Avalon Season 1.4: Tiamut

            “Those men that we killed.”  Alexis shook her head and folded her hands as she walked.  Saphira noted the stress and turned to walk backwards so she could address everyone.

            “Those weren’t men.  The last vestige of independent thought was long gone or else they would have turned around and fled the minute they saw they were way outgunned.”  Boston and Lincoln both looked at her, Boston with eyebrows raised and Lincoln with eyebrows knitted.  Both knew their bullets had taken down some of the attackers.  “Tiamut can do that,” Saphira finished and saw both faces relax ever so slightly.

            “You are a hard woman,” Alexis said and Saphira just gave her a sideways glance without denying it.  “I get the impression you don’t like people very much.”

            “It has been a hard life,” Saphira admitted and then she held her tongue for a second as they stepped out from the forest and on to the grasslands.  “To be honest, my last two lives were male and three out of the last four.  And Iris did not live very long so she hardly counts.”

            “She counts.”

            Saphira frowned.  “The truth is I don’t think I know how to be soft.  The Baldies killed my family.  I married, but they killed my husband, too.  I have had to support myself and my children by selling my services.”  She flashed a brief grin.  “That’s not always so bad.”

            “As a warrior?  Huntress, I mean.”

            “No.  As a woman.”

            Alexis looked up at her with an expression that clearly said “I don’t understand.”  So Saphira stopped and turned to face everyone.  Half were already listening in so she figured, what the heck.  “I’m a hooker.  I’m a whore.  I make my living inviting men to spend the night.  Okay?”  She lowered her voice as she turned and started walking again.  “It was either that or marry a Sodomite.”

            “Sodomite?”  Alexis asked.  Saphira did not answer right away.  She looked behind and saw that Boston and Katie Harper had moved up close while the men kept their distance and pretended they had not heard.  She shook her head and then she spoke.

            “Sure.  With most of the men in the settlement killed off, Tiamut encouraged others to take advantage of that.  There are Jokantites, Amelikites, Hamerites, but mostly Sodomites.”

            “You live in Sodom?”  Boston asked.

            “Not this early,” Saphira answered.  “But I have no doubt it will be called that one day.”

            They walked in silence for another hour before Captain Decker reported smoke in the distance.  By then the sun was starting to set and they thought to camp in the wilderness.  Mingus and Roland picked out a spot behind a secluded hill and they set up their tents and invited Saphira to sleep with Katie and Boston.

            “No need to cramp people,” Lincoln spoke up.  “It is plenty warm out here.  You can stay in the tent with Alexis and I’ll stay by the fire.  I am not sure after last night I will get much sleep, anyway.”   Saphira looked at Alexis who was looking at her, but neither spoke at that point.  In the end, most of them slept out under the stars.

            Alexis did not sleep well at first.  Lincoln had turned his back on her and she could not get comfortable.  She did not mind at all when Saphira spoke.

            “Still thinking about those men?”  Alexis shook her head.  “Lincoln?”  Saphira tried again and saw a few tears fall.  “You know he loves you, right?”

            “I’m not so sure anymore.”

            “Please!”  Saphira scoffed.  “I like to think I know something about love, given my profession.”  Saphira shifted to her stomach and propped up her head to face the woman.  “No, actually it is probably because of the time I spent with Astarte.”

            “The goddess?”  Lieutenant Harper sat straight up.  She was not asleep either.  Saphira nodded and the Lieutenant had to ask, “What’s she like?”

            “Oh, very good,” Saphira said.  “As good as Tiamut isn’t.”

            “Tiamut?”  Boston opened her eyes as well.  Saphira placed a hand over Boston’s mouth.

            “Hush.  It isn’t good to talk about them.  You never know when they might be listening in.”  But then Alexis started to cry and the women did their best to reassure her.  Not much helped.  Alexis wanted to cry and was not in the mood to be reassured just yet.  Saphira really finished the conversation with, “Maybe all he needs is a little time.  He is a good man.  My husband was a good man and I lost him all too soon.  You hang on to Lincoln.  There aren’t many good men out there.”

            With that, Lincoln rolled over to his back.  Alexis took hold of him like a child might hold a teddy bear.  She curled up and snuggled into his shoulder.  Of course he began to snore, but that only made Alexis smile.  She was soon asleep.  Boston was already asleep and Katie was not far behind.  Saphira sighed and wondered if she should count sheep.

            In the small hours of the night, while Mingus was on guard at one end of the camp and Lockhart was at the other end, Saphira walked up to Lockhart and plopped down on the grass.

            “Can’t sleep?”

            Saphira shook her head.  “I need some hot sex to sleep well.”

            “I don’t think that would be a good idea.”

            “I wasn’t suggesting –“ Saphira looked up at Lockhart.  “Not seriously anyway.”

            “So what then?”

            Saphira shrugged.  “Alexis and Lincoln are having problems.”

            “I noticed.”

            “I just spent the last hour with Alexis.  They love each other so much, but being young again is proving a hard adjustment.”  Saphira stopped speaking and Lockhart simply nodded.  They watched the stars for a while before Lockhart spoke again.

            “So what do you think we will find tomorrow?”

            Saphira shrugged.  “Hopefully, people who have fixed their problem and left in the night.  If not, maybe some stick people.  I ran into them years earlier.”  She shrugged again.

            “Stick people?”

            Saphira stood and shrugged a third time.  “I better go before my suggestions become serious.”  She walked back to the fire both aware and pleased that his eyes followed her the whole way.  She had to lie down and stare into space to settle her thoughts.  “Gods, I want to go there,” she said to herself before she closed her eyes.  She was speaking of the stars.

Avalon Season 1.4: Predator or Prey

After 4400 BC between the Red Lands and the Dead Sea.  Kairos: Saphira the Huntress

Recording…

            The travelers walked in silence in the early hours.  This was rugged but tree filled country of the sort Mingus said was bokarus friendly.  Alexis could not worry about that.  She tried to draw close to Lincoln several times while they walked, but he turned away from her.  He was pleasant, but not the husband she knew and needed. 

            It was ten when Lieutenant Harper pointed to the sky.  Something was spewing smoke and moving rapidly overhead.  They all saw it, and after a breath they all heard it as well.  It was not too low in the sky to vanish quickly, but it was low enough to see it was a ship of some kind and not a natural phenomenon.

            “Man made?”  Captain Decker asked.

            “No.  No way.”  Lincoln, Boston and Alexis all responded together.  They had some experience with such things.

            “Not in this day and age,” Lieutenant Harper added.  She looked at the Captain and wondered if the man would ever admit the truth.  He still occasionally tinkered with the transmitter as if the area 51 receivers were just around the corner.

