad thing because really, not everything your characters do actually belongs in the story. The story is king. When your characters are serving the story, great. When they're not serving the story, but getting in the way of it, then they need to be brought to heel.

So ideally, you want to let your characters be themselves to the extent that, if a scene is going wrong for them, if they're feeling forced, suppressed, or insincere, they'll say so. (The analogy I read somewhere, and always think of, is Han Solo's famous response to Princess Leia's “I love you” in The Empire Strikes Back. The script called for the actor to say “I love you too.” Mr. Ford instead said what he thought the character would say, and thus was a great Character Moment born.)

But you also want them to let you tell the damn story. If your characters drink too much, or quarrel too much, or canoodle too much, or make bad puns, when Story is supposed to be happening, you have to bring them into line.

I've had this problem quite a lot with the Jinx series. Simon Magus writes himself. When he's on the page, I can sit back and relax while he does all the work. He's great company (for a writer, anyway; probably not for the people who know him). I love him to death. But the problem is, he's not the protagonist. Jinx is. Simon tends to take the scene away from Jinx. On the rewrites, I sometimes have to struggle to give it back to Jinx.

Which is in its own way helpful, because it forces me to think about how to make Jinx stronger (both as a character and as a person).

So I guess my thoughts on this subject amount to this: If your characters have minds of their own, great! But they're on your payroll, so they're going to have to serve the story. And that can mean a lot of rewriting.

Tonight's challenge.

A callow youth and his stout companion, vowing never, ever to return to the swamp, are relieved to learn that they must now venture into a nice, dry city and seek out the Wise Grebe of Grimm, who will tell them the location of the missing Jewel of Togwogmagog... if he feels like it.

When they find the Wise Grebe's lair, they learn that the Grebe is protected by a mighty secretary, who decides just who will see the WG and who will not.

Write the scene. Make the secretary into a character who steals the scene, and tries to send it off in his/her own direction.

Write On! will be a regular weekly diary (Thurs 8 pm ET) until it isn't.
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Originally posted to Readers and Book Lovers on Thu Sep 12, 2013 at 05:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I am hoping to join you tonight (22+ / 0-)

    but have people coming in from out of town and am not sure when they'll arrive.

    -9.0, -8.3 "Remember, a writer writes. Always." --Throw Momma from the Train

    by SensibleShoes on Thu Sep 12, 2013 at 10:11:27 AM PDT

  •  nb-- no people yet. n/t (8+ / 0-)

    -9.0, -8.3 "Remember, a writer writes. Always." --Throw Momma from the Train

    by SensibleShoes on Thu Sep 12, 2013 at 05:14:07 PM PDT

  •  Here's mine, (13+ / 0-)

    twisting the assignment as usual:

        With a grumble, Jasper watched the ashes of their unsuccessful Grebe-summoning spell trickle through his fingers. "Rats.  I suppose we'll have to go back and see the secretary again."
         "Again?" asked Stout.
         "Right.  We just saw her... didn't we?  I mean, I thought... Who gave us the....?"
         Jasper stared ahead blankly.  Stout patted his pate.
         "If we did, it should be in your diary, right?"
         "Of course!" Jasper rummaged through the rucksack and yanked out his leather chapbook, flipping through the pages until he came to
         "Well that's odd."
         "What is?"
         "There's a page missing."
         "Look.  Torn out.  Last Wednesday.  I could have sworn that's when we met this secretary the first time.  And she gave us the spell."
         Stout traced his finger over the tell-tale frayed ends in the diary's gutter. "You don't suppose she..."
         "I guess she did."

    Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

    by pico on Thu Sep 12, 2013 at 05:19:34 PM PDT

  •  The sequel to my first ebook is done (13+ / 0-)

    undergoing re-writes. I hope to have it up and running by next week...but gaaah! I'm tired.

    Have fun, compadres!

    Support Small Business: Shop Kos Katalogue including Hero for Hire, an epic fantasy with a sense of humor by C.B. Pratt

    by wonderful world on Thu Sep 12, 2013 at 05:27:19 PM PDT

  •  Characters with a life of their own (13+ / 0-)

    can also be a great way to find out if you are doing something horribly wrong.

    I have a Jewish character in a piece I'm working on. Most of the library research available here is about the Orthodox community, mainly because Christians are picking the books.

    He fought like crazy whenever I tried to have him follow certain religious laws. Constant battle all the time.

    So I did a little research online for time-place background while I was trying to get him to behave. Turns out at the time and place he was growing up, no one was Orthodox, everyone was Reform, and the Jewish community of that time and place would have mocked anyone who insisted on following those specific religious laws he wasn't wanting to follow.

