Last week, I interviewed Manuel Enriques, hero of “Indian Summer”. Today, his fiancée, Gabriella Deza, graciously agreed to answer some questions.
Second Wind: What is your story?
Gabriella: I haven’t much of one yet, I’m only just 15, but what there is of it is told in “Indian Summer.”
SW: Who are you?
G: I am Gabriella Deza, youngest daughter of Governor Ferdinand Deza.
SW: Where and when do you live?
G: I live in the village of St. Augustine, La Florida. The year is 1739.
SW: Are you the hero of your own story?
G: Me a hero? Heavens, no! That would be Manuel Enriques, my father’s aid du camp and the love of my life.
SW: What is your problem in the story?
G:Quite by chance, I found out a terrible secret. A British spy is trying to overthrow my father, capture the fort and take over the town!
SW: Do you embrace conflict or do you run from it?
G: I’ve never wanted to embrace conflict, but one must face it bravely. Troubles are sent by God to test us. Am I going to argue with Him? I never run when I can fight.
SW: How does the author see you?
G: Headstrong, demure, capable, passionate, honest, loving.
SW: Do you have a hero?
G: My father, Manuel and Sailfish are my heroes. They are all so brave and noble. Though, in their own way, all men are heroes, don’t you think?
SW: Do you have a goal and why that particular one?
G: My goal is to marry Manuel as soon as possible. I love him more than I can possibly express. I want to be with him forever. He is my own, true love.
SW: Do you have any special strengths?
G: My faith in God is my greatest strength. My faith has seen me through very trying times. I would not be the woman I am without it.
SW: What are you afraid of?
G: I’m terrified of losing Manuel. If he were to die, what would become of us? Papa says only he can save us in this troubled time. If I lost him, I would have no reason to live.
SW: Has anyone ever betrayed you?
G: Yes, the man who spies on us, using our friendship against us. He betrays me, my family and my home. I hope I have a hand in bringing him to justice.
SW: Have you ever failed anyone?
G: I hope not. I will only have failed them if I do not find the spy and send him to God early for judgement.
SW: What is your most prized possession? Why?
G: My peso necklace, because Manuel gave it to me. Though my parents gave me pearls for my birthday, the peso shows Manuel’s love for me. He can’t ask me to marry him, it wouldn’t be proper, but that shows each of us our promise to wed.
SW: What is your favorite scent? Why?
G: Sandalwood., because that is the scent of Manuel’s soap.
SW: What is your favorite color? Why?
G: Apple green, because it was Mama’s favorite as well, and I am most like her of all three of us girls.
SW: If you had the power to change one thing in the world that didn’t affect you personally, what would it be?
G: I think I’d like the Spanish and the English not to hate one another so much.
SW: What makes you think that change would be for the better?
G: There would be less fighting and conflict in the world.
SW: If you were stranded on a desert island, would you rather be stranded with, a man or a woman?
G: Do not think badly of me of saying this, but I would want to be stranded only with Manuel. I can think of no one else with whom I have enough in common to spend any period of time. Only if we were married, of course. Anything else would be scandalous!
Writer’s Digest published these questions as a tool for an author to get to know their characters better. I decided to do this with some of them. I’ve interviewed them before, but these were different questions.
First is Manuel Enriques from “Indian Summer” (available at secondwindpublishing.com or Amazon.com)
Dellani: How do you learn best?
Manuel: I am a very visual learner. I see and remember things remarkably well.
Dellani: How open are you to new ideas and information?
Manuel: I am a warrior and a spy, I must learn to adapt. Were I not open to new ideas, I would be ineffective in that role. Information? My life’s work is gathering it.
Dellani: When you walk into a party, what do you notice first?
Manuel: All the beautiful women, of course. What would you have me say? That I look for the nearest exit and plan my escape should that prove necessary?
Dellani: Is one sense more highly developed than the other?
Manuel: I’ve never paid attention, I’m afraid. I do seem to hear extremely well, though Gabriella will tell you that occasionally I am deaf to the sound of her voice. I see very well and can hit a fast moving target with bow, pistol or rifle with great accuracy.