            Lockhart looked torn for a minute.  This was the province of his Men in Black, only not this time, he decided.  “Not our concern,” he said.  “Keep walking.”

            An hour later, they heard the distant howl of the bokarus behind them.  They knew they were not forgotten.  And scant minutes after that, Boston pulled up short and let out a little shriek.

            Their way was blocked by a person in leather armor  That person had the expected stone-tipped spear, but along with the armor the person also had the first bow and arrows they had seen.  Most surprising, the knife on the hip was copper, not simply stone.

            “You’re going the wrong way.”  The warrior spoke, and at once they knew this was a woman.  She took off her leather helmet and shook out her long dark brown hair that carried hints of gray and she stared at them through dark brown eyes.  “The action is all that way.”  She pointed behind them and off to their right.  Most looked, of course, but there was nothing to see among the trees.

            “Lower you guns,” Lockhart decided, though even Captain Decker’s gun was already lowered.  “We don’t appear to be on the hit list.”

            “You are a warrior?”  Alexis asked.

            “A huntress,” the woman answered and motioned them to follow.

            Doctor Procter pointed in the direction from which the huntress came.  The travelers were inclined to continue their journey before Boston had a thought.

            “Saphira?”  She asked.

            “Yes, Boston,” Saphira answered, and the travelers turned to follow in her wake.

            They moved silently while Boston moved up front for a change.  She had another question.  “What are we hunting?”

            “Baldies.”

            “What kind of animals are they?  Are they in the database?  I never heard of them.”

            “Shh!”  Saphira responded with a grin and pointed at Captain Decker.  It took a minute for Boston to figure out Saphira meant men.

            When the group stopped, Saphira signaled for everyone to get down as she stuffed her hair back into her helmet.  “Listen close,” she said.  “The men across the clearing are no longer human.  They are mindless robots designed for one purpose: to kill.  The last bit of humanity was taken from them a long time ago, so don’t worry, whatever you do.”

            “Some disease?”  Alexis asked

            “Like mad cow?  No.  Worse.”  By then Saphira was ready.  Without further explanation she stepped to the edge of the clearing in the woods. 

            Captain Decker got out his binoculars and pointed across the clearing.  “Baldies straight ahead.”  He caught the reference.

            “Spread out,” Lockhart responded.  “Prepare for a firefight.”

            Lincoln and Boston got out their pistols.  Captain Decker and Lieutenant Harper took the flanks with their superior firepower.  Lockhart pulled his pistol and imagined the shotgun would be back-up in case they got close.  He stayed in the center of the group where Alexis pulled her wood and bone wands and considered them.  The bone was dry and workable, but still crude.  The wood was aging fast.  She was a bit surprised when her father reached over and took the wooden one.  Her father rarely used a wand and never carried one.  Mingus then nudged Doctor Procter and he got out his wand as well, but he looked like he was not going to use it.  Roland, of course, had his bow.

            Saphira spoke loud so her words would carry to the other end of the field.  “Here I am.  Your three friends are dead.  You could be next.”  It did not take much coaxing.  Apparently they were waiting for her and thought they had her in a trap.  Twenty bald headed, wild eyed men, naked and sweating broke from the trees.  If they had any self-will at all, the baldies might have wondered why their prey did not run away.  Instead, Saphira fell to the ground and laid out as flat as she could to get out of the way.

            No one needed to say fire.  The guns blared from cover until the people came out from behind their trees and bushes.  Roland got an arrow in one of the last and Lockhart swung around his shotgun for the very last.  That one fell ten feet from Saphira who spun around, propped herself up on her elbows.

            “Thank you,” she said.

            No one else felt like speaking.  Twenty men lay dead on the field.  Alexis put her wand away.  She had not used it.  She felt like crying, but instead she gave Lockhart a long, hard, accusing look for cursing them with this eventuality.

            Even as Saphira stood and brushed herself off, a very tall and lean woman appeared on the field in the midst of the dead.  She appeared out of thin air so the travelers knew she was a goddess.  And she did not look happy.

            “Tiamut.”  Saphira named the goddess who looked briefly at Saphira before she finished her examination of the bodies.  Some of the men were only wounded, but they were made useless for the goddess’ purposes.

            “I see you found some friends.”  Tiamut finally spoke.  It was a chilling voice.  “Friends from the future.  A future that feels wrong to me.”  She stretched out her hand and Lockhart’s shotgun appeared in the goddess’ hands.  “Some interesting accessories, though.”  The goddess lifted the gun to her shoulder and pointed it at Saphira.  Saphira flinched before the goddess pointed down and shot the head off one of the wounded men.

            “I had in mind to send these men back to your settlement,” Tiamut said.  “Now that will not be.”  She shrugged and tossed away the shotgun like it hardly mattered.  The gun thumped against the earth.  “I must think on this future and these guns and such things.  There may be something workable there after all.”  She smiled and added a last thought before she vanished.  “You have a traitor among you.”  Everyone breathed when the goddess was gone, but they looked carefully at each other while Lockhart retrieved the shotgun and checked it to be sure it was not damaged.

            “Tiamut.”  Boston spoke before she reached for her database.  Saphira nodded so Boston finished her question.  “Goddess of what?”

            “Chaos,”  Saphira answered.  “Not a good enemy.  These men were hers.  And for the record, she might claim there is a traitor even if there isn’t, just to get you suspecting and not trusting each other.”

            “But I thought Marduk or Assur or someone like that killed Tiamut.”  Lieutenant Harper spoke up.

            “Shh!”  Saphira turned on the Lieutenant and her words were sharp.  “They haven’t been born yet.  You need to watch what you say as much as what you do.”  Lieutenant Harper looked appropriately humbled and was grateful when Lockhart stepped up and changed the subject.

            “So we saw a ship of some kind fly overhead a few hours ago.  It looked to be in distress.”

            Saphira nodded to indicate she saw it too and she turned to lead the way.

Avalon Season 1.3: Daylight.

            Doctor Procter reached out with his hand.  His feet would not move, but the darkness began to move from his hand on its own accord.  Doctor Procter knew it would not leave him, but the darkness would gladly absorb another if given the chance.  He looked at his own arm.  The darkness had swallowed his hand and climbed all the way passed his elbow to disappear beneath his sleeve.  Doctor Procter did not want to look closer.

            The bogy man’s eyes appeared in the dark.  They were wide and full of a fear far greater than even the fear it instilled in some humans that drove those humans insane.  It might have escaped if it returned to its insubstantial, spiritual nature, but for a moment it was frozen by its fear.  That was all the time Lockhart needed. 

