In Which I Get All Up In Albert Grey’s Bizness

It is 6:00 in the morning. I’m standing outside Albert Grey’s house–my male MC from PULL. I’ve got a bone to pick with Albert, and this is the only time I can do it. 

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Me: [rings doorbell, shooting dirty looks at the security camera in the corner of the doorframe]

Two full minutes pass. 

I ring the bell again. Finally, the door opens. 

Albert: Oh, you’ve got to be bloody kidding me.

Me: Save it, Grey. We’ve got things to talk about before I take Baby Girl to daycare. Can I come in?

Albert: [rubs a hand across his stubbly cheek] I’m not awake enough to think of a legitimate reason you can’t, so . . . sure.

Me: You have coffee, right?

Albert: Of course. I’m friends with Rosie, remember? And you gave her a raving caffeine addiction, so I have to keep the pot full at all times.

Me: [pushes past him into the house] Yeah, she might have inherited that little detail from me. Anybody else awake?

Albert: No. [closes the door] Just curious, how did you get here? You don’t live in London.

Me: Um, magic. Helloooo. Don’t you know authors can always find their characters, no matter what? And that time and space mean nothing to us?

Albert: ……………….

Me: What?

Albert: Do you actually know you’re crazy, or do you just live in blissful ignorance?

Me: Blissful ignorance. What’s happening with your hair, by the way?

Albert: [runs a hand through his curly black hair, which is sticking up in a series of creative peaks on one side of his head] It’s called “bed head.” It happens when people roll out of bed to let their lunatic author into their house at the crack of dawn.

Me: [narrows eyes] I’m not sure I appreciate your sass.

Albert: You have only yourself to blame for my personality.

Me: So let’s talk about your little conversation with Rosie yesterday. Where did that come from? I had no idea you had such an . . . interesting past.

Albert: Yeah, Rosie was pretty shocked by all that, too. But I think she’s come to terms with it now.

Me: [winks] Yeah, I bet she has.

Albert: Stop it. You’re going to be late for work.

I leave with a smile. Albert has a way of diffusing even the worst of bad moods. 

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Bentley McGrath Suffers An Invasion

Bentley McGrath is a new bloggy friend of mine. After seeing her picture, I thought, “Oh, she looks so beautiful. And not at all like the kind of person who would write about pig carcasses.”

As it turns out, I was only right about the first part.

Please enjoy Bentley’s dark and semi-disturbing (but in a good way!) Character Invasion scene below. And remember to leave her an encouraging comment – these things aren’t easy, folks!

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Sitting, (instantly) watching “Bramwell” on Netflix, I hear a “ssssshhhhh, thud, slosh” outside the picture window of my livingroom. A subtle but distinct odor wafts through the window screen. Eyes appear in a gap between the curtains.

Simon: Boo.

Me: (unsurprised) Simon. I thought I smelled you.

Simon: Oh, yeah. That’s not me. That’s the bag. (more dramatically) The. Bag.

Me: Right. The bag.

Simon: No. The. Bag.

Me: Yeah, Simon, I get it. I gave you the freaking bag, remember?

Simon: Can I come in?

Me: Will you leave the bag outside?

Simon: Ummm… (he looks protectively at the enormous, ballooned black garbage bag on my stoop) The cats won’t get at it?

Me: I think it’ll be okay.

(Simon lets himself in. He stands inside the door, but just.)

Me: Oh, for pity’s sake, Simon… sit down!

(Simon sits in the chair closest the door and eyes my dog with an intense curiosity that makes me more than a little uncomfortable.)

Me: Look. Simon. We have to talk about the bag.

Simon: The. Bag.

Me: Oh, alright… The. Bag.

Simon: What about it?

Me: Look. I don’t know any other way of putting it: The. Bag. Isn’t working. I know you want to take control of your art and I know you are obsessed with the ravages of death… Simon! Are you listening to me?!

(A distant nod.)

Me: Simon. Get your hands off my dog!

Simon: What? Right. Sorry. I was just picturing…

Me: I know what you were picturing, Simon. And you can stop picturing it! If anything happens to Sadie… anything. A cough. A bellyache. A crossed eye. I will find you. Keep to your pig. I can tell by The. Bag. that your pig is plenty ripe.

(He smiles, self-satisfied.)

Me: Anyway… the bag.

Simon: The. Bag.

Me: Oh, for the love of… fine… The. Bag. I know you were going for shock or horror with the whole rotting pig carcass in a bag, but – at most – it is grotesque. At least, it is eccentric. You have to step it up a notch. You have to… well… I guess “commit” is the best word. If you want to cull, engender and cultivate death, then do it. Really really commit to your work.

Simon: Yeah. See… I don’t know if I’m ready for that kind of commitment. I just… it makes me queasy. I love the bones and the rotted flesh and the smell and the flies and maggots, but I just don’t know if… well… if I’m able to commit to the degree that you want me to.

(Simon makes eye contact for the first time since he sat down.)

Simon: I’m kind of okay with grotesque.

Me: Yeah. But I’m not. You’re interesting, I suppose. But you’re not… you’re not…

Simon: What?

Me: Well… you’re not conforming to my image of you. To the Simon I had in my head when we started this journey.

Simon: Nope.

Me: You’re okay with that?! You’re okay with being less than I imagined?

Simon: Who says I’m “less than”? I think I’m pretty dark and mysterious.

Me: But that’s the problem. You’re not.

(Simon shrugs, stands from the chair and makes his way out the front door. Without a word, he takes the neck of the black bag and drags it behind him to the trunk of his orange Honda Element. In his wake he leaves a dribbled trail of what I can only imagine to be the drippings produced by pig putrefaction.)