    So now I have a Jewish character following Reform practices who doesn't fight with me in every single scene he's in. Much better than finding out after the fact that I'd gotten his most likely religious background horribly and completely wrong.

  •  My first draft is often full (10+ / 0-)

    of doing what they want. It is what they do, who they are. But when I revise, that's when much of it is left out. Not that it didn't happen, or they didn't go off with a spate of horrible puns, I just don't describe it in the story. For me, it really helps round out the characters.

        The door opened into modest sized room, slightly better hewn timbers fitted tightly against drafts. The floor looked like a mown field but on closer inspection, just a very fine rug weaving. Potted plants lined the walls, giving the room the feel of being a private space out of doors. Even the chair and couch resembled boulders, yet were comfortable pillows to wait on. The desk looked to have been cut from the base of a tree, hollows and limbs serving as pen holders and paper spikes.
        Ray sank into the couch offering a pleased snort of surprise.
        “Wouldn’t mind if it takes awhile,” he offered, laying back.
        “Fascinating. Pastoral crude, perhaps, but so elegantly designed,” Whelk poked at the chair.
        “It’s dry,” grumbled Honra impatiently.
        The door behind the desk opened. A rather large raccoon entered, juggling several eggs, which he quickly tucked in a vest pocket on seeing them.
        “Ah, well. What have we here?”
        “We are here to see the Wise Grebe of Grimm,” Honra’s hand contracted on the hilt of her sword, “And we will not be stalled again.”
        “Obviously,” the raccoon stated dryly, “Or you’d not be standing in Cassadora’s-“
        “I am Prince Whelk, of Togwogmagog, good secretary,” Whelk stepped forward with a bow, “We are here to consult with his- er- her wiseness about the fabled Jewel of Togwogmagog.”
        “Ah. Yes, well, Her Wise-ness is a little tied up at the moment,” the raccoon picked up a pen, twiddling it before slipping it in a pocket, “Probably for most of the day.”
        “We can wait,” Honra declared, settling on the chair.
        “This is Honra, Princess and Warrior of the High Plateau. And Ray, Bard extraordinaire-“
        Ray offered a whistling snore from the couch.
        Another three pens joined the first in the raccoon’s pocket, “And as noted, I am Secretary to her Wiseness, Clep. Perhaps I can get you some tea?”
        “Most appreciated. A green West Island, a touch of honey and a dollop of cream,” Whelk agreed. Clep offered a bow, sweeping several more tools and knickknacks from the desk into another pocket.
        “See, Honra, what a little diplomacy gets you?” Whelk offered. She glared back at him.
        “Still waiting,” she stated.
        In the time they looked away, Clep cleared the desk, replacing the space with a steaming pot of tea and several cups.
        “Excellent efficiency, my good man. Thank you,” Whelk poured a cup.
        Clep slipped around, straightening numerous items about the room, opening a window. In his wake, followed cleanliness. Or, at least, more space.
        The moment Honra reached for the tea, Clep appeared, solicitously pouring for her.
        “My lady,” he bowed.
        Whelk, appeased by the tea, joined Ray on the couch. The warmth of the day, the comforting quiet breeze and Clep’s busy efficiency about the office soon had them nodding.  
        “Hoop!” Honra suddenly shouted as the chair she sat on was whisked away. Ray and Whelk yelped in alarm as the couch vanished. Shaking off the sleepy haze, they managed to see Clep’s bushy tail vanishing out the window.
        “What?” Whelk looked about. The room was empty. No desk, no plants, not even the rug remained.
        The inner door burst open admitting a large angry grebe still hung with ropes.
        “Thief! My eggs!” she squawked.
        “Cassadora, I presume?” Whelk asked.
        “My sword!” Honra exclaimed in alarm.
        “My lute!” wailed Ray.
        Cassadora pecked Whelk’s chest, “You want my advice? Get my eggs back from that thief Clepto before they’re cold!”

    True wealth is a measure of what one gives.

    by WiseFerret on Thu Sep 12, 2013 at 05:51:59 PM PDT

  •  Is Each Speaker's Identity Clear Enough? (8+ / 0-)

    Seeing how bare-boned I can make this one. If you've read some of my earlier stuff, you might remember that my callow youth is of noble stock and he's on this doggone quest to earn a name. Oogle is his serf.

    "I wish I had a name so I could give it to you, but my portly companion here is Oogle. Will that do?"


    "Mirrors and friends never lie; Mr...Oogle? Though most real friends try at least to be kind, not that I'd know. Mine never were."

    "Friends or kind?"

