Friday, December 21, 2012

Closer to Adele

Damian tried not to stare as the gorgeous woman sauntered toward him. Something in her gait reminded him of a big cat on the hunt.

Been watching the discovery channel too much, Damian mused. His stomach did a flip as their eyes met briefly.

Close your mouth, Inigo advised.

Damain’s jaw snapped closed, and he looked away, cheeks burning. He missed the tiny smile that his obvious discomfort elicited. By the time he’d worked up the courage to turn his head back, she was standing in front of him.

“Okay, on a scale of Taylor Swift to Adele, how bad was it?”

It was the voice of heaven. The barkeep put on a sympathetic smile and Damian’s world faded to a tunnel. Her teeth were the brightest thing in the room. It was as if a spotlight operator was painting her from above.

What the hell had she just said? Damian’s mind stumbled all over itself.

She continued to smile, but one dark eyebrow arched and a booted foot began to tap. Even her impatience was sexy. Damian felt jealous of the grimy floor.

She spoke again. “Only two types of folk in here tonight, the desperate and the lonely, and I know that look.” Her eyes locked onto Damian’s and held him there, a prisoner in their speckled, emerald depths. “So… how bad?”

Her voice had a light lilt, just enough to keep Damian aware of her tongue. He tried his best to prevent his own from wagging.

Ha, Inigo laughed. It worked, did it not?

What worked? Damian wanted to know.

My summons! Hurry, you must respond before she is ensnared by the others.

A group of men to the right looked as if they might seize the opening and start up their own conversation. Panic gripped Damian as he realized his chance might be slipping by. Thinking quickly, he formulated a proper reply.

“Uh,” Damian said.

He regretted it immediately.

Eloquent, Inigo agreed dryly.

The woman’s renewed smile was salve to the burn on Damian's face. “That bad, eh?” It was the third time she'd spoken to him, and she still seemed to be expecting some sort of reply. Something more than “uh.”

Quickly, Inigo whispered, repeat after me: I apologize, but your beauty hath momentarily disarmed me. What would my lady suggest?

Damian parroted, his mind still mostly blank. To his surprise, the boot froze mid-tap. The bartender giggled; Damian's heart bubbled right along with the laugh.

Amused eyes kept him pinned down. “Well, that gets points for originality, anyway.” She gestured vaguely behind her. “How about a beer?”

Damian nodded.

His eyes followed as the woman bounced away. With casual familiarity, she flipped a glass up, caught it, and then slid it under the tap. Beer frothed forth, golden and inviting. She tipped the foam from the top and danced back. When the beer was beneath his nose, Damian was surprised to find her sizing him up.

“Was that a Spanish accent I detected?” she asked.

Crap. “That depends,” he said.

Inigo, of course, was nowhere to be heard, now.

She raised an eyebrow. “On?”

“Have you ever been to Spain?”

She shook her head, setting her curls aflutter. “No, but I think I'd like to.”

“Me too,” Damian admitted.

It is not all that and a plate of patatas fritas, Inigo grumbled.

She giggled again, genuinely pleased. The corners of Damian's mouth soared. He took a sip of beer to hide his idiot grin. When he set the beer back on the counter, he was wearing what he hoped was simply a friendly and inviting smile. Smooth would probably be too much to ask.

“I'm Damian,” he said, extending a tentative hand.

She took it. Her skin was silk. Damian held it expectantly.

She cocked her head over a shoulder. “Genny."

Her name was displayed on a hanging placard above a half-filled tip jar. It had been handwritten; both the leading and trailing letters were embellished with swirls. Damian felt his stomaching mimicking them.

With a quick squeeze, she broke contact, heading to the other end of the bar. Her departure was like ripping off a bandage. Suddenly, the pain that had brought him to the bar came crashing back. Damian took a long pull of the beer. He watched surreptitiously as Genny served the group of boisterous men. He couldn't help but notice that she wasn't shaking any of their hands.

His satisfied smirk warred with the recently ripped hole inside of him. Was he here to bury an old love or chase fruitlessly after a new one? Seemed like there were some decisions to be made, despite his intentions.

You can guess at my vote, no? Inigo chimed in.
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Scene Intro - Hope Springs

Didn't get around to posting last week, sorry. Holidays are busy and stuff, right? It's okay, though, because we have a slightly longer scene this week. Plus, I totally snagged one of the early lines from a pretty popular Internet meme. I think it's pretty hilarious, and fits in the context of what is going on. The only danger to using memes like this is, well, in ten years will it make any sense?

In this case, I think folks will be able to pick it up even if the artists are unknown to them. Plus, it's not really necessary to get the joke in order to get the scene. I was told, once upon a time, that dating yourself is a bad thing. I tend to agree if we're talking dinner and a movie. Otherwise, I like to see a bit of personality in my characters, and of course a bartender would "know the look."

There's a reason Genny spells her name with a G, and I needed to find a clever way for Damian to learn the spelling. We're sort of viewing the story through his eyes, and it would bug me to read an abnormal spelling and not understand how the protagonist knows. Don't ask me why; it's completely unnecessary to explain in 3rd person, especially we're mostly omniscient in this story. I try to refrain from head-jumping, but I wouldn't classify this as strictly limited either. Maybe I'm wrong. Point is that I was hoping to draw attention to the spelling more organically than just plopping it on you and not explaining anything. I think having it appear in the world makes one kind of go, "It's weird, but the main character doesn't know why it's spelled that way, either... so it's okay, for now." We'll learn more later.

I like having Inigo leak over into Damian. If you've not caught on by now, the leaking tends to occur when Damian loses self-control. It's also important to note that Inigo is not malicious when he leaks in. One might correctly surmise that an entirely different relationship between the two could easily have formed. One where they are not so friendly.

