I feel fortunate that most of my fictional characters came to me. In other words, I didn’t develop them from scratch. I either borrowed from mythology, past lore, or the characters popped into my head one day like a friend popping over for tea.
However, having said that, I spent time learning the nuances and secrets of these characters before writing the novels or short fiction in which they appeared. Some characters actually traveled around with me sometimes for months, and other times, for years, before I sat down to pen their stories.
And since I find it a major literary sin to write flat characters, I work with tools and practices to nurture fleshed out characters. They don’t just take up ink and paper. I write characters that will enter the headspace of my readers (or future readers) and stay there for years like a well-worn classic. My goal is to create characters as memorable as Holly Golightly or Elizabeth Bennett.
So, here are 5 practices to help you create unforgettable characters: Work with an astrologer (if you don’t know astrology) and draw up astrology charts for your characters.
If you are an astrologer or are versed in astrology, you can do this yourself. I had an online friend for many years who was both an astrologer and an author. I was astounded when she told me she produced charts for all her characters. At the time, I was only giving my characters Sun, Moon, and Rising Signs. This is the quickest way to psychologically understand your characters, their shadows, strengths, and methods of sabotage. You can also draw up relationship charts for the characters.
2. Create vision boards (one for each character)
If astrology is too intense or complicated, the next best metaphysical tool to creating characters is to create vision boards. And this is as easy as ripping pictures out of magazines and pasting them on to a large sheet of paper. You can also add buzz words, stickers, and even write affirmations for the characters on the boards. I like this practice because you can give your characters physical attributes based on the people that appear in the magazine pictures.
3. Base the characters on people you knew in the past or met along the way
I based two of my women characters on women I met on a bus. One woman seemed like a younger version of the woman she sat beside. And when these two women disembarked from the bus, they walked in opposite directions. In fact, I didn’t only get characters from this encounter, I also came up with a storyline and a plot. These women characters appear in my screenplay, Love & Intangible States.
4. Keep a dream journal and create characters from dream people
I used to keep dream journals and I include channeling and telepathy in this category. My characters, Pierre and Miranda came from the telepathic communication I had with an architect for several years. I combined this with an encounter with an attractive man I saw working in a cafe who sat near a window working on his laptop.
5. Reinvent mythological or legendary people
Actually, this is trending right now, especially with commercial and fantasy novels. When I researched the market for my urban fantasy/commercial fiction Enter 5-D, I discovered a plethora of modernized or reinterpreted gods and legendary people. You could also reinvent folktale and folklore characters.
Even though there are many versions of Orpheus and Eurydice, I didn’t feel that these characters were fleshed out, so I reinvented the characters. I gave them occupations and invented new realms for them to occupy. I had a blast doing this.
I am both an author and metaphysical coach. If you are looking for inspiration and coaching, sign up for a session at Whole Astrology
This is a comedy/urban fantasy based on the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. The setting is Seattle-2020.
Pacing her office, Demeter wondered how she would protect Persephone from the latest news. If Persephone caught wind of Pluto’s latest actions, she would throw the earth off kilter. She made plans for Persephone and Eurydice to visit an artist community in Hawaii offering a retreat.
In her cottage, Eurydice packed lightweight clothing for her impromptu journey where she planned on healing from nervous exhaustion. Her limbs and mind weighed so heavily with Pluto’s revenge on music that she could barely climb out of bed each day. She stopped cooking and had lost over ten pounds. She had lost her appetite for just about everything. Now that Pluto banned all music, except music selected by the Plutocrats, her nerves tied in knots. Her immunity weakened and she sensed a head cold coming on–a certain death to a diva.
Meanwhile, the Archangels gathered in Lincoln Park to formulate a strategy to bring healing music to the masses despite Pluto’s music ban. Chamuel shared her idea with the others.
“We can enter the dreams of those humans who give us permission and sing to them. We can also send them songs telepathically. That is until the Extraterrestrials clog up the telepathic highway.”
