clues at the scene

clues at the scene

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Call in the Night

At left, the sort of fellow outside my window calling in the night.

I'm thinking today of how things start. I'm thinking of the initiator - the instigator.

My life is filled with things starting immediately after the ringing of a telephone. It isn't good news. That telephone rings, something has gone completely to shit somewhere.

I suspect that our current world is trending that way. Social media and texting suffices for most of the informal conveyance of good news. It's a boy! I got the job! Kirsten was accepted!

Bad news is delivered in a more personal means. The worst? "Doctor wants to see you."

Doctor never wants to see you to say "awesome work-up. You're healthy as a bull moose!"

It doesn't work as well on the page, does it? 

The whole telephone ringing in the middle of the night, the fumbling on the nightstand, now the ubiquitous "who is that?" glance. There's too much delay without the advantage of heightened tension.

I like to begin these sorts of scenes after the phone call.

I hate having a lone character. I try and always put someone with them so there is a reason to talk. Sure, there's the conversation with the dog or the internal dialogue. Confession: I hate internal dialogue of more then five words. Hate it. I've stopped reading novels for it.

If a writer cannot contrive to set some rational being for the character to speak to so that we know their thoughts and the emotional relevance of their feelings, then I've no time for them. I want to see the story - not have the bloody thing told to me.

So, reaction tot eh news is important to the reader. I think it is more important than the news itself because we experience a story through the character. Telling you "the goose died" in text and having Aunt Sally find out and go on a homicidal tear of giblet revenge is entirely different.

The point is, I'm not sure the call is the thing. I'm trying to write out such scenes and have some other more nuanced revelation of facts. We learn there was a body in the creek not from a one-sided telephone conversation with Sheriff Bill.

We learn it when Bill has to walk across the road and have his neighbor Harry (old bachelor farmer) give him a jump at 7:30 on a Sunday morning.

"What are you up to this early on a Sunday?" Harry stood inside the kitchen filling the door. The steep steps Bill stood on put Harry two feet above eye-level.
 "I know you're up, Harry. The light's been on for a good hour."
"Two," Harry said. " I'm no bag of bones to be lying in the bed."
"Well, I could use a little more of it." 
"Which is exactly my question."  
Harry crossed his arms behind the bib of his overalls scrubbed within an inch of their color. Bill noticed Harry was shaved, too. He frowned, more. 
"Piece of shit again." Bill gestured with a thumb sideways. 
Harry waited. He had his price and like Satan himself, it had to be paid. 
"Somebody in the creek. Dead." 
 "I didna' think that he'd be swimming in this frost." 
"It isn't a 'he', Harry." Bill looked across the road towards the dead Bronco. "Can you hurry?" 
"The body'll still be there,"  Harry said already starting down the steps. He smelled of soap, bacon, and coffee as he passed close.  
Bill swore and wished he'd put socks on before slipping on his boots.

No comments: