An ill-advised post, sharing a discussion I had with the protagonist of my impending book …
Tristan has his back to me and is tossing things into a knapsack that lies open on his bed. We find ourselves at his home, the country estate where his father, Rigel, brought his mother, Cerule, after they returned from Luna.
“So you’ll need to take a snack?” I type.
Tristan turns to me, his pale eyes narrowed into slits. “It takes about two days to get there. So I need to take a few rations. What’s it to you?”
“Just making notes. Do you know that I’ve written two first draft books in your story, a couple hundred thousand words, and not even bothered to discover that it’s two hundred and twenty thousand kilometers to our moon?”
He raises an eyebrow, then steps around the bed to rummage in his closet. He emerges with a crumpled pair of pants, along with one sock. “Welcome to the real world,” he says and stuffs them into his pack. He kneels on the floor to search under the bed for the other sock, so his next question is muffled. “Why are you following me?”
“I’m trying to figure out your story.”
“Since when do you plan out your stories in advance?”
“Since I want to end up with something publishable at the end of it.”
He stands with the sock in his hand. Static holds it in an odd V-shape, and his silver blond hair sticks out in all directions. “Publishable?” He snorts. “Who the heck cares?”
I stop to consider. “Perhaps I put this wrong. I want to have a clearer story when I’m done.”
He snorts again as he tosses the stray sock into the bag and pushes his clothes into a lump in the middle to get the zipper around them. “How do you plan on doing that?”
“I thought Kristen Lamb told you not to do that.” He grabs an apple from the counter and takes an over-sized bite.
“Much as I adore her, she can’t tell me what to do on my own time. That’s just for the blog.”
Still chewing his bite of apple, he nods and sets the fruit down to pull open a large drawer. Piled inside are what look like protein bars and sticks of jerky. He grabs a handful of them and swallows his first bite of the apple, licking his teeth. “Want one?” he says and holds out a stick of jerky.
I grab it gingerly. Post-apocalyptic jerky looks suspiciously similar to the jerky we consume today. “Is this any good?” I ask.
“If you like eating tree bark, sure it is.” He flashes a rare smile. “So, how does this work? You follow me around and ask questions?”
“Something like that. Sometimes you just do stuff on your own while I’m away, and I look in on you. Sometimes I go make scene cards for things that might happen in the story. Sometimes we just hang around the campfire and tell stories about the way things used to be.”
He scratches his temple as he nods, then takes another bite of the apple. “C’mon then,” he says through a mouthful of apple. “I’ll load up the dragon.”
After this little discussion, it came to me that Tristan isn’t afraid to break things because he knows how to fix them. At first I thought that was just an interesting observation about his personality, but after some more thought, I could see that it applied to myself as well. I’m standing on the threshold of finally starting this story, afraid I’m going to screw it up because as story sketches go I have the equivalent of an oval for the face and two circles for eyes. If I screw this up, can I fix it in revision? Dare I proceed?
How do you know when it’s time to start a story? Could beef jerky survive an apocalypse? And what’s with my protagonist grabbing an apple this early in his creation?!Images courtesy of Chris H. and Earl Wilkerson @ stock.xchng