            The shotgun blast hit the bogy dead center, and the marines were not far behind.  They each shot several bullets into the figure.  The man in the dark collapsed while Doctor Procter quickly stuffed his hand back into his glove.  Roland shook himself awake at that point and with hardly a thought he pulled his sword and chopped the bogy head off.  Curiously, there was no blood.  There was just the stump of a neck where the head had once been.  The head rolled into the rocks.  Roland began to hack the limbs apart and Mingus joined him in tossing those limbs out into the bushes below as far apart from each other as possible.

            “A bogy can heal and reconstitute,” Mingus said.  Lockhart and Captain Decker stepped up to help but Mingus waved them off.  “Don’t touch.  Bogys are powerful spirits.  Being spiritual creatures ourselves offers us some protection.  For you humans, though.  I’m afraid even a touch might give you nightmares for the rest of your lives.”  Given the nightmares already experienced that night, Lockhart and Decker needed no more inducement to back away.

            After the deed was done, Mingus and Roland washed themselves with water and dirt in a ritual washing.  Then they sat down and while Mingus built up the fire, the others gathered around.  It was no surprise that no one felt like sleeping.

            “You see,” Mingus continued his thought.  “The bogy man is now broken to pieces and scattered more than far enough away to prevent a rebuilding of the body before sunrise.  Once the sun is up, the light will burn away the body remains.  Otherwise, if the bogy rebuilt itself, we would have to fight this battle all over again tomorrow.”

            “I see,” Lieutenant Harper said, and once that was said, no one felt like talking for a long time.  Boston was in tears or sniffling most of that time, and she would not let anyone hold her to comfort her.  She did not want anyone to touch her.  Captain Decker and Lieutenant Harper simply looked at each other and looked away again and again.  Lockhart was lost in his own thoughts, and while Lincoln and Alexis sat beside each other, they did not touch or comfort each other or even hold hands as was their norm.  Only doctor Procter seemed unconcerned with it all, and he began to snore.

            When the sun started to rise, the words finally came.  It is remarkable how a little sunlight and talking about it can make the shadows of the worst nightmares fade, and these were the worst.  They were the kind that clung to the mind even after one was awake.  Still, it was not long before everyone felt better and even Boston cracked a smile.  Then they heard the scream, the kind some call blood curdling. 

            It took a minute to find the head of the bogy.  It was trapped between two rocks on the edge of the ledge and the sun was on it.  It was steaming and screaming and the eyes were open and looking around.  Fortunately, it did not last long as it caught on fire and soon became little more than steam, ash and dust that was blown away on the wind.

            Alexis covered her eyes.  She did not want to look.  Boston got right up to the edge and stared straight into that face until the end.  Then Alexis spoke.

            “We have to find a better way of dealing with these things other than shooting them full of holes.”

            “You realize, now that you said that, in the next time zone we will probably need the guns more than ever,” Lockhart teased.  

            Alexis wrinkled her nose in disapproval of Lockhart’s words.  She looked at Lincoln, but he was busy getting their things together.  She felt a brief stab in her heart as she remembered the nightmare once more.  Things were not right between them, yet.

Avalon Season 1.3: Nightmares

            The cave was easy to find, though not as big as Ranear described.  Still, it would do for the night even if it would be tight quarters.  Boston and Katie set up on one side.  Lockhart and Captain Decker took the other.  The rest laid out somewhere in the middle when they were not on watch.

            The fire was just outside the cave, but it was positioned so it was hard to see from down below.  A man might walk right beneath their position and never know anyone was up there.  Because of this, Captain Decker called it a good defensive position.

            “But do we need to worry about that?” Alexis asked.  “There is no evidence of ghouls and we haven’t seen the bokarus since Iris.”  She was trying to shrug off the bad feelings they had all day.

            “No telling what is out there,” Lockhart said.  He looked up at the night sky and wondered.  His Men in black were practiced at dealing with alien threats.  They were not designed to fight nightmares.  “Lincoln and Alexis first watch.”

            “Wouldn’t one person be enough?”  Lincoln wondered.

            “I want two to watch and keep each other awake,” Lockhart responded.  “Decker and I will take second watch.  Mingus, would you mind third watch with your son?”  Mingus did not mind.  “Boston and Katie in the morning.  Get some sleep.”

###

            In the wee hours of the morning, Lockhart woke up in the nursing home, still sitting in his wheelchair.  The nurses had not even bothered putting him to bed.  He wiped the bit of drool that fell from his mouth and looked out the window at the night sky.  It looked the same as it looked in his dream.  He let out one small laugh before he felt like crying.  Being young again and adventuring in Avalon was a nice dream, but only a dream.

            Lockhart tried to push himself closer to the window, but his old arms were too spindly and frail.  He did cry a little because he was so alone.  He was in Virginia and his children were all in Michigan.  They never came to see him in any case.  His ex-wife saw to that.  She was in a retirement community in Florida spending the last of his money.  Even the people from the office never came by, not even Boston.  He was alone.  He wanted to die.

###

            “I didn’t ask to be young again,” Lincoln yelled and did that annoying thing of raising his hands like he was oh, so innocent..  “I was happy like we were.”

            “I wasn’t,” Alexis responded with that inevitable curl of her lip.

            “Okay.  I got that impression.  But I was comfortable.”

            “God knows I wouldn’t want to shake you out of your comfort zone.”

            “Alexis.”  Lincoln reached out but Alexis pulled away.

            “Don’t touch me,” she said.  “Right now I hate you.”  She never pulled her punches and never said she was sorry.

            “I despise you.”  He always had to one-up her.

###

            Boston closed the door to the conference room.  She was in the heart of the building and there was no way out for her.  The alien virus had gotten loose.  It affected the minds of every male on duty and Boston was scared senseless.  She was afraid they would find her.  She heard the door.

            “Boston.”  The call was sweet and sickly.

            Boston scooted under the table and heard the men come in.  They were all men she knew, young and old.

            “Boston.

            She tried to make herself small.

            “Here.”  One of the young ones was behind her and leaned over to look under the table.  She was caught.  She tried to run, but they stopped her.  They tore her clothes off.  She was going to be gang raped.  The infected men were laughing about it, but she was screaming.

###

            Captain Decker was tied with his hands behind his back.  His ankles were tied together and he was suspended upside-down from one of the towers of the Brooklyn Bridge.  Lieutenant Harper was slowly cutting the man’s rope.

            “What are you doing?”  The panic was in Decker’s voice.  He was not the best with heights, though he went through parachute training when he qualified as a Marine Ranger.

