These last two weeks we have undertaken a major project around the house. Oh, we didn’t know it was going to be a major project at the onset, but it is turning out that way. Such is life.
Our team of workers have been tearing off the 25-year-old vinyl siding, ripping off the clapboard underneath…and discovering ROT on corners and walls. On one wall, the only thing holding the window in place was the old siding. When our guy took the old window out and removed the old siding, and the studs and guts of the wall crumbled away. We also found a pipe that wasn’t connected to the drain…for how long, we don’t know.
I started thinking about how the vinyl was functional, but dangerous. It covered years of rot, dangerous stuff, and allowed it to continue eating away at our house for quite a long period of time. And then I began to wonder if whoever put the vinyl on in the first place, knew about the rot and just decided to cover it up. That’s a long rabbit trail to start down.
It got me started on the idea of rot in character building. When I write my characters, I try to make them as real as possible. Sometimes I start a story and the characters are already there, waiting to take over, telling me which words they would use, how they would enunciate, what their quirks are, who they are – it all comes flowing out on the page. That’s golden when that happens.
But other times my characters are a little harder to uncover. It’s a process. It takes time. I begin to wonder what they’re hiding, where’s the rot…
In my novel, Curse of the Seven 70s, Varo’s brother shows up and brings with him the weight of a thousand souls he’s destroyed. He brings rot like no other. It’s stifling and horrific, and no one wants to get lost in the oppressive cloud of witnesses. Is there something underneath the veneer to make this character stronger somehow? Is there a softness couched behind the visible rot? Maybe.
Just for fun, here’s an excerpt…
VARO WRINKLED his nose. Something about the stench
made him nervous, like a thousand stakes piercing his heart
at the same time. He reached for Cassandra as much to steady
himself as to stop her from venturing any further into the
strange thickening mist. He grabbed hold of her arm a little
harder than necessary.
She turned and hissed, “What?”
“We should go back inside. Right now.”
Cassandra squinted into the shrouded dark. “But something’s
out there, and we need to find Howard and Taffy.” Her voice
Panic edged its way into Varo voice. “We need to get
inside!” He took a few steps backward, dragging Cassandra
“You’re hurting my arm!” She jerked away from him and
bolted into the mysterious fog, disappearing before his eyes.
“Damnation!” Varo cursed. A wisp of vapor curled by
him, then another, and another. Soon he was hemmed in by
a dense cloud. It morphed and split into ghostly susurrations
crying out in unison. Their accusations shook his bones. He
fell to the grass and covered his ears. “It wasn’t me!”
Out on the shrouded lawn, a woman screamed.