Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Backstory Synchronicity

There have been several times in the past weeks where some little detail in a character's backstory has played a significant role in the character's development in the novel that I hadn't seen prior to writing a particular chapter. Last night I wrote part of the pre-Revival get-together where people sing hymns and share their stories. I also included a flashback where Reverend Gantt's prison history plays a factor (I didn't know it would going in, and it probably needs refinement, but it worked well enough for last night).

For more examples of this happening, see my other blog.

As the song ended, Gantt looked for another person to pass the microphone to. Three rows back he saw one of the women he had borrowed gardening equipment from earlier in the day raise her hand. As he handed her the microphone, he noticed the BELLIGERENT man who had ACCOSTED him in his trailer twenty minutes before the service began.

“I’m not a believer in God or any of that stuff,” the woman began, “but I want to tell you something about this man, Reverent Gantt. The reverent came to my house this morning ....”

* * *

Gantt tuned the woman and her poor vocabulary out and considered the man – the bully – at the back of the tent. The man’s arms were crossed, the backs of his hands possibly pushing his biceps up, but as Gantt remembered it the man’s arms had looked plenty big as he towered over the desk in his office. Gantt [had] sat placidly – on the outside he was placid, on the inside he was looking for something to hit the man with if he lunged, a necessary skill he had learned in prison – and listened to the man threaten him incoherently.

“If anything happens to her, you better start praying. I swear I’ll come down on you so hard you’ll wish you were back in Sunday school, preacher man.”

And so it had gone for a minute or two until the man ran out of steam. Gantt had decided that if the man attacked he’d grab the satellite phone out of the drawer and smash it into the side of his head.

Gantt kept his tone even, neutral, maintaining eye contact with the man towering above him. “I don’t know who you are or what you have to do with me, but let me say that I –“

“I’ll tell you who I am, I’m the daddy of the little girl you worked your voodoo on yesterday and I’m the man who’s gonna kill you if they find anything wrong with her at the hospital in PENDLETON.”

“If that’s the case, why aren’t you there with her instead of here blustering at me.” Turning the tables was another defensive trick he had learned in prison. He hadn’t been much of a people person before entering the penitentiary, but he found quickly how to forestall violence with communication and other helpful life lessons while locked away.

“Because the damn bridge is out and I’m stuck here looking at your ugly face.”

“I see, hmmmm, well I need to be going; I have to take my ugly face out there to the tent for the Hymnsing. If you want to keep looking at it, if that’s what you want to do, I’m not going to stop you; it’s a free country, after all.” Nonchalant on the outside, cautious on the inside Gantt pushed his chair back away from the desk. “But I’d caution you,” Gantt said as he stood and took his coat from a hangar – the metal tip of the hangar would make a good gouging weapon, he thought; “the sheriff mentioned he’d come by and look things over, so I’d keep control of that temper if I were you.”

The bully – Maya’s father, if he wasn’t a complete raving psycho – told Gantt what he could do with himself and stormed out of the trailer.

Gantt took the hangar with him, the hook bent straight out to a point, as he opened the door. He stepped out side and tried the door handle to make sure it was locked behind him. Maya’s father was nowhere in sight; Gantt was certain that he had nothing to worry about, that Maya was alive and well, that all the medical tests would come back clean, but he took the hangar with him to tent to be on the safe side.

(daily word count: 2,753 words; total word count: 49.500 words; words remaining: 500)