    "Mr Oogle would you please tell your nameless companion, "Neither." Although he did leave out, "Real"

    "Oogle, don't get started. Just ask Mr--what is the name?--when would be a convenient time for us to see the Wise Grebe."

    "Mr Oogle, please ask your companion if he means convenient for me, Portico J Pedant, or convenient for the Grebe."

    "Sir, Mr Pedant wants to know..."

    "The Grebe of course!"

    "Mr Pedant, he means the Wise Grebe and you, naturally."

    "Ah. Then Mr Oogle, I would say in about ten minutes. And please advise your nameless companion that gatekeepers have feelings too. At least you seem to realize that. Now, wait here. Please."



    Strange that a harp of thousand strings should keep in tune so long

    by jabney on Thu Sep 12, 2013 at 06:07:53 PM PDT

    •  It's always a problem with a three-way. (7+ / 0-)

      You can seldom get away with unattributed speech when you've got three characters talking. Comes under the first commandment: Thou shalt give the reader a break. We can figure out who's talking but we have to work to do it.

      In a statement like this

      "Mr Oogle would you please tell your nameless companion, 'Neither.' Although he did leave out, 'Real'."
      it works, because the speaker's referring to both other characters.

      Good job of, er, fleshing out Mr. Pedant.

      -9.0, -8.3 "Remember, a writer writes. Always." --Throw Momma from the Train

      by SensibleShoes on Thu Sep 12, 2013 at 06:15:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  "I'll Get You For This, Cal...!" (9+ / 0-)

    I already have a character who keeps threatening to take over the story; her name is Diedrie.  But let's come up with someone new.

    "You want to see the Grebe?"  The woman in the baggy turtleneck sweater blew her nose and looked up from her papers through thickish spectacles.

    "Yes," Cal said.  "It is very important."

    The secretary wiped her nose with a sadly-overworked handkerchief.  "It's always important," she croaked.  She was a youngish woman with bleary red eyes and limp mouse-colored hair which hung mournfully about her shoulders.

    "Could you tell the Grebe we'd like to see him?"

    She looked over her shoulder at the door to the room beyond and her lip gave a curious twitch of dread.  "Erm... he's probably busy right now.  I could write a message for him and have him get back to you.  What did you say your name was again?"

    "I told you; Cal, son of Hal," Cal said barely keeping his temper.

    Murray shoved in front of him.  "Listen.  Cal here happens to be the Chosen One, verstehens Sie?  He's on a holy quest to find the Jewel of Togwogmagog.  But he needs information that we're told only the Wise Grebe of Grimm can give us."

    The secretary blinked, and squinted at Murray through her dense spectacles.  Something approaching a smile crept across her face.  "Y'know... you're kinda cute.  I'm Oodwilf.  What's your name?"

    "Oh for the luvva Crumb..."

    "His name is Murray," Cal interrupted.  "And if you let me in to see the Grebe, then the two of you can have some time to get acquainted."


    "All right."  The secretary rose and went to the door.  She hesitated before opening it, and put her hankerchief to her face.  "Master Grebe?  A gentleman to see you.  He's the Chosen... the Chosen... the chuh-chuh-chuh..."  A sneeze exploded from her and she wiped her face.  "The Chosen One."

    A high-pitched squawk came from the room beyond.  The secretary closed the door and returned to her desk.  "Master Grebe will see you."  She gave an enormous sniff and then added apologetically to Murray, "I'm allergic to feathers."

    And in this week's installment of Dark Redemption, Strephon goes to a dinner party where he will meet some intereting people:
    Perhaps bringing Cassandra wasn't such a mistake after all. She knew these people, by reputation at least. She did not know, however, that the handsome man piling slices of rare roast beef onto his plate and the woman accompanying him were werewolves

    Read my webcomic, "Hannibal Tesla Adventure Magazine" at

    by quarkstomper on Thu Sep 12, 2013 at 06:24:53 PM PDT

  •  Scene-stealing characters (8+ / 0-)

    Shakespeare was great with those - Robin Williams once opined that if Shakespeare hadn't wisely killed him off, his masterpiece would have been called Mercutio and Juliet.

    This exercise is kind of similar to last week's.  Let's see, who can I use after George Weasley and Prince Kornsirrip?

    When Callie and Stout returned on the Twelfth of Never, the amphibious secretary had been replaced by a young woman in a short-skirted pinstripe suit.  The name plate on the desk said "Voira Dire."  Voira set down her magazine, which promised the latest on Derf the Dragon's secret love hatchling and Amica Briefe's new Eat-your-words Diet.

    "Hi," Callie said.  "We have an appointment."