            “I can’t help it,” Harper called down to him.  “I have no control over my hands.”  Her voice sounded more fearful.  She saw him suspended from the edge of a cliff.  Every time she cut a strand, he dropped a little.  She was going to murder the man and she couldn’t stop herself.  “Help me, please.”  She cried out, but she had no control.  Everything was out of her control except her tears.

            Decker screamed at her.  “Let me up.  I’m going to kill you.  Let me up.”  He looked down and had to hold onto his stomach and his bladder.

###

            Doctor Procter came awake, but he was groggy.  Something tugged at his mind, and for a change it was not the darkness.  He imagined all sorts of frightening scenarios, but they all paled when compared to the darkness so they could find no foothold in his dreams.  He squinted.

            Mingus and his son were sitting side by side, staring off into the wilderness.  Doctor Procter could not tell from his angle, but he guessed they were frozen in place seeing nothing.  There was a figure beside them.  It was human shaped, but the Doctor guessed it was not human because it was dark from head to foot despite standing squarely in the firelight.

            There were noises behind.  Doctor Procter sat up a little and turned his head to look.  The humans were wailing, crying, shouting nonsense at each other and appeared to be in pain.  He checked.  He did not care about that.  He did not hate the humans, but somehow he could not bring himself to care about them either.  It was the darkness, he knew.  Soon it would overtake him completely.

            He turned again to observe the person hiding in the night.  He guessed it was the bogy man.  He heard they hid in closets and under beds to work their terrible work.  They hid because they had to be solid to work and feed on the fear.  That, of course, made them vulnerable, but as long as the sleepers remained unaware of their presence, they could feast. 

            Doctor Procter thought about that.  He was no stranger to fear, but he never felt attracted to it before.  He used to fear things like bogys.  Now, he felt he understood a little.  Fear, hate and anguish were very powerful emotions and very nourishing in a way.  “No.”  He whispered that out loud through cracked lips and with a gravelly voice.  The bogy ignored him.  Things were coming to a head.

            Doctor Procter turned his head again to watch.  He saw Captain Decker and Lieutenant Harper grab their rifles.  Lockhart also grabbed his shotgun.  Boston screamed, “Kill me, kill me!”  Lincoln and Alexis had each other by the throat.  The humans were all going to kill each other, and something of the Doctor rose up.

            “No!”  The Doctor shouted.  He tore off his glove and extended his blackened hand out toward the bogy.  The bogy lost all concentration and a sound of fear escaped its own lips.

Storyteller Wednesday: Character Creation.

Bwa-ha-ha.  It can be a bit like being a god, but not really.  I invariably say oops!  And I have even been known to apologize to characters when I try to force them into a box they do not want to go.

Some writers start with characters.  I don’t.  I tried that.  I have a drawer full of fascinating character sketches… and nowhere to put them.  All characters, some say, have their own story to tell.  That may be true.  I figure I may be deaf or all of these fascinating people I have found have dull stories. 

I need to start with the story.  I need a germ of a plot, some notion where I want to head (if not a glimpse of the possible end) and an interesting place and time for the story to get off the ground.  Then the characters evolve.  The people who find themselves in the midst of all those trials and tribulations work hard.  They grow as the story progresses.  They change and are changed in subtle ways as they work through situations and “live” the story.  Sometimes even the end evolves as my characters take me to places I never imagined in the beginning.

I think that is what we want.

But that is just me.  You may work wonderfully well starting with a fascinating person.  Then again, you may get frustrated, find your writing likes to ramble, find yourself tearing out huge sections and whole chapters which sounded great when you wrote them but now don’t appear to help the story move where it might be heading, maybe.  You may be frustrated that your characters are not cooperating and it makes you want to chuck the whole thing on the ever growing pile of unfinished works.

If starting with a great character works for you, great. 

But, if you are more of the latter, try starting first with the story and see who fits.  Isn’t that better than you having the fits?

Just a thought.

Avalon Season 1.3: The Ophir

            The Ophir were camped in a secluded spot on the ridge across a wilderness valley where a running stream greened the fields.  The camp location was obviously chosen to minimize the presence of people and make the valley inviting to the wildlife.  The hunting would be good for some time, and there would be plenty to gather in that fertile place as well.  Eventually, the animals would grow wise and wary and the fertility of the place would run dry.  The stream itself might dry up in another season, but that would not be for a while.

              Boston picked a yellow flower by the stream.  She went to show Lockhart, but he hushed her.  He was being careful after the ambush.

            “Here!” Roland called and Lockhart breathed.  He was glad Captain Decker did not flush them out with a bullet.  “Just one man.  Probably a hunter.”

            “Where?”  Roland pointed and after a moment they saw the man climbing the far ridge with all speed.  Boston paused when she saw something else.  It looked like a medieval knight up on that ridge and it appeared to be staring down at them.  Boston turned to say something but her heart said that could not be right.  When she turned back to double check before speaking, the knight was gone.  She held her tongue.

            “I hope the natives are friendly.”  Lockhart shrugged and stole another glance behind them.  He was more concerned about what might be following them than what might be up ahead. 

            Lincoln and Alexis came up from downstream while Mingus and Lieutenant Harper reported from upstream.

            “All clear, Robert.”  Lieutenant Harper said.

            “Thank you, Katie,” Lockhart responded and he lead the team up the ridge.  There was a reception committee of elders by the time they arrived.  Curiously, the one young man in the group broke ranks and stepped down to them.

            “Boston.  Lockhart.  Good to see you all.”

            “Ranear?” Boston tested and the young man nodded.  “But didn’t you know we were coming?”  Ranear shook his head.

            “But Pan knew.”  Lieutenant Harper remembered.  She was trying to understand.

            Ranear shook his head again.  “A little Bluebell told him.  That fee used to get around.”

            “So what is the trouble?”  Lincoln asked as he got out his notebook.  He assumed they would land in the midst of some difficult situation.

            “None, I hope.  We set off tomorrow.”  Ranear turned to the patient elders.  “These are friends.  Do not be afraid.”

            “Angel said that,” Alexis reminded everyone.

            “It does come in handy,” Ranear whispered as one of the elderly men turned and addressed the others.

            “If the shaman speaks on behalf of these people, we will welcome them.  Make preparations.”  The men wandered off and the travelers came into the village.

            “Uzen.  He is the high chief.”  Ranear introduced the old man just before a young woman tackled him.  Ranear landed on his back and she landed on top of him.  She kissed him, heartily and then scolded him. 

            “Don’t I get to meet your friends?”

            “My wife, Azilla.”  Ranear introduced the young woman and then he introduced his friends. 

