Stubbornness, pride and other gagging devices in WIP Wednesday

Why doesn’t she (or he) just tell him (or her), we yell at the page, when a few words would solve the misunderstandings and end the book in a fraction of the time. And that’s why, of course. Without the hero and the heroine at cross purposes, at least in some respects, the story would be over, and where is the fun in that?

Our challenge as authors is to make the communication blockages realistic. We don’t want our heroes or our heroines too dumb to live or too prideful to bear. They need strong, sympathetic, and realistic motivation to avoid giving the person they love the information they need to hear. And oh, how we can torture them in the meantime!

So this week, I’m inviting you to give me a scene where two of your characters are talking past each other, and not saying what they mean. Mine is a scene from quite near the end of The Realm of Silence, the title of which comes from a quote about this very issue. ““I like not only to be loved, but also to be told I am loved… the realm of silence is large enough beyond the grave.” George Eliot

“Gil, David wishes me to go to London to describe what I saw at the tower.”

Gil sucked his upper lip between his teeth, his face otherwise expressionless. “You will want to get home to your children. You should go.”

“I do not wish to leave you.” Ever. I do not want to leave you ever, you stupid man. You wonderful, confusing, stubborn, stupid man.

“I am in good hands. Chloe and Flora — yes, and Nanna and the girls — are martinets in the sick room, and I shall be back in top form in no time.”

He wasn’t hearing her deeper messages. She should take her dismissal in good part. Their idyll was over before it had begun, and she had promised herself that whatever he could offer would be enough.

“You think I should go, then.”

“I wish you could stay, goddess.” For a moment, his eyes flooded with something that spoke to the longing in hers, but then he shuttered them. “But it is best that you go.”


The following morning, Susan came to Gil’s new quarters to bid him goodbye. The sisters had transformed a screened porch into a comfortable half-bedroom half-sitting room for an invalid. He was sitting up in a chair set in a flood of sunbeams, and the heat would soon have him pushing the rug Moffatt had insisted on off his knees.

Damnable weakness. He yearned to be well enough to go with her — to string their time of closeness out by a few more days. Instead, he set himself to make a clean break of it, for her sake as well as his.

“I’ve come to say goodbye, Gil,” she said. “Or farewell, I hope. Goodbye sounds so final.”

It did. It sank like iron into his soul, tying his half-formed hopes in chains and sinking them fathoms deep. “We will always be friends, goddess,” he said, some of the ice in his heart leaking into his voice despite his best intentions.

Susan blinked rapidly and her own face stiffened, her bland Society hostess expression forming between him and what she really thought. “Of course we will, Rutledge. I am so pleased we have had this time to get to know one another again.”

Gil cast about for something to say. Something that would soften the parting. “Thank you for coming with me to meet Chloe, Susan. I don’t know what I would have done without you.”

It was the right note. The tension in her eased a little, though the mask was still in place. “Your nieces are delightful, and Chloe is stronger than she thinks. You will all do very well, I think.”

“I would have made a ham-fisted mess of it without you.” As he would, undoubtedly, of the rest of his life.

She must have heard the wistful note he could not repress, because she hesitated, examining his face.

Behind her, Chloe appeared at the door. “Susan? The little girls hope you will come up and say goodbye before you go.”

Susan considered Gil for a moment more, then looked over her shoulder at his sister-in-law. “Yes, Chloe, I’ll be right there.”

Chloe withdrew and Susan faltered and then seemed to make up her mind, crossing the room at a rush and bending to kiss Gil’s cheek. He clutched the rug to anchor his hands, which threatened to break free from his control and seize her, and never let her go.

“Come to me in London, Gil,” she commanded, her voice ragged. “This cannot be finished.”

“If you need me, I will come,” he promised, even as he shook his head.

She straightened, biting her lips until they were white, then turned and hurried out of the room, but not before he had seen the tears in her eyes.

What a bastard he was, making her cry.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
rss

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.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
rss

Explanations in WIP Wednesday

What is a romance without misunderstandings? They met, fell in love, courted, married and lived happily until they died in old age, surrounded by their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren? It makes for a highly desirable life, but lacks interest as a story.

And if we have misunderstandings we have to have explanations, or the story would come to an early end.

So this week, I’m inviting you to post excerpts where one character explains a misunderstanding to another. Mine is from The Lost Wife, which is a short story in my forthcoming collection, Lost in the Tale.

“I am Imanol Mendina de la Vega. Welcome to my humble residence, and that of my hermana.”

Hermana. He had said something similar earlier. Long ago, David had learnt a little Spanish to please Teri’s Mama, stranded as she was as a widowed Spanish lady in the very English household of her brother-in-law. But he did not know that word.

He shifted his head on the pillow, the closest he could come to a bow. “David Markinson, Captain of His Majesty’s Royal Marines.”

Something fierce suddenly surfaced in Imanol’s dark intent eyes. “Markinson? Is that a common name in England?”

“Not particularly. It is more common in Scotland. My family are border people.”

“Border? Ah. Between two kingdoms. And what is the name of this border town you come from, Captain Markinson?”

“Blackwood,” David said. Once he had thought to spend all his days there; to take his articles with his employer, Mr Hemsworth, to raise a family of children with Teri and grow old in a cottage with roses around the door. After his dreams turned to dust, he had enlisted with the marines, and his mother’s death two years ago severed his last links to the place.

Imanol was scowling, his heavy brows nearly meeting above the bridge of his nose, but his voice, courteous and calm, showed none of the emotion written on his face. “And have you a wife back there in Blackwood, captain? Or a girl who loves you, perhaps?”

“No.” Not that it was any of this man’s business. “Not anymore. I have no-one.” I have a wife somewhere, his heart protested. Not back there in Blackwood, he answered his own objection.

Imanol opened his mouth to say something more, then turned to the door and fell silent.

David shifted his head on the pillow, but couldn’t turn it enough to see who stood there; who was asking a peremptory question in Spanish that was too fast for him to follow. A woman’s voice, and Imanol did not like what she said, for his answer was sharp. They argued for a few minutes more, and David tried still harder to see the woman. He could swear he knew the voice.

The altercation ended with Imanol saying to David, “Be careful, English. She says I must not gut you like a fish, but she does not rule here.” Another sentence or two in Spanish, and he left. David lay back, waiting, and sure enough the woman came into the room where he could see her. It was her. Older. In the clothes of a village woman rather than those of an English lady. But it was Teri. Maria Teresa Markinson, his runaway wife.

While he gaped, lost for words, she rested the back of her hand on his forehead, and picked up his wrist to feel for his pulse. “How is the head?” she asked. “Do you feel any pull from the stitches?”

David grabbed the hand before she could remove it. “Teri.” He struggled to order his thoughts, but they slithered out his grasp and he could only cling to her hand as if she anchored him to reality instead of driving him out of his mind.

“Take your hand off her.” Imanol’s cold voice gave David words.

“She is my wife!” he declared at the same moment that Teri said, “Go away, Imanol.”

“Your abandoned wife,” Imanol sneered.

“No! Is that what you thought, Teri? No. I did not leave you. Not by my choice.”

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
rss