    "Let me check," Voira said, leafing through the calendar.  "Sorry, I'm new - I don't quite understand the old secretary's notes.  Are you with the Yerwizeness Truthers Club?"

    "The what?"  Callie asked.

    The secretary leaned forward and whispered, "They have rock-solid proof that King Yerwizeness doesn't have a Togwogmagogian long-form birth certificate."

    "Um, no.  We're here about the Jewel."

    "The Jewel!"  Voira's eyes lit up.  "Do you think it's true that Prudencia Juris stole it to give to her secret girlfriend?  Or do you think Fifibelle the Editor is using it for a secret spell to stealthily remove all adverbs from Togwogmagog?"

    Stout stabbed a finger at the calendar.  "There's our appointment.  Right there."

    "Oh, right.  Go on in."

    She turned to the back of her magazine and started taking the personality test offered by the local chapter of Chemistrology, which promised to help her achieve true opaqueness.

    I shall die, but that is all that I shall do for Death; I am not on his payroll. - Edna St. Vincent Millay

    by Tara the Antisocial Social Worker on Thu Sep 12, 2013 at 06:41:53 PM PDT

  •  From the window beside his loft-bed, Grebe could (7+ / 0-)

    watch Odett weeding the onions and potatoes, and tying up trailing tomatoe vines.  Although the house her parents had left her was lower than his, and smaller, it was just close enough to block the center of his view of anything else, so he really had nothing else to watch but Odett.

        So, he told himself, enjoying the pleasant waft of cool air rising from the flagstones his servant was mopping.  At his direction, she mopped several times a day.  The heat was unbearable up under the rafters, otherwise, but until the Grebe's leg healed, there was nowhere else better for him to be than this obscure little city.  No one would look for him in a half-abandoned, parched former center of commerce where every street was punctuated with a house or three falling in on itself, and the main boulevards utterly emptied.  

         Humming along with the servant's mumbled song as she mopped, Grebe thought with considerable discontent that her husband ought to have build the sleeping loft at the front of the house, with a dormer window so anyone confined to bed in it would have a view of the entire descending slope of the city.  Instead, all there was for him to watch was Odett.  She had finished this session's coaxing of the vegetables to stay alive, and was settling the yoke pads on her shoulders so she could go down to the well at the end of the street.  Before hanging the buckets on the yoke's hook-ends, she put two fingers of each hand to her lips and whistled shrilly.  Grebe winced as the noise sliced through his aching head.

         "What?" Odett's younger brother demanded angrily, bursting out the front door and around the house corner, stopping in the meagre shade of the eves.  Grebe couldn't see the housefront, only the side against which that pathetic excuse for a victory garden lay, but the boy practically radiated spikey defiance and rebellion, much as he still obeyed Odett's summons, but with his book in one hand, gripped closed with a finger marking his place, the other fist on his hip, and his eyes narrowed and mouth down at the ends.

         "I'm going for garden water," Odett said, backing up to the garden fence to get her shoulders under the yoke resting on its brackets there, "and then for water for our kitchen and Mr. Grebe's."  The buckets clanked with the kind of ring only copper makes.  Grebe wondered how Odett knew that copper prevented illness.  The expense must have been ruinous.  Or perhaps the buckets came with the house.  He made a mental note to tell his servant to buy some copper buckets, and replace the stone washbasins with copper ones.  No one would notice her extravagance, except whatever shopkeeper she could find who stocked such things - there were too few neighbors up on this edge of town for gossip to be a viable information source anymore.

         "While I'm gone," Odett was telling her brother, "it's your turn to clean the wood-ash out of our hearth and sprinkle it around the inside of our garderobe.  Then do Mr Grebe's."

         She ought to have told the boy to do my garderobe first, Grebe mused in annoyance.  What am I paying her for if not to see to my every need before her own?

         "Let the old fart sprinkle his own ash," the boy objected.  "It's his shit, after all.  And he has a servant."

         "It's his money paid for that book and your schooling," Odett said with no particular inflection as she settled the yoke and turned sideways to move out the gate.  "Lock this after me, please.  Travellers came in and and stole every tomato on that vine yesterday."

          "Oh for grebe's sake," her brother said. "Put the damn yoke on me, I'll get the water."  He wedged his book between two rails of the fence, heedless of losing his place, and came out the gate to take the yoke and swing it onto his own shoulders.  "I'm stronger and faster than you."

         "You mean you don't want to tend the heaths and garderobes, and you want to see if Lisolen's at the well," Odett said good-humoredly.  She smiled at her brother, and he leaned down and kissed her check before striding off, the buckets swinging jauntily.

