Labor Relations

Pesky characters, always makin’ a ruckus…

Interesting experience a few weeks back. I got into a serious argument with some characters in The Augmented Man. The argument was so serious that all writing stopped. Not only writing on The Augmented Man, also work on Ritchie and Phyl, Gable Smiled and a host of others.

Fantasy characters threatened to strike in support of their literary fiction brothers and sisters. Characters still in development refused to cross picket lines in support of their already written brethren and sistren.

There was talk of locking up my keyboard until things got resolved.

But if you lock up the keyboard we’ll never reach an agreement, I explained.

Phyl said, “You have two paragraphs, Mister. Get writing.”

Okay, it wasn’t quite like that.

My writing method is usually stream of consciousness. I sit, rest my hands over the keys and stuff happens (like right now, in fact). I just let it happen and edit on the next pass (doing that, too!). Sometimes what I write doesn’t go with what I’m working on, at least not obviously so, and I have to rip it out.

Usually I’m able to take that ripped out piece and use it elsewhere, if not in my current project then in some future project. For example, my writing coach thought having Trailer “stare down a bear or wolf or something” would be a great way of demonstrating Trailer’s authority in the woods, that nothing dares oppose him. Specifically, my coach wanted me to have Trailer encounter some uber-predator and have the uber-predator back off, showing that even the uber-predators fear him.

That’s an interesting idea if you’ve read the first two sections of The Augmented Man (go for it, sponsor me on Patreon and you can download and read them at your leisure). Here’s what I came up with:

Fives miles further in he slowed. There were blood signs on the trail. Deer, definitely. And coyote.
And bear. He inhaled deeply. A sow and two cubs.
He stopped running silently. He kicked up brush and pine cones, let twigs snap under his feet, slapped trees as he passed them.
He came through the trees low to the ground. The sow faced him, stared straight at him but didn’t challenge him, her two cubs feeding on the carcass behind her.
Trailer evaluated the scene rapidly. A coyote pack had downed an aging buck, filled themselves and left in a hurry: vines hanging loose from trees, leaves piled at the end of paw strikes, undergrowth blood moist and flattened for about ten feet around. Tufts of coyote fur here and there. Paw marks, some deep, preceding blood smears where individual coyotes had dragged a hank or rib to suck out the marrow.
Then the sow arrived with her two cubs, drawn by the smell of warm blood and probably the howling of the pack announcing their kill.
Wise coyotes and probably already gorged, they left momma to feed her children.
And now she stared at Trailer, showing no fear.
Animals, he’d learned, never showed him fear. Humans always. Or mostly always. Animals, never.
Long ago he’d been tracking a Pancho Pathfinder Team in the Orinoco. The team was fleeing ahead of him, not even attempting stealth, now knowing only fear, knowing they would die and wanting to prolong their lives by as many seconds as possible.
Trailer, keeping their scents fresh in him, encountered something new, something different, a smell he’d never encountered before.
To the left. A hundred yards or so off the Panchos’ trail.
He investigated.
A jaguar and newborn kits, their eyes not even open, mewling as she licked them clean of natal fluids and nuzzled them to her teats.
She spotted him as she ate the afterbirth.
She snarled, her whiskers flashing forward from her snout, her ears pulled back against her head, challenging him, still panting, exhausted from delivering her kits. And they would die if she didn’t nurse them.
But she would die for them.
“It is dangerous here, Little Mother,” Trailer said. The scent of the Panchos was still strong, although fading as they continued their flight through the jungle. He could still track and sanction his target, preferably while the others watched.
He knelt before the jaguar. “Feed your children, Little Mother. I will stay and keep you safe but then you must go.”
He turned his back to the big cat and listened until all the violence was far, far away. Then he stood and left.
Now the bear stared at him while her cubs dined. “It is dangerous for you here, Mother. You’re too close to civilization to go unnoticed. They will take your cubs from you and kill you.”
He somersaulted into the trees, over the sow and next to her cubs. He picked up one in each arm and took the remains of the carcass in his hands, then continued running the trail, now slowly enough for the bellowing sow to follow him, her nose ever on his scent and her cubs barking their confusion.
Thirty miles in he picked up speed slightly. The sow shrieked her rage as her children left her line of sight.
Then Trailer stopped. He put the carcass and the cubs down.
The sow raged through the trees and reared up, her claws slashing in front of her.
“Mother, your children are safe.”
As if she understood, the sow lowered herself to the ground and licked her cubs, first one then the other then the first again, as if joyful and relieved to discover they were safe, removing the scent of that nasty human from them.
“This will be better for them and you, Mother.”
The cubs nuzzled against her and she led them to the carcass. They ate.
And Trailer was gone.

You may or may not like the above and the point is it does (some of/close to) what my coach wanted while also revealing something about Trailer; he doesn’t kill needlessly. In fact, in both cases he acts to show mercy, something he’d never do with humans.

But

But it just didn’t belong in the story. And I couldn’t find a place where it would belong in the story. It’s interesting (I hope) and revelatory and it slows the story down. The Augmented Man is a fast-paced story. My first readers tell me they lose track of time reading it, they pick it up and can’t put it down. Great! That’s my intention.

But the above caused me some problems. I stopped writing. Trailer and some of the other characters walked away, shaking their heads in disgust or dismay. Even the bear sow stood up, crossed her arms over her chest, tapped her foot impatiently and shook her head at me. Trailer, especially, said, “That’s not relevant. Not here, not now, maybe not ever, not in my story, anyway. Use it in something else.” (and you’ll notice I am)

And I fought him on it.

Idiot moi! I took on an Augmented Man, 654#, 7′ tall.

It weren’t no fun.