The Craft of Character: Location, Location, Location

NaNoWriMo Course 3, Week 3

Assignment Description:

Create a scene (700-1000 words) with at least three characters. Two of these characters should have different viewpoints on the world; one should be an “insider” in the world you’re creating, and one should be an outsider. For example, you could set the scene in your country and have one person be native and one be a foreign visitor. The third character should be an eavesdropper on a conversation between the first two. Construct the story using no more than three speech tags (a speech tag is something that identifies a speaker, like “she said” and “Kevin replied”); instead, use the setting, descriptions, and idiosyncrasies to make the speakers identifiable. Be careful, however, to avoid caricature.


A Sleepless Night

836 words

They found an empty house to sleep in that night. The darkness was a welcome change; the constant daylight had taken its toll on them. Marco set up their sleeping bags in the living room and cooked dinner, while Chronia followed Kumiko outside to help draw a protective spell around the house. After the spell is up, the dinner is done; a week of eating military rations made the meal, cooked from honest-to-goodness meat and vegetables they found in the supermarket nearby, taste exquisite. After the meal, Marco found an old guitar in one of the rooms, and he played songs old and new while Kumiko taught Chronia the finer points of time magic. An hour later, they close the curtains to block the sunlight, and went to sleep.

When her watch showed midnight, Kumiko awoke from the sound of conversation from the porch. She shifted in her sleeping bag, trying to ignore her traveling companions. But years of training as a covert agent got the better of her, and she listened in to their conversation. Outside, the daylight cast the shadows of past and present, young and old, onto the grass of the overgrown lawn.

“… and so, I finished medical school.”

“That was… ordinary. I expected military doctors, especially the surgeons, to be these hard-ass perfectionists from their childhood.”

“Ha! You watch too many military dramas, kid.”

“Excuse you, they’re perfectly good.”

“If you want to believe it, sure.”

Chronia didn’t even try to suppress her giggles.

“Yeah. Well, the ordinary days soon ran away; apparently the military recruiters had been eyeing me since my third year. A woman in an ironed black suit and blood-red tie approached me in my favorite diner one night, and talked me into joining as a field medic. I decided to sign up when they said I could do research as much as I want.”

“You’re such a nerd, Doc.”

“Back at you, bookworm. Anyway, I did the required combat training, and actually excelled at it. My athletic training finally paid off. But then a stray grenade blew this leg off, and I was moved to the surgery department at the best military hospital at that time.”

“Why didn’t you get a full prosthetic?”

“Well, I didn’t exactly have much money from being a field medic. Plus, I had a wife and newborn son to think about; I’d rather my money go to his school fees. I can live without a full prosthetic.”

“I get it. It’s like when my grandma’s eldest sister gave up her daredevil adventures to find a stable job for her sisters’ sake. She told me she never regretted doing that.”

“Yes. Sooner or later, all of us make our sacrifices.”

Silence permeates the air while they ponder.

“So, Doc.”

“Yes?”

“What happened to your son? Is he a surgeon, too?”

Inside, Kumiko leapt out of her sleeping bag and rushed to the front door. She was about to open it and yell at the foolish girl when she heard Marco’s calm voice.

“… No.” He took a deep breath. “He died when he was fifteen.”

Chronia’s eyes went wide.

“It was an arcane research. Those fools, playing with things way beyond their reach…”

Marco let out a heavy huff.

“My family was on the way to visit me at an exoplanet facility one day, and those idiots’ experimental magitech device exploded. It leveled everything inside a fifty-kilometer radius above ground. They just arrived in the parking lot, so…”

“I… You were there at the Beatrix Incident?”

Marco nodded.

“I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have asked.” Chronia turns away from the old surgeon, cheeks red with embarrassment.

“It’s okay. I’m okay. It was a long time ago, but the wounds get itchy every time I meet arcane researchers. Thus, I requested to be a full-time surgeon. Saving people healed me.”

“But isn’t Kumiko one of those researchers?”

“Well, yes, but I know her old man.” He rested his stubbly chin on his right hand. “And I know her since she was still a red-skinned ball of crying havoc. I was practically her uncle. She knows better.”

Kumiko sat below the window to the porch. She didn’t know her Uncle Marco trusted her that much. She remembered the day Aunt Riley and Jason’s caskets arrived back on Realta, and the somber funeral ceremony. She remembered crying so much that day, the day she realized her best friend would never come back. Later, Marco had stayed at her father’s house; the memories of his house were too much. At midnights, she’d hear him apologize to his wife and son, sobbing uncontrollably like no person should cry.

Her tears welled up in her eyes, rolled down her cheeks, and fell down to the wooden floor.

“Thank you for telling me this,” came the woman’s voice from outside. Marco chuckled.

“Thank you for listening to this old man’s ramblings.”

Kumiko snuck back to her sleeping bag and closed her eyes, giving them the privacy of bonding over death.


Notes

They are all characters for my planned NaNoWriMo novel!

The “insider” is Marco Haydr; as in, he’s been in and around the military for a long time.

Chronia Anemose is a writer and teacher, and the protagonist of the novel. She’s a civilian who loves crime dramas, so naturally she gravitates towards Marco (and Kumiko, but here she’s bonding with the old doctor).

Kumiko Emery is a nearly-retired covert agent. By ‘retirement’ I mean getting into the back of a desk. She wants more time for her family, but time froze, so she has to go on one last field mission.

They are all characters I could use from my novel-planning escapades; I only had to pick from the available five. The other two are Aislinn and Zorambua, whose story you can read here and here.

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