         Ugh, familial affection, Grebe thought.  How repellant.
    With the skill of long practice, he throttled his vague sense of envy, covering it up with a different dissatisfaction: how dare that stripling use his name to swear by!  Odett had not even glanced at his house when the boy did that, and she couldn't help knowing every word spoken in that garden must be audible to his house, with upper and lower windows facing hers like that.  Her house windows, he knew, were in the front and back walls, alongside and above the front and back dooors.  It was the reason he had hired her to play intercessor for him to anyone who might, on the offchance, come seeking him.  It was the reason he had rented this barely larger house in which to recuperate.  It too had belonged to Odett's parents, and nominally now belonged to Odett's brother.  Where Odett had found the servant for his employ, Grebe wasn't sure, except it was somewhere on the flooded waterfront, where the rising saltwater had undermined the wharfs, warehouses, and homes of the merchants and shippers who had once been the power in this former bustling city.  This city that used to have a municipal drainage system instead of garderobes at the back of each house.  How the locals and learned to kill the diseases of their waste with wood-ash was another thing Grebe wondered when Odett wasn't in the garden for him to watch.

         "Damn," she said.  Grebe wriggled around in bed trying to see what she was looking at.  She had turned from the locked gate to take her brother's book back into the house, but now was turned back watching the street.  Distant voices calling, "m'lady, m'lady!" were just barely audible.

         Who in their right mind would address a peasant like Odett in such terms, Grebe wondered.  Or were they hailing the widow who was his servant?  He couldn't hear her humming - she must have stopped mopping and gone out to sweep the front steps and walkway.  He didn't give the woman enough useful chores to do, was the problem.  She kept reverting to her tidy, middle-class origins.  Perhaps he should send her down to the tavern for his meals every day, instead of the taverner's wife bringing the food up.

         As if aware of Grebe trying to see what was going on, Odett had gone to stand at her own front walkway, well visible from Grebe's window.  She rested her brother's book on the front, also locked, and said quietly, "Yes, gentlemen, what can I do for you?".  Her tone, conversational rather than hailed reply, drew closer a callow young woman in overly-decorative mercenary-looking garb, and another in plainer but similar attire, apparently the two who had called out to her in such flattering terms.

         "We're hopeful of a little information," the callow-looking mercenary said.  "Naturally, we're prepared to remunerate for useful information."

         "Naturally you would return to do so after going off to ascertain that the information truly was of use," Odett replied pleasantly.

        "Ouch," Callow's doughty companion said, with a grin.

         Odett's lips quirked, but to Callow she said, "if I can supply the information you want, with no trouble on my part, it's yours without fee."

         "Ouch, again," Doughty commented.  Callow gave her an annoyed look, replying the while to Odett, "we're seeking the Grimmwise known as Grebe, to consult with him about the lost Jewel of Togwogmagog.  He's not in his palace at Tomag, and we heard rumors he might have come here on vacation or--"

         Odett was laughing so hard the Grebe thought she'd pee her pants.   It's not that damn funny, he told himself crossly.

         "Did she say something funny?"  Doughty asked.

         With an obvious effort, Odett got her voice under control, and asked, "what were you told is the name of this town?"

         Callow and Doughty exchanged puzzled glances.  "Drown'ed Port?" Callow said uncertainly.

         "Well, it was a port, and with the heat that's persisted so many years to raise the sea level, it's indeed somewhat drowned, the best part of it certainly," Odett said.

         "Yes, we noticed it seemed somewhat deserted," Doughty commented, casting a look back downslope.

         "Deserted, yes," Odett said.  "Nine tenths of the townsfolk have left for greener climes, some of them seeking it underground.  In the cemetary, to be precise.  The entire slope of this place faces to the sun from morning to night.  At one time, that blessing and the excellence of the beaches and harbors were our claim to fame.  Since then it's become our doom."

         "Surely that's unnecessarily dreary a prediction," Callow objected uneasily, looking around.  "Why would the Grimmwise Grebe be said to vacation here if it's so...."

         Callow's words trailed off as she gazed down the slope of the once-lovely city.  Facing uphill as she and Doughty had walked to reach this height, they hadn't had any view of the real situation of the environs.  Now, looking downslope, the devastation was obvious.

         "You don't need Grebe," Odett said.  "This was Togwogmagog's Jewel.  This town.  You're looking right at it.  But it's still lost.  Forever."

  •  mine (7+ / 0-)
    Jasper stopped with his hand on the door handle.  He froze as he looked at the sign board above the door.

    For Wisdom, Inc.

    Grebe de Grim, Prop.

