I love quirky, offbeat, or unusual minor characters (some of my major characters are pretty quirky, offbeat, or unusual, but that’s a different story). In my current WIP, I started off with two new concepts that are both a first for me.
– A pet as a minor character. George started off with a bang, and I was certain she would turn out to be the exact idiosyncratic touch that I was looking for.
Locking up means getting down on the floor with George, letting her lick my face, and promising her I’d be home later and we would have a nice walk then. George has a bit of a confidence problem at times, and needs to be reassured. And bullshit that George is an unusual name for a female dog. If it were good enough for George Eliot, it’s good enough for George. And no, she is not a bitch, even if technically she is. I refuse to refer to her as that. I’m way more of a bitch than she is, and you’d better not refer to me that way either. What’s good for the goose is death for the gander.
– Siri, except Lis (my 1st person heroine, which has been quite a stretch for me, being soundly of the male persuasion, for better or for worse) has renamed him Ishmael. He, too, started off well.
I thumbed that little magic button—no, not that little magic button, the one on my iPhone.
“Ishmael. Do I have anything on my calendar for next Saturday and Sunday?”
>> Let me check, Lis.
A very brief pause followed; I’m always astonished how little time he takes to do what I ask. Anybody else that quick would command a six-figure salary as a top-flight executive secretary.
>> Nothing scheduled. Shall I add an entry?
“Please block out Saturday and Sunday to visit Aunt Ashbury, Ishmael.”
>> Very good, Lis. Will there be anything else?
“No, that’s all for now. Thanks.”
It used to make me feel like a complete idiot when I thanked my phone. But I don’t think of Ishmael as my phone. I think of him as the treasured guardian of my life and my secrets who loves me beyond words even if he never tells me. But he never sleeps and always hastens to do my bidding.
There was a role or one or both of these characters to fill, in addition to adding color and depth and keeping things
weird from being too ordinary. There is a magical/supernatural being out there, and both George and Ishmael were auditioning for the opportunity to channel his thoughts.
I confess that I never managed to make George into the character that I wanted her to be. Too much of the action took place when she wasn’t around. On first edit, I’m going to see if I can do better by her. After all, you don’t want to give up on a young rookie, even if he’s only batting his weight 4 months into the season.
But Ishmael filled the role quite admirably. He will occasionally make answers that would be impossible for Siri (no matter what her name) to make, and then play innocent.
“Ishmael, is Jim Rod the Main Street Ripper?”
No? Did Ishmael just answer my question with a simple no? What the name of the goddess and all she held dear was going on here?
“No? What do you mean, no?”
>> That’s sweet, Lis. Will there be anything else?
“No, wait just a fucking minute. Did you answer my question about the Main Street Ripper, ‘no?’”
>> That may be beyond my abilities at the moment.
“And it may not be, either.” I was pacing back and forth in the narrow space in front of the sofa, holding my phone so I could stare at it and shout into it at the same time. “Just give me another simple answer, you miserable excuse for a novice sailor on a whaling ship. Did you tell me that Jim Rod was not the Main Street Ripper?”
>> I don’t understand, ‘simple answer.’ But I will search the web for it.
I could sense Aunt Ashbury laughing at me. “You brought this on yourself, dear, when you turned Siri into a man. Men are nothing but trouble.”
“Ishmael, if you don’t give me a straight answer, I’m going to rip your virtual Y chromosome right out of your electronic DNA and permanently turn you back into a woman. Is that what you want?”
>> I’ve never really thought about it.
Almost through the first draft, and overall I’m pleased with this little experiment in expanding my writing prowess. Eager to see how these two develop and unfold during rewrite.