Assumptions in WIP Wednesday

Many plots rely upon characters being wrong about the motives, feelings, and even activities of other characters. If they’re just too dumb or too self-centred to talk, the author is going to really pull out the stops to maintain my interest. But many good reasons might prevent such conversations, and so the circuses begin.

This week, I’m inviting excerpts where one character has completely misread another. My example is actually two: two short pieces from The Mouse Fights Back, my next short story for my newsletter subscribers. First Tiberius.

As always when travelling to Redfern and Mouse, his heart lightened with the miles, and he whiled away the time thinking of places he could take his sweet wife once he no longer feared for her safety, and things they could do together while they waited for that happy day.

Would she be pleased he planned to stay at Redfern until she could travel with him? He found it hard to tell how she felt about him. When they joined at night, he felt he knew her through to the bone, but in the daytime, she would slip away, speaking with shy reserve if their duties brought them together, but otherwise finding other places to be.

At least now that he had destroyed their enemies, he would be free to court his wife.

And now Mouse, whose real name is Claudia.

She feared he would not bother to visit even once a month when he knew he had attained his objective. She was, after all, a means to an end, and however considerate and courteous he was, however passionate at night, she would do well not to forget that he had married her to secure the earldom away from his uncle.

And still she loved him, tumbling a little further every time they were together, but she need not embarrass herself by letting him know.

This is immediately before Tiberius and his entourage are ambushed on the road.

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Quarrels on WIP Wednesday

This week is about quarrels. Or fights, or arguments, or any kind of disagreement. It might be serious or trivial, between secondary characters or protagonists. But quarrels are a frequent element of storytelling, a way to display character, disclose unexpected plot points, and ratchet up the tension. 

As always, I’m inviting you to share your excerpt in the comments.

My piece is from The Realm of Silence, the next book in the Golden Redepennings. 

Once they had asked every question they could think of in several ways each, they let the boy go. Gil had requisitioned a private parlour for their interview, but of course Susan could not remain here alone with him. Nor could she follow her burning urge to leave immediately for the answers that must surely lie in Stamford; not on a moonless night. She would thank Gil for his help and go up to her room.

As if he heard her thoughts, Gil turned from a low-voiced conversation with the inn-keeper’s stout daughter and said, “I’ve ordered us a dinner. No point in us leaving until the morning.”

The urge to stay surprised Susan with its strength and made her refusal less graceful than it might have been. “I cannot have dinner alone with you, Lord Rutledge.”

A flicker of uncertainty before the granite face settled again. “Do you want to send for your maid? To protect your name?” His voice was as calm and emotionless as ever, and it was unfair of her to read a sneer into that last remark.

“I do not have a maid with me. Just my groom. He has a room above the stables.” She had sent her other carriages on ahead when she chose to detour to Cambridge, figuring she and Amy could have lunch together before Susan followed her younger children and her servants to London.

Gil regarded her gravely, and Susan waited for him to berate her for foolishness, impetuosity, or arrogance in thinking she could run her own life as she pleased, and without the interference of a man. But he merely nodded once. “And my man is entirely trustworthy. So if you sit down and eat, no one but you and I will know. And you need to eat. Have you eaten today?”

Susan was about to disclaim appetite when her stomach made her liar by rumbling with considerable enthusiasm. Was that a twinkle in Lord Rock Ledge’s eye? Surely not.

She surrendered, at least this battle, returning to the seat she had just vacated. “Very well. But I shall pay for my own meal.”

Gil made no reply. Just took his place in the chair on the other side of the hearth, as two maids carried in laden trays and began transferring their contents to the room’s table.

While the servants set the dishes out, and laid a place for each of them, Susan made some commonplace remarks about the weather during her journey from Wessex, and Gil said nothing. Was he even listening? She seemed to have his attention; certainly he did not move his gaze from her; barely blinked. But what thoughts seethed under that still surface? Even as a boy, he had been grave and silent, speaking seldom but always to good purpose.

As he did now, as soon as the maids left the room, closing the door behind them.

“So by now your other children are safely at home in London with their nurse. I will go after Miss Cunningham and Miss Foster, of course, but you had better come with me.”

“Come with you? I am going alone, with my groom. I am not your problem to solve, Lord Rutledge. My daughter is not your problem to solve.” He might look like a stone carving, all hewn planes and angles, but he had never been a fool. Surely he must realise how impossible it was for the two of them to travel together.

Gil stood. “We should eat.” He suited action to words by pulling out a chair at the table, standing with one hand on the back, waiting for Susan to take her place. It would be childish and counter productive to refuse to sit, purely because he expected her to do so. She quelled but did not extinguish the spirit of opposition that consumed her whenever one of the men in her life tried to organise her. She would eat with him, but he would not be coming north with her.

 

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