    Fanchion de Flame,  Secretary of Wise Affairs, Notary, Drawer of Maps, Seeker of Legends, Proclaimer of Prophecies, Translator Extraordinaire

    "What be problem?" Hitch asked.

    "I think I know the secretary.  The name rings a bell, one of those doom bells like the temples ring when there is a fire," Jasper said.

    "No time to waste," Hitch said.  Jasper shrugged and opened the door.

    They walked into a cloud of smoke.  "You be right," Hitch said.  "There be a fire.  We better call for help."

    "Don't move," said a voice.  "There is no fire.  I just smoked the fly traps. "

    Through the foul smelling air, Jasper could see a long, be-ringed snout.  The dragon grinned and showed more teeth than a barracuda.

    "How can I help you two adventurers?" the dragon asked.  Tiny flames licked out around the side of his mouth.

    "We are here to see the Wise Grebe," Jasper said.  

    "Oh, yeah.  You two were here a month ago with Froop looking for a map in the swamp.  We set up shop just after you went wading." He snickered and coughed out a bit of acid that smoked a hole in the desk.

    "Can we see him, please?" Jasper asked.  

    "Hand over the map you found, first.  That is your ticket to see the Guv."

    Hitch nudged Jasper who turned back toward the door.  They had nearly drowned in muck to get the map from The Least Grebe.  How this Fanchion even knew about it was a problem.

    "Don't tell me you went through that fetid swamp three times and never found the map?" the Dragon said and his voice hissed through the long snout like a sneer.

    Jasper could see the door of the Wise Grebe just to the left of the desk.  Surely the Wise Grebe would not allow the insults of this arrogant lackey to keep out paying customers.

    "His Wisdom is busy, and yes, he trusts me to weed out the nobodies," Fanchion said.

    "He be reading your mind," Hitch said.

    Jasper shuddered.  He had lots of things in his mind that he didn't want to share with a Malford wannabe.

    Jasper leaped to the left of the desk and pulled the Grebe's door open.  Hitch was right behind him.  

    The dragon struggled to get out of the cushions on his chair.  He was too late.  The two hunters had seen inside and were slowly backing toward the main door.  Hitch and Jasper ran for the steps.  Behind them they heard the dragon mutter, "Drat, more customers down the drain."

    Jasper stopped to breath and heard the secretary yell after them, "You will be back!  I saw it in dream number twenty-six.  You will pay double when you come!"

    "No," Jasper said and continued down the steps.  "I will not be back.  I will wander through the swamp again rather than ask the Wise Grebe anything and lose my soul."

    Hitch rumbled an agreement.  Even he had turned a paler purple.


    Join us at Bookflurries-Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

    by cfk on Thu Sep 12, 2013 at 07:18:15 PM PDT

  •  Personally, I like Nabokov on the subject (8+ / 0-)

    "My characters are galley slaves."

  •  I have one who has decided to develop a religious (9+ / 0-)

    vocation in a highly dramatic manner.

    This was not the plan. It will be interesting, but it wasn't the plan, and I'll have to ruthlessly prune the lady's histronics/manifestations of sainthood to fit as a side plot.

    It helps I think that I don't particularly like her.

    When you come to find how essential the comfort of a well-kept home is to the bodily strength and good conditions, to a sound mind and spirit, and useful days, you will reverence the good housekeeper as I do above artist or poet, beauty or genius.

    by Alexandra Lynch on Thu Sep 12, 2013 at 08:29:57 PM PDT

  •  But they'll be back (6+ / 0-)

    "You can't see the Grebe," the secretary said. She was chewing gum.  

    "Oh, yes we can," said Lance, who in his callowness did not appreciate the significance of the gum chewing.  He thought all very young women chewed gum. His sisters chewed gum, for instance. His classmates chewed gum--the girls, anyway. So the secretary did, as well--that was all Lance thought about it. He didn't see that it was in fact a gesture of complete and utter disdain.  

    "No, you can't," the secretary said, still chewing.

    "I have a pass,"  Lance said.

    "Yeah," said Biff, "show her the pass."

    The secretary looked at them as though seeing them for the first time.

    "I don't know if you heard me," she said. "You're not seeing him."

    "At least will you read the pass?  It's sealed by the Grand Marakko of Srae."

    The secretary took the pass. She kept chewing. She unscrolled it. She still kept chewing. She rolled the pass back up without missing a single chew and tossed it back across the desktop.

    "There," she said, still chewing,  "I read it."