            Azilla looked at Lieutenant Harper.  “You are very white, with yellow hair.  And Boston, you are even whiter and you have freckles.”  Ranear, Azilla and their people were dark Mediterranean.  “And Captian Decker, you look like a Hivite, but you are not.  The Hivites don’t wear fairy weave.  I don’t know how I know that.  And Mingus, you are an elf.  I know that too, somehow.  You are an elder elf.”

            “Yes, Mam.”  Mingus had his hat in his hand.

            “Hello, Roland the elf.  You are Mingus’ son.  I don’t know how I know that, either.  And you,” she turned to Doctor Procter and paused as if studying the man.  “You have more beard than face, and you wear covers over your hands.  Are you in there?”

            “Yes.  They are gloves” Doctor Procter raised his hands and spoke softly.  “I am trying to protect myself as well as I can.  This old body of mine bruises very easily.”  That was what he told the others.

            “But you are an odd one.”  Azilla wrinkled her nose.  Ranear thought it was very becoming.  He tapped Azilla on the shoulder.

            “He is half human,” Boston said.

            “Half human, half elf,” Azilla said and her face brightened.  She tried to ignore Ranear so he had to cough for her attention.

            She looked at him sprawled out beneath her.  “How can I know these things?”

            “You are my beloved wife,” Ranear answered.  “Now, can I get up?”

            Azilla smiled.  “But I was just getting comfortable,” She said and shifted her position a little to lay more squarely on his chest.  He rolled her over with a kiss.

            One of the old men who had returned, sighed.  “My son.”

            “And they have been like this for two whole seasons,” a second man said.

            “Two whole seasons,” the third man echoed with a click of his tongue.

            “Come,” Ranear’s father spoke to the group.  “A place has been made for you near the circle.”

            The circle was the middle of the tent village where they would have neighbors on either side.  There was room for the travelers to pitch their tents near the wood they were piling in the center.  They would make a bonfire and have a feast after their fashion.  Lieutenant Harper was very interested in the proceedings since she had never been to a late Neolithic feast before.  Lincoln had his notebook out.  Everyone was ready when Mingus made his offer.

            “Would my Lord like me to start the fire?”

            Ranear looked at the elder elf and smiled.  “No thank you, Lord Mingus.  Tomorrow we are going north to form a treaty with the Hivites.” 

            “The Hivites we came across did not seem very interested in peace,” Lockhart said with only a brief touch of his thigh.

            “We will make sacrifices for peace between us.  As shaman, I will have to participate in the ceremony.  I have been practicing to get ready.”

            “My husband is very powerful,” Azilla said.  She looked at Alexis.

            “My husband is good at other things,” Alexis smiled.

            “Alexis is the witch in our family,” Lincoln said, but he was busy writing in his journal so not really paying attention.

            “Really?”  Azilla’s eyes were wide with curiosity, but Ranear interrupted her question.

            “Watch.”  Ranear stretched his hands toward the fire and it was very different.  With Mingus, it was like magic.  He mumbled and sprinkled some dust on the logs and the fire appeared to rise up to meet the falling dust.  For Ranear, the fire came from his hands and reached the final distance to touch and catch the wood.  Ranear tired far more than Mingus from the effort, besides.  It was like the fire was in him in some way, like it was inside the bogy beast.  Now that it was depleted, it would need to be recharged.

            “That was very well done,” Mingus praised him.

            “That was the easy part,” Ranear responded.  “Poor Azilla now has to cook something edible.”

            “Not me alone.  Would you like to help?”  She asked Alexis no doubt wanting to hear all about her magic.  Alexis nodded, and Boston spoke up.

            “I can help.”  With a look at Captain Decker and then Lockhart, Katie Harper went with them as well.

            That night, the travelers were restless.  No one slept well except maybe Doctor Procter.  Whatever it was, it was still out there.  Fortunately, it seemed reluctant to get too close to the village.  But it was waiting.  That was how Boston described the feeling.

            In the morning, Ranear and his troop were ready to head north almost as quickly as the travelers who only had to tell their tents to compress and stick them in their backpacks.

            “You are headed to the south,” Ranear spoke and Doctor Procter nodded.  “Of course, I can’t be certain, but I suspect you will find the gate somewhere near the mountain.  If that is the case, you should find where we often camp there.  If you do, climb the mountain a bit.  There is a path, and you will find a cave.  It is good for keeping out of the rain and sun and should be big enough to shelter you all for the night.”

            “Ranear and I spent our wedding night there,” Azilla said with the sound of fond memories in her voice.

            “Good luck to you in your mission,” Lockhart responded.

            “Mountain?”  Boston asked.

            “Sinai.”  Ranear and Mingus spoke together.

            “Mount Sinai.”  Lieutenant Harper whistled and watched Lincoln write in his notebook.

Avalon 1.3: The Way of Dreams

After 4447BC in the Sinai Peninsula.  Kairos: Ranear of the Ophir.

Recording…

            Lunch was quail that Boston and Roland flushed out and bagged.  People had been on edge the whole day, but they needed to eat.  They all mentioned the bokarus at one time or another that morning, but they all agreed that was not right.  Several times Roland, and once Captain Decker claimed they heard something, but found nothing.  Still, they all felt a sense of dread, like they were being followed by something inexplicable.

            “This quail is good.”  Lincoln attempted to lighten the mood

            “Tastes like chicken,” Captain Decker said flatly.  Lockhart was beginning to wonder if the man ever smiled.

            Lieutenant Harper frowned and looked around at the terrain.  It was rocky, but that would not account for the poor vegetation.  Boston said they were in the Sinai and as far as she knew it would not change much in the next six thousand plus years. The grass was poor, like it was overgrazed, the bushes were full of brambles and thorns – one day a real pain to shepherds – and  the trees, what there were of them, were short and spindly.  Still, the rocks were everywhere, sticking up from beneath the earth like fingers pointing at the sky.  She imagined there was not enough rain in the region to wear them down.  “Maybe in twelve thousand years,” She muttered.

            Lockhart stood and stretched and made his own attempt to lighten the mood.  “You know, it is remarkable being thirty again.  You cannot imagine the aches and pains that develop by the time you reach sixty.”

            “What was that?”  Mingus looked up, but he was not asking Lockhart to repeat himself.  Roland scooted up to spy from behind a rock,  They heard something.  Then they heard a word, “Ophir!” and three spears came shooting into their camp.  Two missed as people reacted, but Lockhart got one in the thigh and cursed,  He pulled himself up behind Roland’s rock even as the marines returned fire.

