Character Invasions

Susan Kelly Gets Invaded

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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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