Ariel responded, “As far as I know, the E.Ts haven’t joined forces with the Plutocrats. They’ve never gotten along and I don’t think they’ll join in with Pluto’s bid for dominance. They have their own agendas which hardly involve music.”
The Archangels strode along the beach with their feet just hovering above the sand and surf. Weak sunlight glinted on their wings and the sound of the surf muffled their whispery voices. Archangel Michael picked up a sandstone pebble and tossed it out the hungry sea. Gulls circled overhead in search of crab carcasses on the beach.
“My concern is the despair experienced by the musicians who now find themselves out of work. Sound healers and music therapists will soon join the breadlines and many of them haven’t held a regular job in decades.
Sadly, we conveyed to them to follow the musical path to help humanity ascend and they dedicated themselves to our requests only now to suffer this fate. I’m hearing their pleas, but I’m not sure how to comfort them. Yet, we must defy the Plutocrats in taking the musical gifts away from the earth.”
Ariel picked up a pebble and tossed it to the waves. “In the meantime, we’ll teach humans to listen to the music of nature. I know that the faerie communities have turned up the volume, even defying natural laws to appear in forms humans can see so that they pay attention to birds, the wind, and other natural sounds.”
Later that day, Demeter met with Persephone at the speakeasy. The women huddled in a corner booth whispering so that any Plutocrats in the vicinity didn’t overhear their conversation.
“So are you taking me up on my offer and accompanying Eurydice to Hawaii?”
Persephone sighed. “What about my clients? My schedule is jam-packed with herbal healings.”
“I can take care of them. It will be tight for me, but if I extend my office hours, I can fit them it.
In the meantime, imagine hanging out on those lovely beaches with palm trees swaying overhead. It’s almost cliché to describe paradise, isn’t it?”
Persephone tugged on the sleeve of her green wool sweater. “It’s true we can’t let her go alone in the state she’s in. I visited her cottage the other day which resembled a sty. Her fridge was empty, dirty dishes languished in the sink, but she hasn’t eaten anything. I can understand her despondence having lost her career.”
“This is why you must go to Hawaii. Besides, you can stay for part of the time and just let her rest for the second half of the retreat. Just make sure she has safe passage and get her settled in, and then return.”
In his office with gray and black walls, Pluto gathered his Plutocrats for a meeting. He shut the blinds and he lit candelabra with a torch.
“So far, the music stores and radio stations are all complying. However, I would like to pass laws against musicians selling real estate since many of them will try to sell their homes at this time. This would saturate the market and cause real estate to collapse.”
A Plutocrat, auburn hair and a swarthy complexion in his twenties spoke up. “What will the musicians do to support themselves? Many of them won’t be able to find any other work? They only know how to perform, record, and teach music.”
Pluto banged his fist on his large iron and wood desk. “That’s not my problem!” He turned to his right-hand man, forties, balding, with a crooked spine, “Who hired that apprentice? We can’t have any Plutocrats sympathizing with musicians.”
Instead of cowering and shuffling the way to the corner as other Plutocrats would do after chastisement by Pluto, the swarthy Plutocrat stood his ground.
“Perhaps, I’m too dense to understand your plans, but what do you have against personal music? After all, music calms the masses and prevents them from rioting. My mother told me when I was a child that music feeds the souls.”
Pluto glared at the Plutocrat and leaned into him with his face now inches away from the Plutocrat’s nose.
“If I were you, I would hold my tongue. Do you think I care about feeding souls? My job is to keep the economy going and we can’t keep the economy going if people are spacing out listening to music. It’s a distraction we can’t afford.”
Pluto spit in the face of the Plutocrat while the Plutocrat stared defiantly at the governor.
In 5D, Orpheus and Cassius hung out with wood nymphs who fed the men green grapes the size of plums. Despite Orpheus’ despondent mood, the nymphs clad in white silk gowns with white geraniums in their sparkling blonde and red hair radiated joy. Hummingbirds and large bees zipped through the air leaving a permanent drone in the atmosphere.