Dellani: Do you usually notice problems around you?
Manuel: But of course. My job as Governor Deza’s aid is to see that things run smoothly. Problems of any kind prevent this. I assess the problem and deal with it as needed.
Dellani: Would you say your are an optimist or pessimist?
Manuel: I am very optimistic. I would be a miserable failure in my position without it. I must believe that there will be a happy outcome or I can’t survive.
Dellani: Are you more interested in the past, the future or living in the now?
Manuel: My past holds no happiness for me and parts are best forgotten. My future with Gabriella is something I look forward to, but I must cope with the now or I won’t be able to see that future.
Dellani: How do you decide if you can trust someone?
Manuel: My trust must be earned. I do not give it easily. I trust my blood brother, Sailfish. I also trust Governor Deza. Other than that, I can’t think of anyone else I fully trust – not even Gabriella.
Dellani: Are you a deliberate, careful speaker, or do you talk without thinking first?
Manuel: I can’t count the number of times I’ve spoken out of turn. Why I haven’t gotten myself killed, I don’t know. I’m far too likely to blurt out random pronouncements without thinking. When I take the time to deliberate and concentrate on what I intend to say, I find life runs more smoothly.
This is another experiment in first person. This time, the character is a young woman. Ianna Eaton is an art student. She’s very shy, reserved, quiet. She works in a bar part time to help pay her bills. One night at work, a gorgeous man takes refuge from the rain. He needs to make a phone call because he has car trouble and his cellphone died. He chats a few minutes with Ianna and her boss, then leaves as suddenly as he arrived. She is immediately attracted to him, but is upset because she doesn’t think she’ll ever see him again. She finds out how wrong she was when she gets to class the next day.
All kinds of interesting types take art. We have everything from latter day hippies to the typical teenage Goths. I don’t really fall into either category, I just sort of blend in with the scenery in my jeans and T-shirts. The figure drawing room is usually kind of warm since the models have to sit there naked for two hours, so I dressed anticipating the heat in a pair of jeans and a tank top. The only one I had clean is bright pink with a big rhinestone halo and it says “Absolute Angel” on it. My roommate gave it to me as a joke on my twenty-first birthday.
I got into the room a little early, picked my spot where the sun wouldn’t be in my eyes and set up my easel. I was unpacking the rest of my drawing stuff when Dr. Lacey came in and clapped his hands to get our attention.
“Seems Monique is sick today, so we’ll have a different model. A friend of mine has agreed to step into the breach. He’s a little funny looking,” he winked at the class in general, “so be kind to him and give him the warm welcome you always do. Come on in, you mangy dog.” He gestured to the dressing room door. My heart fell to my shoes and sort of puddled there. It was Reed!
I must have looked like I was going to puke. My friend Marcy leaned over and whispered, “Ianna, you okay? You look like you’re gonna faint or something, girl!”
“I’m okay,” I lied. “I’m fine. I just didn’t sleep very well last night.”
I hurried from the room, bought myself a soda and came back in as Dr. Lacey was posing Reed. He had him in a languid pose, reclining on one elbow, his left leg extended beneath him, the right bent with his arm draped over it.
Maybe I should explain about figure drawing. When I say naked, I don’t mean naked with like a fig leaf or something. I mean totally, completely and stark naked! He looked even better than when I had seen him last night. His hair was freshly washed and still a little damp. He hadn’t shaved, so he had a shadow on his jaw. His eyes were not dark brown as I originally thought, but a deep, vivid blue.
He looked up when I walked in the door. I ducked my head, blushing as I went back to my seat. His eyes followed me until I sat down almost directly in front of him. Oh, my God I thought I was going to die! I was, quite literally, at crotch level. Front and center.
I’m not the most experienced girl around. I’m the first to admit I haven’t dated all that much, but I have an artist’s eye for form. He was incredible! His entire body was a gorgeous bronze color, his dark hair straight and his jaw firm and resolute. He looked as if he must have some American Indian blood in him, his features were majestic like some of the tribes in the Northeast.