            A few moments later, Lincoln and Boston brought their pistols to bear and Roland fired Lockhart’s shotgun once when he saw some movement.  He would have been more accurate with his bow, but the arrow supply was limited and movement did not necessarily equal a person.  Captain Decker slipped out of the camp and very quickly the gunfire stopped.  There were no more spears and nothing to see among the bushes, trees and rocks within view.

            “I think we may have scared them off,” Lincoln suggested.

            “Primitive,” Lieutenant Harper examined one of the spears.  “I would say locally and human made.”  She felt funny having to add that last part, but given their experience thus far, and given their feelings all morning, it was necessary.

            “Sit still.” Alexis yelled at Lockhart.  “The spear is about to come out on its own but you don’t want to make the wound worse.”

            “It’s those Gaian healing chits still running through his body,” Lincoln suggested and Lockhart confirmed that with a nod.

            “The whole area is already numb.  I imagine I will be fine, shortly.”

            “The muscle is torn.  I would guess that will take longer than shortly to heal this wound.”

            “I don’t know,” Mingus started to add his opinion when Captain Decker came back escorting a native with a bullet crease in his own thigh.  The native, a young, dark skinned boy of maybe sixteen summers collapsed when he came into the camp and Alexis immediately turned her attention to him.

            The Captain gave his report.  “One dead, the others ran but this one couldn’t run.  You can stand down.”

            “You are Ophir?”  Boston asked because the Kairos was listed as being of the Ophir people, but it was sketchy on the details.

            “No, you are Ophir.”  His eyes got big as he watched Lockhart’s wound stop bleeding and then heal over like it was never there.  His eyes got even bigger when Alexis laid her hands over his own wound and he felt the warmth and healing power flow into his leg.  He looked up at Captain Decker.

            “You are Hivite, like me.  Why are you with these enemies?”  Decker said nothing and the boy looked again at Boston’s red hair and changed his mind.  “You are not Hivite and you are not Ophir.”

            “No, but the Ophir are our friends.”

            “Ahh!”  The boy suddenly put his face in his hands and shivered.  “I have fallen among the gods of the Ophir.  You kill with lightning and thunder and cannot be killed.  I will be meat.  I will be consumed.  Help me Set.”  He began to weep.  He was terribly afraid, and everyone saw that.

            “We won’t harm you,” Alexis assured him and smiled for him, but he pulled back from her hand which was meant to comfort him.  He shrieked again when Mingus came over to extract his daughter from the boy’s side and the boy got a good look at the elf.

            “One dead?”  Lockhart asked.  Decker nodded.  “Is he strong enough to carry his friend?”

            “I don’t know,” Alexis said honestly.  “His leg is fine.  The bullet only creased him.  It was not really much of a wound.  I would say it depends on how big his friend is and how far he has to go.”

            “We could help,” Boston suggested, but Lockhart shook his head. 

            “Direction?”  Lockhart turned to Doctor Procter and the doctor pointed.  Decker pointed the opposite way to say which way the others ran off.  “No.”  Lockhart said, and he knelt to the boy.  “Get up,” he insisted and they both stood.  “Take your dead.  There is no help we can give him.”  Then he added something the Kairos often said.  “Go in peace.” 

            The boy backed out of the camp.  The tears never entirely left his eyes, but when he realized he was going to live, they noticed the change.  Now he was crying for his dead friend.  They watched as he retrieved the body, scant yards from their camp.  It was hard, but he managed the young man around his shoulders like he might carry a deer and he soon disappeared in the wilderness.

            “Maybe the others are not so far away,” Lieutenant Harper suggested.  People nodded.  They liked to think that as they packed their things.  No one said they already had enough to worry about what with the bokarus, the ghouls and a missing bogy man.  Worry about the locals, about getting caught up in some war or trouble was not something they were prepared for, yet.

            “That was not what has been following us,” Lincoln said.  They all knew it was true and it did not help.

            “This way,” Doctor Procter said.  They followed him.  Lockhart only limped a little.

M / F Story. Avalon 1.2: Bogy Beast

            The bogy beast was a small one.  It was only about sixteen feet when it stood on its hind legs which it did as soon as it reached the first hut.  It had to be on all fours to walk.  The hair of the beast turned out to be more like shredded steel than hair.  It was sharper than a porcupine and able to reject every bullet short of a direct hit.  The snout was more like a wolf than a bear and it had some extra teeth.  It was impossible to tell if it was a reptile or a mammal, but it was easy to see what it had in mind.  The hut was torn to shreds and then it nosed around in the wreckage for any tasty morsels it might find.  When it found nothing, flames came with a roar and crisped the remains of the hut.

            “Fire!”  Lockhart yelled and gunfire burst out from every corner.  The beast was surrounded except for the avenue by which it arrived.  Several bullets penetrated and the beast roared and turned.  It reared up in the midst of the withering fire and swiped at the air with its great caws as if trying to tear the bullets from the air.

            It roared again and spread fire in a circle around its body.  The gunfire paused while people ducked behind their cover.  Then the gunfire started again, but overall it had minimal effect until Lieutenant Harper had the idea of going for the eyes.  She paused, but only long enough to clip her scope to the rifle.  When she fired, she certainly struck something.  The beast reared its head back, roared and shot a stream of flame straight into the sky.

            With a final roar of protest, the beast returned to all fours, turned and galloped out of the village.  It ran very close to Boston who wisely crouched down in the shadows and tried to become as invisible as possible.  Then it was gone.

            The people came pouring from their hiding places around the village and began to celebrate, but Lockhart knew better.  “It is wounded now and that will make it more dangerous.” 

            “We must track it while we can,” Roland said.

             “Unfortunately,” Mingus agreed,  “And I will be here when you get back.”

            “Won’t that be dangerous?”  Alexis asked.

            “Yes,” Lincoln said.  “That is why you need to stay here with Boston, your father and Doctor Procter.”  She kissed him, but Boston heard.

            “Heck no,” she said.  “I’m going.  I’m good on a hunt.  Probably better than you.”

            “Lieutenant, you stay in case the beast doubles back,” Captain Decker commanded.

            “Yes, sir,” Lieutenant Harper was quicker with the sir this time, but it was clear she was unhappy once again with the order.

            “Okay redneck,” Lockhart smiled at Boston when that was settled.  “You lead the way.”

            Boston grabbed Roland and together they started out front.  It was actually an easy trail.  The purple puss that served for blood in the beast glowed a little, like neon.  It was probably fire inspired.  When they reached the edge of the woods, the broken branches and crushed saplings made the trail even easier.

            “I don’t like this,” Boston whispered.  She looked back.  Lockhart and Lincoln were alert and trying to listen for what they could not see in the dark.  Captain Decker had his night goggles on, but it was hard to see behind a tree.  “This trail is too easy.”

