Creating Character: Abstract to Concrete

A primary antagonist in Anori is a know-it-all biologist who looks down on our leading woman, Dee, and yet is obsessed with fucking her. He was named Wolfgang in an early draft (drawing from a deep-seeded Nazi-derived prejudice) and was skeletal in design. Dee despised him from the outset, as was supposed to the reader, but it didn’t work because he was obtuse and one-dimensional.

Dee’s anger with Wolfgang was repetitive; the scenes were flat and dull. This monster wasn’t believable enough for the reader to react to his stark end. I needed someone more insipidly heinous, someone who seemed harmless but was dark matter through and through, someone like Tony*. (*Not his real name. Real name rhymes with tennis and begins with a D.)

I worked with Tony some years ago. He seemed harmless at first, self-deprecating, almost funny with his faux English accent. He looked like Ichabod Crane – bony face, odd features, fleck gathered at the corners of his mouth; if you didn’t enjoy his company, you at least felt sorry for him.

The Ichabod Crane I knew did not let them get away.

It took time to realize that he was a predator, that he lured isolated girls with his sad pseudo-Mensa charm, and then fastened himself on and dragged them in. No joke, he was a pedophile, through and through, and belonged in jail. The thing was how he disguised it, convinced others of the impossibility of such a thing.

That’s what I needed in this antagonist. And so that is who he became…with a fate the reader had better find fitting.

Master Nate

I stretched out in the grass, the lawn sloping away into an almost epically long view, the trees in a horseshoe at the far side and the city above. sheep meadowKristie was asleep beside me. We had finished our finals, Third Year done, and summer was here. I breathed out lightly, almost happy, my elbow tucked perfectly in. That’s when I saw him surge out of the corner of my eye, my old high school teacher, Master Nate.

“Vicks!” He stood over me, awkwardly perving down my top. “How are you doing? What a day! What a day!” I closed my eyes and wished him away. imagesBut he was still there, his narrow eyes, big nose and lips like Ichabod Crane. “Who’s your lovely friend?”

sleepy-ichabod“Who’s this?” Kristie sat up.

His hand came jutting out, hairier than I remembered. “Nate Doyle. Pleased.”

“Master Nate.”

He blinked hard, dark white spittle at the corner of his mouth. “What’s that, Vicks? What?”

I lurched up, banging the grass off my jeans. “I told her about you, Master Nate.”

His mouth opened and closed, a large-mouth bass gasping for water. “I would have done anything for you. Literally anything.”

“This is the guy?” Kristie zipped up her top. “Jesus fuck.”

“Vicks, no.” His eyes bulged, his chin jutted out. “Literally. Anything.”

“Master Nate masturbates.” I couldn’t feel my arms. I wondered if this was what a heart attack was like.

His eyes looked wild, a rodent in a trap. rat“You’re a good girl, Vicks. I know that. But you’re hurting me. You know that.”

“I should call the police.” Kristie got her phone out of her purse. “Let’s do that.”

“Lit-er-al-ly. An-y-thing.” He punctuated each syllable with a thrust of his hand.

“So what do you do? It’s just 9-1-1?”

And then he turned away and was suddenly crazily running, swerving toward the darkness of the trees.running-away1I thought about having a rifle, lining him up, breathing in, shooting, how he would fall, the little thing he was, and how that would be that.

Vicks stared after him and then at me. “That guy taught you?”

“He was the head of the department.”