His shoulders were broad, his waist and hips narrow, thighs powerful, his muscles rippled when he moved and stretched. Dr. Lacey fussed at him when he wiggled too much.
“Be still, you bum! They need consistency!”
But he was teasing. Reed grinned and made a rude gesture which set us all laughing.
“Next time don’t put me in such an uncomfortable position and I won’t move.”
After an hour, Dr. Lacey let Reed get up and take a break while we went out for snacks, get a quick smoke or just relax a little. Reed stood up and wrapped a robe around himself before he got down off the dais. I was right at hip level when he stood, all I could do was stare! I tried not to sit there with my mouth open, but I was thinking, “Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God!”
He grinned down at me and stepped down off the dais, holding out his hand to me. I took it tentatively, unsure what he was doing. I guess I kind of expected him to shake my hand, instead he leaned over and kissed it tenderly. I nearly fainted! His dark eyes flickered with amusement, it was like he knew exactly what I was thinking and thought it was funny. Sure, frumpy little artist thinks the model is dead sexy. What a chuckle. He could never want a girl like me. He could have any woman in the room, all he’d have to do was point.
“Good to see you again, Ianna. I hope you slept well.”
“No, not really,” I blurted out without thinking.
He chuckled, a half smile on his face. I wondered if he knew why I hadn’t slept well. He probably had been the subject of the fantasies of every woman he had ever met! He leaned closer, I could smell his cologne, soft and sexy like he was.
“I wondered if you’d like to go out for lunch after class? I have to be back here for the next session at two, but maybe we could get something quick?”
“Sure, um, yeah I’d like that.” I felt so stupid and inept. I could hardly think in his presence, let alone speak.
We chatted a little while during break until Dr. Lacey called Reed to his office. He came out a few minutes later and Dr. Lacey followed him. They went back up on the dais and Dr. Lacey put him back in his pose.
“Good news, ladies! Reed had agreed to stay all week!”
Cheers around the room from the women. Several girls gave each other high fives or did sexy little victory dances. The men looked slightly put out. Some of them groaned.
“It’s all right, gentlemen. I’ll get them warmed up for you and you can exploit their frustration,” Reed chuckled, settling back into his pose.
I think the intial meeting of the male & female leads in a story is very important. Sometimes my characters have known one another for a long time. Sometimes they meet under good circumstances. Other times, like in this story, their meeting is less than fortunate.
Elevators are trouble. I’m not talking about their mechanics, like they’re going to fall down the shaft at some inopportune time – though that’s always a possibility. I’m mean waiting for them to get me where I’m going. I hate being surrounded by a lot of smelly people early in the morning on the way to work.
I really resent having to wait for an elevator. I can stand in the middle of the foyer with banks of elevators on either side, eight in all and still wait continuously for a ride up. I’ve gotten in the habit of mashing the buttons on all of them, standing poised in the middle of the foyer and sprinting for an open one the moment it arrives. This isn’t always the best approach, but it works better than standing in front of one and waiting, waiting, waiting…. Adds a bit of excitement, some spice, if you will, to the situation. A guy’s got to find some amusement somewhere in life, right?
Of course, with other people waiting in by the elevator, I usually have to dodge someone to get in. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve collided with morons who don’t look where I’m going. Sheesh. You’d think a man my size would be noticeable, but no. I’m six foot five, broad shouldered, muscular, jacked – unless my mirror lies to me. Some would call me conceited, and maybe I am a little, but I work hard for this body. I think that gives me bragging rights.
Anyway, getting back to the elevators. Cell phone use in and around the elevators should be against the law. Not only do those people not pay attention when the doors open, they keep talking while they’re on the elevator. They block the panels, nine times out of ten, and you can’t get their attention to push a button. I sometimes reach around them and mash, I don’t care anymore. I have enough trouble getting to work on time, I don’t need some idiot with exhibitionist tendencies making me later than I already am.