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Okay, in spite of the pig drippings, I am somehow totally charmed by this guy! He’s so brilliantly weird! Thanks Bentley!

If you’d like to connect with Bentley, you can find her blog here. And if you’ve got a particularly difficult character that needs a good talking-to, go here to read about Character Invasions and how to write them. Then get in touch with me via the Contact page and I’ll tell you how to get your scene posted on this blog!

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Susan Kelly Gets Invaded

Have you entered The Clearing Giveaway Part Deux? No? Well by all means, click here and get your name in the hat!

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Susan Kelly is a new bloggy friend of mine, and I’m so glad to meet her. She’s written a wonderful Character Invasion that I can’t wait for you to read – it’s seriously genius! I dare you to read her intro and stop there. DARE you. It can’t be done. It’s like Pringles; once you get started, there’s no stopping till you’ve finished the can.

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I’ve wanted to meet Ben for a while. I’ve tried to find where he lives.

Guessed a bit – a lot – at his habits and habitations. So now I’ve just asked him to meet me. Why did he choose here? A place so choked with grey fog that I can’t see a single thing, except the damp gravel pathway beneath our feet, the dim halo of light from a streetlight way up there in the fog. Oh, and, yes, there’s the dead woman lying on the path, and Ben’s crouched over her. I can’t tell what he’s thinking. I never have been able to, when it comes to Ben.

Me: Why are we here? I asked you to come, I know, but why here?

Ben (staring at woman): Here’s as good a place as any.

Me: Must you be so . . . obtuse? So, so . . . foggy? You’re my main man, man, except I have to keep demoting you to being a bit player, a straight man for the minor characters’ jokes. You’re supposed to be a wildly exciting computer millionaire guy, and you’re as exciting as some guy in blue coveralls who’s come to clean the furnace ducts. I gave you a Ferrari, for goodness’ sake.

Ben: Have you noticed? There’s a dead woman here.

Me: Don’t change the subject. You have to be exciting enough to attract the attention and devotion of lovely Willow, the red-headed cat burglar. She’s been developing, too. It’s not going to be that easy to get her away from Sandy now, cause it turns out he’s got an attractive venal streak.

Ben (stands up and glares): You never pay attention to what’s important. There’s a dead woman here!

Me: How can there be a dead woman? Who is it?

Ben: It’s you.

Me: Not likely. I’m standing right here.

Ben: Listen, you. This is who I am!

(His face ripples, changes, becomes lean. His hair is long and silky and black, and he’s pretty tall and thin, but with the kind of charged muscularity that looks like caged lightning).

Me: Oh, my gosh. You’re that?

He looks at me with eyes as dark as some adamant gem mined from the foundations of hell itself by virgin ninja angels.

Ben: You want me, MAKE ME WHO I AM! I am not your toy, to be set playfully here and there, the obligatory teddy bear groom at your dolls’ wedding tea party.

Me: You’re a systems guy, looking for the patterns in it all. Ruthless in what you want. Oh, wait . . . maybe I see. That thing I learned, about how all characters are light and dark, all heroes are villains and all villains are heroes . . . I haven’t allowed you that. I have made you a teddy bear. Still not sure what you want?

Ben: I want life. I want music, I want the ultimate elegant hack, always. I want beauty with a capital B, in women and weather and cars and horses and code.  Give me that and I’m your man.

Me: Ok, so I’ll give you the gift of musicality, a guitar, perhaps, and a love of blues and Cajun music made up of the darkness of human nature and the light of redemption. Oh, to think I made you be part of a bottle choir!

Ben: Hey, the bottle choir is kind of fun. But it wasn’t my idea. Maybe Vincent’s.

Me: How can you be a guy who goes to work every day when you’re caged lightning?

Ben: I can be intense at work.

Me: Which looks like . . . ? I think I hoped the possibility of becoming rich would make you intense.

Ben: Nah. I’m not about money. What you make me do in Yellowstone, that’s good and intense.

Me: But your workplace at Urbax isn’t Yellowstone. It’s not elemental fire-and-ice-with-grizzly bears at your work.

Ben: That is so not the only kind of intensity. Wake up.

Me: It’s the only kind that makes any sense.

Ben: Is that true, sweetheart?

Me: No, not exactly. Murder, that’s intense. Fear of all kinds: fear of falling, of drowning, suffocating, of cats, of clowns, of the color green. Are you afraid of any of those things? Sharp edges, like knives and swords? Fear of dreams? Maybe you’ve had some lucid dreams – you learned about that from Carolyn – and you turned out to be good at it, but they scare the mess out of you.

Me: You’re awfully quiet. Drugs. Drug addiction is intense. That’d be tough, being a drug addict in a post-apocalyptic world. Plus, if you were a drug addict, I’d get over this idea that you’re a sparkling flawless hero. Or maybe you could be addicted to computer gaming, or gambling.

Ben: I’m hungry. Have you got a sandwich anywhere?

Me: Hey, maybe you’re addicted to food! You weigh 300 pounds, and you’ll get skinny in Yellowstone! Hmmmmmmm. I could like this. 300 pounds of caged lightning. Sounds like built-in conflict to me. You’re Meatloaf with a keyboard, not Jeff Goldblum. Yeah, and then you’d actually like the computer gaming, which you ought to, since you’re a game programmer.

Me: Where’d that dead woman go?

Ben: She was never there, really.

Me: Can we lose the fog?

Ben (grins): Are you ready for that?

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