            Roland paused and looked at her.  He knelt and she knelt beside him as the company came to a halt.  “A bogy beast is clever, but like a fox, not a person,” he assured her before he turned to the group and spoke a bit louder.  “It stopped here and I would guess it licked its wounds.  The thing is, if it makes it until morning, it will rest underground and be all but healed in a day.”

            “So we have to find it before it rests,” Lockhart said even as the beast reared up in front of them.  One roar of fire and a backwards swipe of a claw caught  all three who were standing there.  Captain Decker was knocked to the ground while Lincoln and Lockhart crashed into the trees.  All were temporarily knocked senseless.  The beast looked down on the two still kneeling on the ground and roared fire again.  Roland quickly hovered over Boston.

            “I set a shield,” Roland shouted next to Boston’s ear.  They still felt the heat and Roland’s back turned red, but the fire was deflected.  All the same, Boston screamed.  It was answered by a white light in the distance that raced toward them. 

            The bogy beast reared up, determined to let its claws do what the flame failed to do, but it also saw the streaking light and certainly sensed something.  It began to turn away and let out a very different sound as the unicorn leapt over Roland and Boston and drove its horn deep into the beast’s chest.  The beast let out a chilling noise as it clawed the unicorn and knocked it away.  Then it stumbled as its putrid, flaming purple insides came pouring out of the gaping hole. 

            Decker was up by then and they began to blast away at the hole.  The beast collapsed.  It kept up that unnerving sound of pain and surprise until its body quit wiggling.  Captain Decker shot out the eye Harper had missed as his way of making sure the beast was dead.

            “My guess is the bogy could not see the unicorn out of the eye Lieutenant Harper shot until it was too late,” Roland surmised.

            Lockhart came up limping and leaning on Lincoln, but he waved them off.  He would be fine, shortly.  Meanwhile, Boston had run to the unicorn.  It was injured, terribly.

            Keng chose that moment to come running up.  “I missed it?  I missed everything!”  He was not happy, but the others smiled at the young man.

            “Glen!  Please help me.”  Boston called.

            “I – I can’t,” Keng said.

            Then someone else showed up.  She glowed in the night and Roland immediately fell to his knees.  It took the others a bit longer to feel the awesome fear of this person.  Then they joined the elf on their knees.  It was not quite like the angel, but something in that direction.

            “I go away for a few days and the whole place falls apart,” the woman complained. 

            Keng, of course, kept to his feet, and the woman gave him a curious look before she did something to tone down her glow.  “Who are these people?”  She asked Keng.

            “These are friends of mine,” Keng said proudly, and to the woman’s stare he added, “What?  I can have friends.”  The woman said nothing, so Keng introduced the five who were there.  “They have fallen back in time, but they are trying to get home.  You could maybe help them.”  He was not exactly asking.

            The woman stepped up to Lockhart and looked down into the man’s eyes.  Lockhart had to look away before she spoke again.  “Three days is the most even the gods are permitted to bend time.  It will not help these.”

            “Yes, of course.  I knew that,” Keng said.  “Oh, yes, this is Nagi.  She is the goddess of my village.”  He remembered himself then and went to his knees, but Nagi just made a face before she smiled.

            “A bit late for that,” she said and stepped in close for a look at the bogy beast.  Then she stepped up to stand behind Boston who was wracked with tears and crying all over the unicorn.  “A gift for defending my village,” she said and waved her hand.  The unicorn was made whole, and as it stood, Boston’s tears turned from sorrow to joy.  “The bogy does not belong here and neither does this creature.  There are no unicorns in this part of the world at present so you must take your pet with you when you leave.”  Boston simply nodded as the goddess turned her back and returned to the others.  The unicorn bowed to the goddess in the way of horses.  It touched its horn to the earth before it turned and bounded off into the woods.

            The goddess did not seem concerned with that as she stepped up to Keng and made him stand once again.  She walked once around him like a person might examine a prize animal.  She began to glow again, but in a different sort of way.  Every male eye became fastened to her like they were glued to her as she spoke her conclusion.  “I think I could have use for this one.”  She smiled at her own thoughts.  “Yes, I will,” she said and vanished.

            When they returned to the village and reported their success – without mentioning the goddess on Keng’s insistence, Mingus put a damper on their celebration.

            “But that means the bogy man is still out there, somewhere, and he is not going to be happy.”

            “We will burn that bridge when we come to it,” Captain Decker suggested.

            “Meanwhile, get some sleep,” Lockhart ordered.

            “I vote we stay here a couple of days to heal and help these people rebuild,” Alexis said as she laid hands on her brother to heal his scorched back.

            “I think the goddess would rather see us move on in the morning,” Lincoln responded, and he told her, Mingus and Doctor Procter of their encounter. 

            Doctor Procter appeared thoughtful.  “Perhaps we should move on tonight.”

            Lockhart did not answer the man directly.  All he said was “Get some rest.”

M/F Story. Avalon 1.2: The Village

            The travelers arrived at what looked to them like the first real village they had seen.  Instead of tents, there were makeshift dwellings built of bamboo and grasses.  They were crude to be sure, and easily taken down, but solid enough.  They were also easily burned from the look of some of them.

            “Strangers.  Strangers!”  One man saw them, yelled in panic and ran off.  A few women screamed and ran into their huts.  Lockhart halted their progress somewhere near the middle of the village, a village deserted by the time they stopped.

            “Nothing like a first class welcome,” he said.

            “Why are they afraid of us?”  Boston wondered out loud.

            “They are certainly afraid of something,” Roland added.

            “Some people are just afraid of anything they don’t understand,” Lincoln suggested and Lieutenant Harper stepped up to agree, but Mingus spoke first.

            “No, they are just rabbits.  Scared rabbits.  So, son-in-law, welcome home.”

            “Father!”  Alexis objected, but Lincoln just ignored the elf.

            Six elderly men appeared at the end of the row of houses.  They did not look too brave themselves.  They came forward in a group where they might not have come by themselves.  The eldest spoke when they were near.  “Are you of the goddess or of the beast?”

            “Neither,” Lockhart spoke plainly enough.  “We are travelers and seek only shelter for the night.  We will move on tomorrow.”

            The men turned to each other and began a whispered argument.

            “Tell me about the goddess,” Lieutenant Harper butted in and the men paused so the eldest could speak again.

            “Nagi-di is the goddess of our village.  Some say she has sent the beast because she is angry with us.  Others say the beast was sent by a jealous, rival god.  We have prayed everyday and made offerings to the goddess for her help, but we do not know if she has abandoned us.  Please, are you the help or have you come to kill all the beast has not destroyed?”