Today was no different. It’s Monday, I’m slightly hungover and I’m pissed. All the elevators are on the top floor and nothing is coming down. It’s too crowded to play my waiting game, so I’m stuck standing by this Diva on a cell phone listening to her talk dirty to some guy on the other end. At least I’m assuming she’s talking dirty. It’s a language I don’t understand. It sounds sweet, sultry and nasty and makes me think how damn long it’s been since I got laid.
“Yo, Brodie!” My friend Stan waved to me from the third elevator which had just arrived. His dark head popped back from the opening as someone else walked in.
Going behind Phone Princess, I sprinted toward the elevator as he held it open for me. Seventeen other people were also trying to get onto the same elevator, but I beat them to it, shoving men and women aside like bowling pins.
Just as the door closed, Phone Princess, still talking dirty, slipped into the elevator right in front of the buttons. We all started telling her the floors we wanted and she didn’t respond. Meanwhile, the elevator was going exactly nowhere.
“Miss,” I tried being nice, really I did. “Excuse me, Miss, ten please.” I couldn’t politely reach around her because I was going to end up with a handful of tits instead of hitting the buttons. I squinched up, pulling my massive shoulders into as small a space as I could and waited.
Others around me were trying to get her attention, but she was so fixated on her phone call, she didn’t notice. Finally, it dawned on her that the elevator wasn’t moving. She pressed her button and went back to her call. Twelve? She’s going to twelve – great.
I admit, I did the wrong thing, but I’d had it. I snapped. No sex for three months, very little sleep, hungover and I’m simply not that wonderful, understanding guy my friends and family know and love. I’d reached my limit and I turn into an asshole. I had a choice of shoving her aside or taking her phone away. Since she was only five six or so, maybe a hundred and fifteen pounds, I wasn’t going to shove the woman. So I snaked her phone. Suddenly, my big beefy hand worked its way through the crowd, grabbed her phone, hung up and handed it back to her.
“Look, lady, we all have places to go. Could you possibly hit the buttons or move your cute little ass out of the way so one of us can?”
“Excuse me? That’s my phone! That was a very important call!”
“And I have a very important appointment with my desk in less than five minutes. I’d really like to get there.”
I got a few cheers for that as people started calling out their floors. I reached past her flabbergasted face and punched them in. The elevator slowed at four. We lost a few there. At six, a few more. By the time we got to my floor, ten, it was only the diva, my friend Stan and me.
She’d called back her buddy and was babbling along, shooting nasty glances in my direction. So she was telling her boyfriend about the jerk on the elevator, I didn’t care. I was going to be late and I really needed a cup of coffee before running to my desk.
The second the door opened, Stan sprinted to his office which is directly across from the elevators. No coffee yet, I figured, as I started out the door. The diva followed me from the elevator, which continued to the twelfth floor without her.
“Excuse me.” Her tone was not to be ignored.
Turning quickly, I looked a little sheepish. “Look, Miss,” I tried to explain. “I’m about to be late.”
“I don’t really care, Mister Whatever. That was a very important call. Overseas, I might add, to a client in Milan. You had no right to do that.”
“And you had no right to stand in front of the elevator buttons where no one could reach them. I tried being nice, but you gave me no choice. Love to chat, but I’m now officially late. Grazie.” I saluted and dashed to my desk as the hands of the clock clicked to nine oh one.
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So, you’ve finished that four hundred and sixty page novel. You sit proudly and pat the cover page tenderly, smoothing the white surface when much to your horror, you see a mistake! Cold sweat breaks out on your brow, fingers tremble, mouth suddenly goes dry. As your eye wanders down the page, more and more errors jump out at you! Fear grips your heart as you stumble from the desk, desperate for a calming cool drink. It’s a nightmare, but you can’t wake up. It’s real. Your brainchild, the fruit of your creative efforts, is flawed and it’s up to you to fix it.
