Middle Grade Character Introductions

Part of my homework for this week was to write a “two page” character intro for an engaging Middle Grade character.  I dislike “pages” as a measure of length when I’m writing, since I don’t use Word and see no reason to change that, but that translates to roughly 500 words.  Of course, I wrote one and wasn’t satisfied, so now I have two that I’m not totally satisfied with.  I feel like they do a better job of introducing conflict and drama than they do of introducing a particular character, if only because I have little tolerance for writing an opening scene that doesn’t start something.

In any case, here’s two Middle Grade scenes presented back-to-back, with no real relation between the two.  Oh, yes, and one of them is actually about Jerome from my Elven Progenitors setting.  Enjoy!

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Story Snippet: The Sequel to Rum Luck, pt 1

Today I have the beginning to a sequel for you, a continuation of the story I started in Rum Luck (rough draft of that story can be found here).  If you like Andre and Jerome, you’re in for a treat.  It does end rather abruptly, but there’ll probably be more soon.  Read on, and enjoy!

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Flash Fiction: Characters in 250 words or less

Like it says in the title, this week’s flash fiction challenge is to create characters and convey them in 250 words or less.  I’ve had a few knocking around in my head recently, and I decided to let two of them out.  I’ve already written stories about both of them before, which you can find (amongst others) right here.

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Short Story: Rum Luck

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Rum Luck: Bad luck, esp. in a certain circumstance or series of events

This one came about through an odd (actually, pretty typical) series of circumstances: I was starting another story and realized partway through that I really needed to know what came before it.  Like its predecessors, this takes place in a fantastical alternate history setting, with geography (and some place-names) much like our world’s.  And again, this is a fairly rough draft.  Other stories in the same setting can be found here, here, here, and here.  Enjoy responsibly.

*     *     *

The night air was fresh and clean, carrying the scents of salt and the sweet tropical grasses that grew along the beaches here.  It wafted up from the shore, dancing across the slopes of the hills and tickling the back of Jerome’s neck as he and Andre drove their wagon along the well-traveled path.  Stars dotted the sky above them, and a rising moon left a glimmering trail on the water to their right.  Andre’s lantern cast enough light on the trail ahead for the horses, both of whom had traversed this path many times before.  The hefty dwarf smiled up at Jerome, his teeth gleaming as they caught the moonlight.

“You know, Jerome, sometimes,” Andre gave a happy sigh, “sometimes this really isn’t so bad at all.”  His free hand swept to encompass the hillsides around them, the trail, the sea, and the rising moon.  He glanced behind them at the bed of the wagon, eyeing the casks which he’d so carefully secured.  They sloshed as the wagon creaked and rattled.  From where Andre sat, Jerome’s answering grin was silhouetted against the rising moon.

“I told you this would be a good job.”  Jerome risked a glance at Andre, looking away from the team for a moment.  Andre snorted in response, and Jerome chuckled.  Trying to keep a straight face, he continued, “And have I ever led you astray before?”  The two of them burst out laughing.  They laughed so long and so hard that Andre was soon wiping tears from the corners of his eyes.

“Never!”  Andre lied with a guffaw.  The two of them burst into a new round of laughter.

Jerome took the reins in one hand for long enough to wipe his now wet cheeks.  “Well!  I’m glad we’re in agreement then!”  He chuckled some more for the next few minutes, watching the bends in the path as it took them down the shoreside route.  It was several miles from the sugar mill and distillery where they’d picked up their load to the town where they’d been hired to deliver it, and in weather such as they had tonight it was a true pleasure to travel.

“I still don’t see why that man wanted you to do the delivery instead of whatever drivers he normally uses.”  Andre returned to their earlier debate, though he sounded far more goodnatured than he had while they were arguing over it in the bar.

“He said his usual drivers were sick or something.”  Jerome peered ahead at the dimly lit path.  He slowed the horses a little further, glancing to either side.  “Play that light across those rocks, will you?  I don’t like the looks of them.”  Jerome nodded as Andre complied, then added with a grin, “And besides, he said it was a pleasure to be doing business with me again!”

“Pffffft.”  Andre made his opinion of that idea clear.  He shook his head, running his free hand through his beard as the wagon rattled slowly towards the rocks that he’d illuminated.  “He just said that so he could screw us with lower pay than he’d usually give, and all of it at the end of the job too.”

Jerome winced a little.  He allowed as to how that might be true, though he wasn’t likely to agree with Andre out loud.  Certainly not just now.  He looked over the rocks again, largish things that lay to either side of the trail, and had a sudden flash of memory that helped him place why he felt so uncomfortable.  “You know,” he began, “I’ve been ambushed near stones like these before—,” and then he saw the figures rising from either side of the road, guns in hand, while a small log was heaved into place across the path from the lower slope to his right.  Jerome gently brought the wagon to a stop.

“Have you now,” Andre muttered darkly as he raised his hands.  “I never would have guessed.”