            “We are here to help,” Alexis spoke up and Lockhart turned on her.

            “What is it with you and Boston?  You are not permitted to offer bread or help or anything else that commits this group in any way without asking permission.  Is that clear?”  He was not happy.

             Alexis dropped her eyes but said nothing as Mingus stepped forward with a question.  “What kind of beast?”

            The men took one look at Mingus and took a big step back, but to their credit they did not turn and run.  They simply appeared afraid to answer.  A boy came around the corner and pushed right passed the men.  He was a young man of about fifteen and one of the men yelled at him.

            “Keng!”

            But Keng ignored the man and ran right up to Boston and gave her a big hug.  “You guys got here just in time,” Keng said.  He let go of Boston and turned toward Mingus.  “It’s a bogy beast,” he said.  “I was beginning to think it would be the end for us all, but here you are.”

            “But if the beast is the end of the story, we might mess things up if we help.”  Lincoln was concerned about changing time.

            “Maybe,” Keng admitted.  “But I don’t think it is supposed to be here.  I haven’t seen its master, but you know they are never far away.”

            “Master?”  Lockhart asked.

            Keng looked at the man and paused before he smiled.  “Not the masters, like that.  I mean the bogy man.”

            “What is a bogy beast?”  Captain Decker wanted to know.

            “A bogy man’s dog,” Mingus answered.

            “A lesser spirit, up to twenty feet tall or long with razor sharp claws and teeth and it breathes fire.  Nearly impossible to kill, the database says.  It does look sort of like a bear.”  Boston added the last for Lieutenant Harper.

            “Definitely not good,” Mingus added under his breath.

            “So, you will stay and help?”  Keng asked.  He looked up at Lockhart again and Lockhart reluctantly nodded.

            “But my first duty is to get this crew home,” he said.  “If it becomes impossible, we are out of here.”

            “Understood.”  Keng turned to the men.  “They will stay and help, but we need to treat them well while they are here.”

            The man who yelled at Keng stepped free of the group and slapped Keng in the ear, hard.  “You have no business telling your elders what to do.”   He immediately turned to the travelers.  “You are welcome here, and Nagi’s blessing be upon you.”

            “Come out, come out.”  Other men yelled.  “They are sent by the goddess and are here to help.”

            Alexis stepped up to Keng to make sure that he was alright.  Boston moved up, too, but her lips were moving.  “Come out, come out wherever you are and meet the young lady who fell from a star.”

            Keng had a hand on his ear, but he smiled on hearing that.

            The travelers set up camp in the middle of the village.  The people brought some of their food, but did not stand around to stare.  They especially avoided the elves and some, no doubt, felt the elves were as dangerous as the beast.  One of the elder men commented on this.

            “How is it that the spirits of the earth do your bidding?  Are they safe?”

            “We have a common goal,” Lockhart said with a sideways look at Mingus.  “And no, they are not safe, but they will help.”

            “But you have them so well trained,” another man commented.  Roland had to step in front of his father to prevent an incident.

            “So tell me, do we have to hunt the beast?”

            The two elders looked at each other, surprised at being asked such a question.  “Why, no,” one finally said.  “It has come to the village twice in the night.

            “Though it did not come last night,” the other said, thoughtfully.

            “Yes, something must have distracted it,” the first concluded.

            “Us,” Lockhart said.  “Only a ghoul got in the way.”

            It was not long after that they heard the not too distant roar.

Storyteller Wednesday. Writerly Stuff: The Elements of a Great Story

Someone recently asked, what are the elements of a great story?  Everyone had a different answer.  I am sure you have your own answer, and I would bet it relates to a story you once read that you considered great.  It may relate to some ideas you gleaned from a creative writing class, or MFA program or writer’s retreat or critique group.  All of that stuff may be wise, good and true.  I won’t argue against any of it.  I only want to suggest three basic things, because I believe if you can master these things, you can produce a great story of your own.

1.         Setting.  Whether Atlanta is burning or Bogart is stumbling around Rick’s café in Casablanca, the setting, where all of the story takes place, must hold the reader’s interest.  The best words are unique and fascinating.  We may live in a world of Google travel, but the human desire to seek out strange and exotic places is not diminished.

If it is a mystery, people are tired of the same old bar scenes, and gin joints and the same old wealthy mansions (that may be haunted).  If it is science fiction, what makes your space ships different from all the generic ones on paper and in the movies?  If it is fantasy, must we suffer through yet another medieval world?  When are all the demons, vampires, werewolves and slayers going to discover that there is life outside the cities?  And honestly, how many stories can really take place in Amish country among a people whose lives have remained essentially the same for centuries?

Authors who would not be caught dead with generic characters often place them in the most generic settings.  Be careful.  Dull settings can kill a great story.  Make it fascinating, unique, strange, exotic, a place where people want to go (or perhaps decidedly do not want to go, if you know what I mean).

2.         Characters.  Too much has been said by too many people on this topic already.  Everyone has a take on how to build complex, well rounded characters.  In fact, I do not wonder why so many new writers become confused about the issue.  Information overload, and to be sure, not all the experts agree.

My take is much simpler.  You don’t want characters.  You want to people your story with people (human beings).  The better you know people, the better your people on paper will be.  It really is that simple.  Human beings are complex, fallible and, well, you know.

The thing that stands out for me with regard to characters, though, it consistency.  Yes, half-way through a book that rotten neighbor can show that they have a heart after all, but I have found that even for some authors who have well-rounded, well-developed human on the page, consistency can be a problem. 

If Aunt Linda would never say such a thing, don’t have her say it.  If Pamela would never be caught dead in that situation, help her avoid it.  I know the temptation is to have whomever is available say something or do something vital to move the story forward; but for me when people say something they would not say or act in an “uncharacteristic” fashion it can kill a great story.

3.         Plot = for God’s sake make something happen already! 

Sadly (I feel) literature (what some professors and experts consider GREAT literature) remains full of stories that are little more than naval gazing on paper.  I have no interest in reading such shorts or novels because they aren’t stories.  Sometimes I get trapped into reading such works and always get to the end and think, that was a day (four days) of my life, wasted. 

Now, it may just be me, though I suspect there are plenty who agree with me.  I don’t care how great a work of literary art the academic community calls it.  In my opinion, if things don’t happen to hold my interest and make me want to turn the page, I am not interested.  (I guess that is like saying water is wet stuff).  People may respond, but consider the great philosophy, consider the great expression of the human condition, consider the great writing – it is poetic, brilliant!  I just sigh.  But it is not a story, and certainly not a great story.