This is a scenario each of us faces. Sometimes it’s as minor as a misplaced comma or a dangling modifier. Other times an entire scene, or even half the novel is so bad it has to be scrapped and retooled. I started an historical novel about ten years ago, set it aside since it wasn’t going anywhere, picked it up a few years later and realized the reason it hadn’t gone anywhere was that it was garbage! No other word for it. After careful review, I threw away all but ten handwritten pages. Of those ten pages, perhaps parts of seven survive in the retooled version.
Several things were problematic that I didn’t realize until much later. First, and most important, the point of view and style were all wrong. Set in St. Augustine in the Florida territory in the late 1700’s, it was told in first person by a young Spanish woman. I had chosen to do it like a diary (not really sure why) and it was far too limiting to my story.
Second, after doing some more research, I found that the time period would have to be moved from the 1780’s to 1739 or I could not incorporate certain facets of the novel. It would have been grossly inaccurate.
Third, and most difficult, the man I had intended to be the bad guy simply wasn’t working. No matter what I did, even in the retooled version, he wouldn’t be villainous. The heroine refused to fall in love with anyone else. Even the good guy couldn’t be relied upon to behave. He became the villain, the villain became the hero, the heroine didn’t succumb to another man’s charms, and they all lived happily ever after. (Except for the villain, because he, of course, was dead.)
It got terribly out of hand. After lots of time and effort reading and re-reading, honing, changing, and fine tuning, it is a really solid piece of literature that I am proud to put my name on. Five years ago, when I started re-writing it, I wouldn’t have given ten cents for it. It was the catalyst that started me writing in earnest and made me realize I had stories inside me to tell. None of the rest are historical in nature, the rest are sci-fi, because with that novel I learned something else important. You can’t do too much research if you want to be historically accurate. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’d rather spend my time bleeding profusely from multiple wounds that tracking down that evasive, all important fact.
Sci-fi is far easier for me to write. Once I have a believable setting, the rest is easy. Don’t ignore the laws of science, throw in some really good fight scenes, add a few interesting aliens and voila! Creating my own world is far easier than working within the confines of someone else’s, but that old adage “write what you know,” is nonsense. What I know is boring! Who wants to know about raising kids, doing endless errands, making phone calls and taking out the garbage? No one.
Writing is the ultimate escapism. For that short span of time, things work out; the hero and heroine fall in love and live happily ever after. The bad guy gets his just desserts, the good guy wins, and there is always a happy ending. It’s far more interesting than washing the dirty dishes, cooking dinner or sorting laundry.
But I digress. Despite the thrill of putting words on paper, the hard part is making sure that everything is right. We can live with the small stuff like ending a sentence with a preposition. Frankly, it sounds odd if it’s correct. However, misplaced modifiers, sentence fragments and subject – verb agreement are very important. Even if a writer can’t name the errors, wrong is wrong!
One solution is to read and re-read your own work, honing and perfecting it. It’s easy to miss simple errors that way. Sometimes running off a hard copy helps, but it’s still hard to catch it all. Better yet, get people who are gifted in grammar to help you. They might not be able to name the error, but they can spot one and may be able to offer suggestions on how to correct it. If you can afford it, have an editor review it. Few of us can, so it’s up to us to read and re-read our own work until it is smooth and as error free as it can possibly be.
For goodness sake, don’t rely on the grammar check in Word! It’s garbage and will cause for more problems than it solves. I don’t care if it’s the primary word processing program used world wide, the grammar check is terrible. Spell check, on the other hand, is a Godsend, but won’t help you if you simply type in the wrong word. I once finished typing out a test for my 11th grade class only to find that I had one very important little word wrong and the spell check hadn’t caught it. Instead of saying, “What is the theme of this story?” I had, “Shat is the theme of this story?” (For those of you who don’t know, that’s the past tense of the verb ‘to shit’. — 11th graders knew that!)
There is no easy way to get through the editing process. It is tedious and time consuming, but if it makes the difference between selling a book and having it gather dust, it’s well worth it.