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Short Story: A Simple Misunderstanding

Here’s the return of Andre and Jerome, the pair of accidentally-adventurous miscreants.  If you want to read other stories about them, try Paying the TabJerome Goes North, or Jerome’s Tropical Vacation.  There should be another short story coming along soon!

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“Does everyone understand their part?”  The man’s voice was nagging and whiny.

Belly down on the hay-strewn dirt, Andre felt a sneeze coming on.  There was the unmistakable sensation of rising, building pressure, and that odd tingling feeling that came along with it.  He knew it would feel so good to sneeze that the anticipation was almost pleasant in and of itself.  Despite this, he thrust his hand up underneath his nose, trying to press against the bone just above his teeth in an effort to stop the sneeze before it could come out.  Through his desperately squinted eyes he could make out the feet of five people standing less than a yard from where he hid underneath a small wagon, and he knew that sneezing would be a very bad life choice at this moment.  None of the people whose conversation he’d been eavesdropping on would appreciate unexpected company.

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What You Want To Read

I have been moderately derelict in my duties: I’m in the throes of a book.  1636: The Devil’s Opera caught me late yesterday and hasn’t yet let go.  I am also partway through two others (Hide Me Among The Graves, The Quiller Memorandum), but I don’t have a review of any of them ready for you.

I’ve been making progress on the next Jerome short story, with several thousand words down already and a good number more to go.  I’ve been having some trouble with this one, but it’ll come around eventually.

What I want to know, though, is what you next want to read from me.  Specifically, are any of you interested in seeing more material based on that flash fic piece which I wrote?  I’ll include it past the break so that you can refresh your memory, but here are a few questions to get things started:

  • Do you want to see more in this setting?
  • If yes, whom should I follow?  Who and what seem most interesting to you?  How long should I make it?
  • If no, what sort of thing would you like to see instead?  Do you have any ideas that you’d like to see explored?

Please put any responses in the comment section.  Once again, the flash fic piece in question follows the break…

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Short Story: Jerome’s Tropical Vacation

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Alternate title: Dude, Where’s My Boat?

Dear readers,

It’s taken a bit longer than I had expected, but I finally have another installment for you.  This goes along with two other pieces in the same setting.  I won’t claim that this is the final version of this story, but I do think it’s ready for your eyes.  It might even, according to some of my proofreaders, be fun.  Enjoy!

***

Jerome lay on the sandy hill, exhausted.  He had pulled himself up to the line of trees, above the high tide mark, and fallen to his knees before slumping over onto his back.  The sun was slowly lighting the sky from beyond the horizon, turning the east pinkish gray in anticipation.  Lifting his head, Jerome could see the ship breaking apart on the reef.  Much of it was still afloat, but it was all wrong.  The wood was holding together, but it had been so battered by the waves and rocks that the only piece he could recognize was the bowsprit.  That jutted into the sky, waving back and forth like a flagstaff whipped by wind as the swell dropped it time and again in the shallow water.  It had separated a while earlier, breaking off the forward hull with a sickening crack that he had heard across the water.  Soon enough there would be nothing but fragments and scattered driftwood, carried off by the rolling waves.  Jerome found the fate of the ship a fitting metaphor for all civilized accomplishments.  Who could claim that they had made something which would last more than a few heavy storms without being constantly repaired and rebuilt?  Everything slowly fell apart, even as people tried to hold it together.

His head dropped back onto the sand.  This was probably just his fatigue talking.  He knew that he wasn’t usually this unhappy.  He watched as the darkness of the night sky fled across the heavens towards the western horizon.  Then again, he reflected, he usually hadn’t just been shipwrecked and marooned, likely to die far from home on an island in the New Sea.  It was enough to make him want to cry, but he was just too tired.

***

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Short Story: Jerome Goes North

A second story in my fantastical alternate history world; this one follows Jerome at a younger age, as he travels to trade with the Northmen.

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It was one of those late summer days when the weather somehow thought it was late fall, and Jerome huddled into his wool cloak as the wind forced rain into his eyes.  A truly miserable day to be riding north into the hills on a narrow and winding dirt trail.  He had to manage the wagon as his team of oxen laboriously pulled it over every rut and stone they could find.  The rain had soaked through to his skin several hours back, shortly after he had broken camp with his retainers, and not one of them looked comfortable.  His uncle had neglected to mention anything like this.

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Short Story: Paying the Tab

I wrote this first draft of a short story over the course of one week, as a morale-boosting project.  You might think of it as fantastical historical fiction.

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Andre sat with his back against the tavern’s wall, his legs draped down the length of the bench.  They didn’t go very far down the bench, since he only ever reached four feet three inches on a good day.  The portion of the bench that he did cover he clearly dominated with his muscular bulk, as might be expected of a healthy dwarf of his respectable age.  He and his drinking companion were a study in contrasts.

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