Orpheus picked up his lyre and plucked a few notes causing the nymphs to recline in the grass and close their eyes. Cassius grabbed his quartz crystal bowl in the key of A-major adding more drone to the atmosphere. A woman harpist with flowing black hair set up her golden instrument on a stump near Orpheus then joined in, while releasing shimmering notes from her Celtic harp. She sang in a high clear voice that caused birds to land on branches and fall asleep.
In his reverie, Orpheus visualized uniting with Eurydice while helping her to ascend into 5D. Meanwhile, the frequency of the musical instruments charged up Orpheus’ body and magnetic field. As he powered up, he sent telepathic messages to Eurydice.
As he sent the messages, he received a vision of Eurydice and Persephone sitting on an airplane that flew above the Hawaiian Islands. He witnessed Eurydice closing her eyes and took that as a sign that she picked up his messages.
Meanwhile, Eurydice experienced a dream in which the oracle bird returned to her with a new message. The bird’s bright eyes gazed into Eurydice face.
“What I told you came to pass.”
Eurydice nodded. “You didn’t tell me that the loss would devastate me.”
“You’re not devastated. Ask your friend Persephone about the rebirth process which that woman knows well. Pray to Isis if you must, or ask Jesus about reincarnation. They’ll tell you, that what appears as ending acts as an open door to a life you never could imagine before.”
“I lost everything. I can’t even imagine this open door to opportunity. How will I survive without music?”
“My dear, you’ll have to go underground.”
“What do you mean by underground?”
The bird shook out his feathers, glanced over his shoulder at Eurydice, and then flew away. Eurydice turned towards Persephone who snoozed next to her.
“That’s true, Persephone does know how to find light in the darkness. What secrets does she hold in her heart?”
In West Seattle, the Archangels mounted their bicycles then single file rode out of Lincoln Park, with their wings straight out behind them leaving silver feathers in their wake. The bicycles picked up speed and launched into the air allowing the Archangels to fly over the West Seattle Bridge and land downtown in the midst of glass and marble skyscrapers.
They turned their bicycles onto Pine Street then headed downhill to the Public Market. Dismounting their bicycles, they left them on the cobbled walkway and entered the chamber of the Daily Oracle. Once inside, they waded through blue feathers and approached Archangel Gabriel who oversaw the bird oracles.
The Archangels gathered around a table constructed from an ancient cedar tree. Michael shook hands with Gabriel.
“Greetings, my fellow light beings. What’s the news in the outer world?”
Michael chuckled as he played with his sword. “Pluto put his plans in action and now musicians and musical healers scramble, as I’m sure you’ve heard.”
Gabriel gently closed his sapphire eyes and took a deep breath. Robin eggshell blue lit up his throat chakra. “I thought as much. Meanwhile, Orpheus entertains thoughts about returning to the Fourth Dimension to persuade Eurydice to ascend.”
Ariel took a sip of peach nectar from glasses Gabriel placed on the table earlier. “Why does that sound like an awful idea all the way around?”
Gabriel nodded. “It’s easy for those individuals in 5D to forget about the gravity and traps in this dimension. They feel invincible while in the Fifth Dimension and suffer amnesia about the darkness that resides here.”
Michael placed his sword on the table, rose from his cedar stump chair then paced. “It would be a mistake for Orpheus to descend into the Fourth now…a huge mistake. First, he only has a total of six hours to even woo Eurydice much less ask her to ascend to the unknown.
Second, Eurydice is at a retreat in Hawaii, which is harder to get to than Washington because Orpheus could confuse the coordinates and end up in the Bermuda Triangle. And finally, I believe all this stuff about soul twins is highly exaggerated. But then we know, Orpheus as an idealist, so there we go.”
In a cramped studio apartment, the swarthy Plutocrat, Marcus Ariel of Arc sat at his cluttered wood desk with his head in his hands. He agonized over Pluto’s chastisement knowing full well not to speak one’s truth around the governor.
However, Marcus inherited his ancestor Joan of Arc’s inability to keep one’s opinions to oneself. While not as hotheaded as Joan, Marcus exuded the same wide-eyed innocence as well as, foolishness in putting his sword in the wrong hands. He once worshipped Pluto and that’s what caused him to join the political campaign that got Pluto elected as Governor of Washington State—illegally.