© Dellani Oakes
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This post was inspired by a post on the Second Wind Word Press page, by Pat Bertram. In it, she talks about how a character name shows a lot about the character. I started this as a comment to her, but it got too long, so I moved it here. Dellani
I believe a name tells a lot about a character. One can be as obvious as “Young Goodman Brown” or as subtle as Duncan Chandler. The reason I cite the latter as an example is because he is one of my characters whose name represents two distinct facets of his personality. Duncan means “Dark Warrior”. He is the son of the protagonist, himself a dark warrior (both in aspect and action). Duncan is looked upon as a warrior, the next generation. Chandler means “Light Bringer”. The reason I chose this name is because he is also looked upon as the new hope, the one to fight the darkness and evil that threaten.
That got me interested in other names that I’ve used in the same series:
Matilda (Duncan’s mother) “Fierce in Battle”
Wilhelm (his father) “Determined Protector”
Marcus (his paternal uncle) “Of Mars – Warlike”
Rebbecca (Marc’s wife) “Enchantingly Beautiful”
Benjamin (his older brother) “Of the Right Hand”
Emmelia (Ben’s wife and Chairman of the Board of the Mining Guild) “Work”
Except for Duncan’s name, which I looked up and chose carefully, all these names were given by chance. But looking at their personalities, the names fit them incredibly well. Matilda, his mother, is a warrior and as fierce as her husband in a battle. Wil protects his family, friends, and those who fight with him. Marc is also a true warrior and his wife, Rebbecca, is beautiful. Ben is his father’s right hand, his wife Emmelia is one of the hardest working women in the galaxy.
My readers will probably never know the meanings behind the names, nor why I find them significant, but I found it an interesting way of fleshing them out.
Writers new and old sometimes have trouble finding a place to start. We are full of all kinds of ideas, and jot them down in an effort to keep track of them. Getting these ideas into a cohesive whole can be trying. As an A.P. English teacher, I had to take high school students into the unstable world of creative writing. It was a scarey trip for all of us! I used several exercises both for these journeys and for less creative projects.
One thing I had them do was a character sketch. Sometimes the character was from a book we were reading, others were character types I gave them and they had to write a description. I do not claim to be an expert at anything but my own little world, but I have found a few ways to get fourteen through seventeen year olds to write. I’ve incorporated the same exercises for myself, so I know they work for adults as well.
Pick a character you want to develop but are having trouble getting hold of:
Start by giving him or her a name.
Decide on his age.
Hair color. (Include facial hair)
Skin type and color.
What he wears.
What he carries.
His voice and manner of speaking.
Does he have pets? Do animals even like him?
Does he live alone? Where does he live?
Is he healthy?
Is he a good person or an evil one?
Does he like people or does he shun their society?
How does he travel?
Tom the Magician -all right it’s not very creative, but he’s got a name! None of this is written in stone. A better name can be given to him later.
Age: He is ancient.
Hair color: His hair is pure white and he has a long white beard.
Eyes: His eyes are piercing blue.
Skin type & color: His skin is pale and like parchment.
Clothing: He wears a black woolen robe that is in tatters.
What he carries: He carries a gnarled staff.
Voice: His voice is a deep baritone. He tends to stutter.
Does he have pets: He has an old Greyhound and an Irish Wolfhound who share his cave.
Does he have family: He has no family.
Where does he live: In a cave in the mountains.
Health: He doesn’t take care of himself and tends to cough a lot.
Good or Evil: He’s a good man, but not a terribly good magician. He has a bad memory and makes mistakes in his spells.
How does he travel: He doesn’t travel because he’s made himself so unpopular with his botched spells that he doesn’t dare go far from home.
Habits: having been alone so long, he talks to himself.
Once you have gotten the sketchy details you can flesh him out and think about where he is, what he’s doing, where he’s going, who he’s with. Do a basic Who, What, When, Why, How like a journalist, only you don’t use journalistic jargon. Read through your character sketch and make changes until you are satisfied with it. This process can be done for any character you create.
One thing I always keep in mind, my characters have an existence of their own. They make their own decisions, go their own way, and do what they want. Remain flexible, today’s villain may be tomorrow’s hero!