Also, if you consider Damian's formal reply... I find that hilarious in your typical bar setting. I sort of want to use that line some day. I also use the word aflutter, which I had to look up to make sure I wasn't making up. Word nerd points there, am I right? I may be exposing the underlying romantic in me...

Perhaps one of my favorite themes is exemplified in this scene: "In the depths of despair... hope." Left are these three...

Anyway, here's the scene. Enjoy!
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Friday, December 7, 2012

A Diamond in the Rough

The bar was a dive. They tried to hide it with sub-optimal lighting, but the effort was ineffective. Light didn't hide the grimy, sticky floor underfoot. Neither did it help the awful crooning that crackled through the ancient sound system.

At least the music is good, Inigo said. He was still in control, and had Damian bobbing his head in time to the dreadful beat.

Ugh, Damian replied, I hate country. And the speakers are at least a decade old. Can’t you hear the signal distortion?

You have not experienced the minstrels that I have. This is not so bad, Inigo replied. Besides, your women appear to enjoy it.

Damian's head swiveled toward the dance floor. Even calling it a dance floor was generous. It a space without tables. Several scantily clad older women gyrated in the middle. Their clothes might have looked at home on younger girls. These ladies obviously took pride in the fact that they could still rock a mini-dress. Damian supposed they had a right to their pride; they were very obviously in good shape. He was being unfair, but he did not find it alluring.

Cougars, he sighed.

What do felines have to do with anything? Inigo asked.

Damian chuckled. His mind-companion had some difficulty with colloquialisms. As Damian was trying to craft an explanation, he realized that his body had stopped halfway from the entrance to the bar counter. He was grinning at the dancing women. One had already begun to smile back.

Just take us to the bar, Damian ordered. We're supposed to be destroying memories tonight, not creating more I'll wish to forget.

Inigo acquiesced and they glided across the room with far more grace than Damian thought he could manage had he been in control. Not for the first time, he puzzled at why this was. How would a fragment of his mind be able to coordinate his muscles better? Why should it make a difference? Nothing he'd studied about schizophrenia had shed any light on this. In fact, most of it suggested that he shouldn't even be aware of the other voices.

Easing onto the wobbly wooden stool, Damian-Inigo turned to look at the row of gleaming taps. If there was one positive thing that could be said about the place: it carried a wide variety of beer. At the current point in time, though, there was no bar tender.

Just my luck, Damian whined.

Let me deal with this, Inigo said.

"Barkeep!" Damian-Inigo hollered.  "I desire ale!"

Several of the patrons turned to glare. Most, though, simply ignored the outburst. They were drowning in their own problems. Damian snickered. In previous centuries, perhaps yelling for the barkeep had been more effective.

Then, she appeared.

Spilling from beneath a classic Stetson were dark ringlets of perfectly shiny hair. Her skin was sun-darkened with an olive cast and her red lips shone like sin. She wore an understated tank-top that bowed in all the right places, though only a modest amount of cleavage was exposed to the smoke-laden air. Her jeans appeared to have been painted on, though most of the fun views were obscured by the half-apron she wore with the implements of her trade stuck in it: straws, napkins, and a bottle opener, among other things.

Damian was willing to forgive her the cowboy hat. Hell, he was willing to forgive her murder. Damian felt the sudden urged to regain possession of his faculties.

Hey, Inigo whined.

Shut up, Damian replied. I think I might want to keep my memory, after all.
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My original concept for having a voice in Damian's head was born out of a desire to convey a lot of story through dialog. I always enjoy conversations between characters, and it's a heck of a lot more interesting than long internal monologues. The thought skittered across my mind: But what about internal dialog? I wanted a companion without having a companion.

Inigo is a lot of fun. If you've not caught the Princess Bride reference, then I'm giving it away now. That's how I imagine Inigo's voice. We'll learn more about Inigo, but I thought it would be fun to have an old-fashioned, swashbuckler type consciousness alongside Damian's analytic, engineering mind.

If Inigo's input sound somewhat stilted, that's intentional. I want to convey that English might not be his native tongue. If you're asking yourself, how can a made up voice in Damian's mind know things that Damian does not or could not know... good question. More of that later. The short answer: he's not a figment of Damian's mind.

Now, Damian isn't exactly a bar-goer. Still, sometimes when we're really lonely, we'll take any sort of human interaction we can get, am I right? I wanted to convey that Damian is not chasing tail in this scene. That's not really his thing. (Inigo, on the other hand... well, he's not exactly picky.)

I liked the idea of Damian just sort of sitting back and letting Inigo "drive." As far as Damian is concerned, the lack of control is simply another facet of his condition. Since the voice is in his head, it's not as if someone else is controlling him, he simply cannot summon the will to care right now. He's depressed, so Inigo can control things a bit more than usual. This is important to consider down the line. We can see that when Inigo takes control, Damian is smoother, more nimble. I'd also imagine his voice takes on a light accent. The implication here being that these are traits Inigo might possess.

Ultimately, it is important to note, Inigo cannot do anything that Damian does not allow. When Damian directs Inigo away from the women, Inigo follows. When Damian wishes to seize back control, he can. There is, most definitely, a hierarchy of consciousness here.

Finally, I introduce Genny, the barkeep. We'll find out a lot about her, but the correct question her is: What's a girl like you doing in a place like this? Ever been to a dive bar on a work night? Interesting clientele, let me tell you. And if the good-looking bartenders have a choice, they'd work when there'd be better tips. So what is Genny doing here? Not simply serving drinks, I'll say that much.

Damian seizing control is hopefully as interesting as it is slightly humorous. Ever met someone that causes you to sit up just a little bit straighter and take notice?
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