    The secretary blew a bubble.  It was a big, pink bubble.  You have to practice to blow a bubble like  that. It grew and grew until it was half the size of the secretary's head. Then it popped. The secretary had to poke the deflated remains of the bubble back into her mouth, which she accomplished with the help of a brightly laquered fingernail.  She turned back to her work.

    "The Grand Marakko of Srae isn't going to like this," said Biff, without causing any apparent disturbance in the secretary's chewing.  

    Biff and Lance stood in front of the desk listening to the secretary chew her gum for another fifteen seconds.  Then they exchanged that man-to-man look that says well, you know, sometimes you have no choice but to be a gentleman (implying that there is a choice, when in fact there is none). Then they left.

    •  Oh, now THAT (0+ / 0-)

      is a secretary to be reckoned with!

      I have a cat in my lap, but my brain is shrieking
      "Applause! Applause!"
      b/c, archer, you wrote a terrific one. Thanks for the great read.

      Irony takes a worse beating from Republicans than Wile E. Coyote does from Acme. --Tara the Antisocial Social Worker

      by Youffraita on Sat Sep 21, 2013 at 12:52:42 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I am hoping to join you tonight (0+ / 0-)

    the song of that title... hm, "kiss American state kate" musical?  i avoid observance it, i've thus seldom seen 'shrew' drained any approach however male tyrannical. however i believe that is the musical it's in.

  •  vocation in a very extremely dramatic manner. (0+ / 0-)

    This wasn't the set up. it'll be fascinating, however it wasn't the set up, and i will got to ruthlessly prune the lady's histronics/manifestations of sainthood to suit as a facet plot.

    It helps i feel that i do not significantly like her.

    When you come back to search out however essential the comfort of a well-kept house is to the bodily strength and sensible conditions, to a sound mind and spirit, and helpful days, you'll reverence the great domestic as I do on top of creative person or author, beauty or genius.

  •  Jebloog looked at the sky. "It's a dark and stormy (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    night," the callow youth remarked.

    "Mmm," his stout companion replied, nose buried in his iPad(TM), more for politeness' sake than anything else. He wanted, berserker of T'lanexa that he was, to smack Jebloog hard and say, "Well, DUH! How'd you manage to figure that out?" But since Jebloog was the only one who could touch the Jewel without being instantly turned to stone, the stout warrior refrained, content to advance to the next level of "Angry Plitaargs."

  •  Mine always seem to run away on me. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    But the surprises they give are usually pleasant.

    One of my favorite stories is centered around the funeral of the protagonist -- more specifically, her partner and daughter have gone to a mountaintop monastery with the aim of scattering her ashes from the back of a dragon, with the rest of their life together told as flashbacks, memories, and dreams. As a straight narrative, the ash-scattering scene didn't work at all -- it never got beyond the banal. At this point, to my complete surprise and considerable trepidation (at first), the daughter led us all off on a tangent, a dragon-flight to yet another temple on yet another mountaintop, where she and her mother embarrassed me by settling a piece of unfinished plot business that I hadn't even remembered was still flapping in the wind. This nudged the timeline just enough to allow the ash-scattering to be told as a very recent memory, not as an unfolding event, in which position it fit much more smoothly:

    Shah'issol and I had scattered my love Vivian's ashes that afternoon, from the back of Odahviing, in a long smooth dive that had begun over Windhelm, over the docks, where we had met that day so long ago now but still only yesterday, when I first realized I would take her with me wherever I went, whatever I did....Behind us, I knew, flew a host never seen before: all the dov, not a single one absent, some flying high, some so low that the thunder of their passing beat the snow from the branches of the trees. All in peace, without fear, all still caught up in wonder at the peace my love Vivian had found for them.

    They were close behind as I gave her to the wind, and then at last I realized why they had contended so fiercely for their places in the formation: they would breathe her in, her dust would become part of them, just as it would become part of the long summer sunsets and the salmon in the rivers, ice wolves and nightshade flowers and the butterflies that hover around stumps in the bog across from the East Empire docks at Solitude. She had cherished it all, and now she would be part of it all, shifting with the wind and water, forever.

    "They smash your face in, and say you were always ugly." (Solzhenitsyn)

    by sagesource on Fri Sep 13, 2013 at 09:08:00 AM PDT

  •  Newish person checking in (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Inconsistently posting gal here. I'd like to give it a go:


    At least it felt like a "poof!" to Cal. One minute he was arguing with Sven the Impossible about where the Grebe's Lair was and the next moment he felt a "poof!", and he was, well, elsewhere.

    Elsewhere looked like a library. They were in a massive arched room filled with row upon row of books and scrolls and shiny boxes and funny little silver disks and assorted whatnots. The rows stretched back as far as the eye could see.

