By Liz Betz
Some fiction pieces are over populated as these three stories illustrate. A writer has to keep the multiple characters in place without sacrificing the story’s plot.
Fight or Flight
The police woman looks at Brooke’s wound, suggests it be cleaned and bandaged but that is all the attention it gets.
Does the owner of the dog care? Don’t press charges, he begs. He promises a stronger pen. Do her parents concern themselves over the dog bite? They are heatedly discussing the cat that jumped on the back of the dog and caused the dog to bite– her father loves it, a purebred Siamese worth every penny of her price, her mother bemoans care of the cat litter. Did the precious cat that caused the fight care? No. It has run off.
A good idea? Brook stops, struck by her thought. Maybe it is a good idea.
Author notes – In my mind the girl is standing in the midst of all of these people, and that’s the image I held in place during the story composition. The girl’s observations are written as question/answer pairs that keep the reader aware of what everyone is doing. The crowd control used here is a single character’s point of view.
I say yes, then I realize my mother-in-law has just sluffed hosting Thanksgiving onto me.
“You can handle it.” my husband says, words he repeats when I ask his input on the guest list and the menu. My cooking confidence doesn’t normally extend past grilled cheese sandwiches.
Then for various reasons, perhaps some of them Freudian, Thanksgiving totally slips my mind until my mother-in-law rings the doorbell, expecting dinner. Oh. No. I’ve ruined everything.
Smiling, she assures me that grilled cheese sandwiches will be perfect. “I’ve never had enough nerve to host a more simple and casual gathering. How wonderful!”
Author notes- The husband and the mother-in-law are not named and essentially role based but also clearly distinguishable which is a solid ploy for handling multiple characters. Despite the crowd of people, the set up and conflict is presented quickly and the climax is reached mid-story – Plus there are only two characters involved in the exchanges and it is ‘I’ and the ‘other.’ FYI- The ending depends on a twist of expectations.
Susan and Alice agree. One of them needs to talk with Rebecca about her boyfriend. Susan will lead, Alice can support her.
An unsuspecting Rebecca pours their coffee and asks, “What’s up? It’s not often you both come over.”
Is this the opening? A slight shake of Susan’s head silences Alice.
“It’s just a coincidence.” Susan answers. “Friends sometimes think alike.”
Alice disregards Susan entirely as she blurts out. “It’s about your boyfriend. You need to know something.”
Rebecca is transfixed while Alice shares the evidence and concerns about the man in question.
Suddenly, Alice notices Susan’s stormy face. “What? We agreed that Rebecca should know.”
Susan’s gives an icy response. “But I would have been subtle. More artful.”
Author notes – The three names are used quite often but each use is designed to keep the reader oriented. It might be only subliminal but the two names with two syllables seem to be grouped while the third character name has three and is the ‘other.’ This crowd control challenge is met by a certain word count sacrifice in setting details, other than the ‘come over’ and ‘pouring coffee’ that suggests the story occurs in Rebecca’s home.
Liz Betz is a retired rancher who loves to write fiction. Her pastime seems to help her days go by, her brain to stay active and sometimes keeps her out of trouble. An overactive imagination is a wonderful thing to harness, but left alone…Her publication credits are many and varied as she explores the fictional world of mostly somewhat older but not necessarily mature characters.