Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Interviewing your character II

Emily Hanlon gives 50 questions to ask from your character in her three part series "interviewing your character" in her blog "Fiction Writing - The Passionate Journey"
Interview I, II and III and More Questions, for the questions 27-39

An interview with the dashingly handsome private detective Dewain Cavish.
Part II

Where did you grow up?

In the whorehouse and streets of London.

What did your father do?

Wouldn't know. All I know is that he was a werepanther and I look like him.

What about your mother? What was she like?

Mommy (smiles) My mother was a whore. She's dead now, like most of old whores are. She was a good person... always kind and happy and... she was soft, round, had hazel eyes and honey colored hair. She used to keep hard candy pastilles in her pockets and she gave candy to all kids she met. We loved running her errands... she told fairytales to us in the evenings, before she went to work. I used to listen to them every night, until she died... she could a lot of stories - or invented them herself - she never told the same story twice, unless we kids asked... and even then it wasn't enough to ask, we had to demand and bug her to tell a story twice. Girls loved the princess stories, I loved the adventures.

What was your favorite fairytale?

Puss in boots. (smiles widely) I love cats. I used to share my food with cats waiting for Puss to come and make me rich, but he never came. Later, my mother told me about my father, and she said that sometimes pusses make one rich in a different way... that she got me from her Puss. So I might get something else from my Puss. That every person gets different things from Puss... I think I have got my agility from my Puss... and the knowledge of the town. I followed the cats and pushed myself through small holes and into narrow chimneys... I can go anywhere in the town by the roofs, and one really gets everywhere that way. People very seldom look up, and there's all kinds of things, chimneys, gargoyles, kattoikkunat ja ulokkeet, one can hide behind. Also, most people don't guard the roof entrances to the houses... there's always a window or latch open up there through which one can get in if one wants. Or you can go through the chimney. I might be the reason to why people believe Santa Claus comes in through the chimney (laughs).

How did your parents get along?

Really stupid question... really well when they were together, but that lasted less than an hour. Next question.

Do you have any brothers or sisters?


What was the thing that scared you most as a kid?

Angry men. Men who could and would hurt my mother and the other women. They were all like aunts to me, and I loved them all.

Dewain, be the child you once were. What do you see? Feel?

Now, I - the writer - am to write a scene from Dewain's childhood - Dewain is not a writer, he can barely write and read, that was something that wasn't necessary to learn. He can read enough to know whether his friends reading for him are cheating him or not, and he can write his name and short messages, but he couldn't write a scene of his childhood.
I am also to "show, not tell", which is a little tricky thing... you see, it's an effect and slows the story down, even when it creates a very good relations between the reader and the story. It is to be used sparingly, as an effect it is, when needed, and not all the time. There's nothing wrong with telling. The "correct" way of using this line is "show, not JUST tell" :-D

So - Dewain is being hypnotized and moved back to his childhood.

"I'm in the kitchen... Auntie Hetty is baking... I am not tall, I can barely see the tabletop while standing by the table on my toes. Sylvie sees my problems and gives me a stool. It's a nice stool, painted bright blue, like Sylvie's eyes, and I use it a lot. For some reason I didn't think of taking it to reach the table better, but I suppose I'm not old, if I'm so short. Hetty bakes every day for the guests... they are to have something to nibble while they wait. Esther says that a man who has eaten some sweets is a kinder man. I hope Hetty uses a lot of sugar then, because I don't like big, red men, shouting and pushing girls around. Hetty smiles at me while she rolls the cookie dough and gives me a small piece of the dough. It is good. Hetty is very good at baking. The dough is rolled quickly and then cut into squares, she washes them with egg and sprinkles plenty of coarse sugar on top, then the cookies fly on the baking trays and into the oven. She puts a chunk of sugar into my mouth when she puts the ingredients back in the cupboard and then she wipes the table clean. The tea kettle whistles and her hands fly to set the table for tea. It's time for the girls to get up and have breakfast and they start dropping in in pairs and threes. Cindy comes alone, yawning, but she is not very social of herself. Betsy lifts me up into her lap and shares her breakfast roll with me. Hetty takes the cookies out of the oven and gives me one. It's still hot and soft, and I burn my tongue with it, and the girls laugh. Cindy doesn't laugh, she puts some butter on my tongue and gives me cold milk. Hetty pats me on my head and mommy scolds me for being so greedy. I didn't know freshly baked cookies can burn your tongue. My tongue is sore, but the cookie is good. Hetty gives me another one, this time it's not that hot and soft, it's crispy and crunchy. The sugar on top crunches too, but differently. It's good, but mommy tells Hetty not to give me more. Betsy takes another roll, with orange marmalade and cheese, and no-one scolds her for being greedy, because I have eaten most of her first roll. I want down, I'm not getting any more cookies and I'm not hungry anymore."

For now, I'm going to jump over questions 21-26, as they are connected to the childhood memory. I just don't want to dwell over Dewain's unhappy childhood, when it really wasn't. Dewain remembered something happy, warm, kind and nice, even though he burned his tongue. He wasn't running, crying or hurt, but a happy, warm, satisfied little boy. There were days when there was no food, and days when the food wasn't enough, but that came later. Teenaged boys use a lot of energy and eat accordingly. Dewain was mostly hungry from 9 to 19, stole food wherever he could find it. Hetty baked for the whorehouse at that time too, but white sugar and flour was not wasted on the help boy. He got his breakfast roll with a spoon of marmalade and one slice of cheese, with his milk tea, but that was almost all he got, and that is not even close enough. He would have shared his roll with Molly, but he wasn't allowed to take food from the kitchen. Hetty asked him to get Molly to the house to eat, but Molly got beaten half dead by her mother after the one time she did that - Molly's mother was a "God fearing" woman and would rather have killed her daughter than allowed her near a whorehouse. (Which she in a way did, as Molly died of hunger - had she been allowed to accept the "immoral bread", she'd survived. It was never considered that she'd started working in the house. It was to help the already "fallen" women, not to cause anyone to fall.)

Now, who was Molly? She isn't even mentioned in the book, even though she seems to be quite important to Dewain.

Molly was a poor girl, living one step higher from the streets, enough for her mother to believe to be a "better person", but not distinctable from the "real" street kids in the eyes of everyone richer. Her mother was a wife of a sailor, who might have been alive or might have died - no-one knew. Her house was in impeccable order and so clean one could have eaten on the floor, even though there was anything to be eaten very, very seldom. She earned some pennies by washing for the richer families and helping in other heavy household chores, and she got herself a meal while doing that. She often forgot that her children didn't have the same benefits, so she didn't quite understand that Molly was slowly starving. All her kids were forbidden to touch anything dirty or go near the whorehouse or pubs, but Molly was the only one who did was she was told, so she didn't even get the additional nutrition of half-rotten food found in the garbage or a half-eaten apple thrown away by someone more blessed. She wasn't supposed to play with Dewain either, but Molly's mother had made the mistake of telling Dewain and the "girls" this, not to Molly, so Molly didn't know and Dewain was very careful not to let her mother know about his disregard to her wishes. Dewain managed to feed Molly every now and then by begging food by the restaurant back doors before it was thrown away and thus made untouchable to Molly.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I LOVE Dewain!
The way you show without telling...
Now, you should write a novel where Dewain is the Main character....THAT I would DEVOUR, if what I read here is an indication of what would be in such a novel.

Very Dickinsian without the gloom and 'social politics' painted on top.
You rock!