    "Can I help you boys?" a smoky voice behind the two visitors purred out.

    Cal turned to face the speaker. "Where is ..." was all Cal managed to get out before he forgot how to speak. The vision in front of him was the "girl of his dreams". Literally.

    Odin's Balls, thought Cal. This is the girl in the dream-send. Same beautiful, flawless face. Same dark copper colored skin and wild red hair. Same generous, curvy body. Same eyes; one green and one blue.

    Sven nudged Cal and sighed, "I think I've just met Mrs. Impossible."

    "Sven, it's her. The Girl. The one I've been dreaming about. No, really dreaming about, remember I told you. Sven? Sven?" Cal had to give his tall friend a serious shove to get him to lose the silly grin and focus on the matter at hand.

    The vision spoke. "You're Cal, right? And your tall, umh, muscular, mottled friend over here is Sven the Impossible, correct? The Traveler told me you would be coming. I'm Artemis, his Articulator."

    "What?" said Cal. "What's an Articulator? And who's the Traveler? We are looking for the Great Grebe of Grayfair."

    "Same being," Artemis replied. "The Traveler is known by many names according to when, where and who is at the moment he is Traveling. He is not in the here or the now, presently. Perhaps I can help?"

    Sven continued to stare dreamily at Artemis while a tiny stream of drool leaked out of the corner of his mouth. "Articulator, yum" was all Sven could say.

    Artemis shot an amused look at Sven. "Later
    studly-do-right, promise. Now Cal, let me guess. You want the Jewel, right? I think I can help."

    "What's an Articulator? Let's start with that. I've seen you before, in my dreams. What is all this?"

    "An Articulator names things and brings them into being. Every Traveler needs things manifested, made real in the various planes of existence. I do this. It's my job."

    Cal looked confused. "I don't really understand what you mean?"

    "Doesn't matter. I think I can help you. However, as the wisest of the wise know, all magic comes with a price. Are you willing to pay it?"

    Cal thought for a moment, considered the sacrifices he and Sven had already made to secure the Great Jewel. They had already been near death a dozen times. How bad could the price be?

    "What is the price? Can't know if I can pay it if I don't know what it is."

    Artemis chuckled to herself. "Oh, this is going to be fun. Let us begin the Articulation, shall we?  We will quibble over the price later."

    ... to be continued.
  •  Something Like... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bodrin and Clarse looked at each other.

    "Well, here goes nothing" Bodrin grunted with a grimace as the  armsman ushered them to a door which closed behind them with an unnerving groan and clunk.

    They found themselves in a small wood-paneled chamber. As they were looking around to see what came next, a small panel in the door before them opened. A pair of muddy-colored brown eyes glared at them, and a matching voice spoke: "Okay, take 'em off."


    Bodrin and Clarse both spoke at once; Bodrin angrily, Clarse with an air of puzzlement.

    "Your shoes, knives or any other weapons, loose personal belongings, anything made of metal that is not permanently attached to you, and de-activate any protective charms you may be using."

    "And?" Clarse interjected.

    "And put them all in there" the voice continued as a wall panel tipped forward, revealing itself to be a bin. "They will be returned to you - assuming you are who you claim you are and are what you seem to be."

    Bodrin gave Clarse look number 37: world-weary resignation in the face of the inevitable, and began to comply.

    Clarse asked hesitantly "Look, we're just here to see the Grebe. Is this really necessary?"

    "At the moment you are here to satisfy ME. Your desire to see the Grebe is irrelevant until I am satisfied as to your bona fides and all my questions are answered to MY satisfaction. None may pass who do not pass my scrutiny  first."  

    Clarse blinked, and also began to comply.

    "Your cooperation is noted and appreciated. Please be assured - assuming you fail to pass muster in any way - your remains and personal effects will be returned to your next of kin or designee." The voice went on in a way that just barely failed to sound conciliatory. "These precautions are necessary to ensure the safety of you and those around you. If any persons not known to you have given you anything to bring here, please report that now."

    Clarse and Bodrin, now standing awkwardly in the absence of much of their personal attire, shook their heads no. The bin now holding their gear closed.

    "Very well" said the voice. "Step through the doorway that will appear momentarily before you, hold your arms away from your sides, and follow the directions you are given. This is you last chance to  speak up about any magic you might be employing."

    Two more panels opened up in the wall before them, revealing bare chambers roughly the size of a confessional booth. Swallowing, each glanced at the other and stepped forward...

    I'm a bit late to the exercise because I'm traveling today - by air as you might guess.

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Fri Sep 13, 2013 at 01:14:05 PM PDT

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