However, after the Pluto’s real personality ripped the blinders from Marcus’ eyes he still swam in denial for as long as possible. But now, with Pluto sacrificing musicians and healers in the State, Marcus’ conscience bothered him. Besides, his days were numbered now that he landed on Pluto’s radar and it wouldn’t be long before he would need to escape to the Underground. Oddly, Pluto paid no attention to the happenings down under, mainly because the governor experienced repulsion at the thought of that cavernous place.
After all, if he escaped the past that kept him bound to cosmic father’s wishes, more like the curse, why would he ever return? Marcus made the analogy of a Hollywood nymphet never returning to the small Iowan town where she spent her formative years. Just as the thought of that tainted her hard-earned reputation as a glamour girl, Pluto assumed that any connection to the Underground once referred to as Hades, would taint his reputation as a world leader.
However, in the meantime, Marcus sat on his hands as to not end up in Pluto’s prison hidden away on an abandoned and flooded San Juan Island or so the rumor said. Yet, the dreams kept coming where he saw himself leading a rebellion along with a fiery hair woman with an obsession with locks.
At the lock shop across the city, Pandora reclined on couch sporting Greek imagery reading a secret book of codes she stole from a locked chest. Periodically, she took a sip of peach and honey nectar laced with passion flower so that she could relax her restless mind.
Born a triple Gemini, her mind never took a break. Always searching for puzzles to solve, codes to break, or locks to pick, Pandora itched for an adventure. Someone in passing told her about the Underground Movement and how their leaders searched for unusual talents such as hers.
And now that Eurydice lost her reign as opera diva along with all the musicians fired to make room for more of Pluto’s darkness, Pandora believed she found her cause to support. The woman she met in passing told Pandora about secret societies meeting in the caverns who worked with drums, crystal bowls, and ancient chants. According to this woman who spoke in whispery tones and shielded herself with a silver cape, musicians were flocking down under and forming new societies.
Pandora made a note to herself to share this information with Eurydice upon her return from Hawaii. But how would she entice Eurydice to join any movement when that vocalist appeared selfish.
At the retreat center in Hawaii, Eurydice laid on a bed sobbing while Persephone comforted her. A stiff breeze blew in through the open window knocking an exotic plant off a bamboo desk. Persephone rose from the bed and picked up the plant and placed on the desk. It took all her strength to close the window.
“It looks like a typhoon is on the way.”
Eurydice continued to sob, not caring about the storm outside her window and virtually ignoring the efforts of her comforting friend.
Persephone returned to Eurydice and helped her friend sit up and recline against large pillows sporting Hawaiian flowers.
“What will I do next?”
Persephone picked up a glass of pineapple juice and she brought it to Eurydice parched lips. “For now, rest and we’ll figure out the next step later.”
“I won’t even be able to teach music. All I know is music. I only studied music thinking that I had a long career ahead of me.”
“Don’t blame yourself. We know we were in trouble when Pluto got illegally elected.”
Eurydice grabbed the glass from Persephone and she gulped down the juice. “How could people be so stupid as to elect that scoundrel?”
Persephone shrugged her shoulders and laughed. “They didn’t. Oh-oh-oh, and just to think I was once married to that scoundrel.”
Eurydice sighed then she looked around the room cluttered with wicker furnishing and Hawaiian print. “How did you survive that marriage?”
“I’m strong and he doted on me at first. My mistake was eating that pomegranate. I didn’t even like the taste of it.
Do you recall the moment you lost your innocence?”
Eurydice shook her head. “Perhaps, that moment is now.”
Persephone grabbed a glass of pineapple juice and sipped the contents. She leaned her head back against the large pillows.
“So tell me about the messages from the oracle bird again.”
“He said that I would experience a loss, but not to worry because something better was on the way. But he might as well have spoken in riddles because I have no idea what opportunities could possibly come to me now.”
“He did speak in riddles, my dear. I wonder what opportunities await you because I believe what the bird told you. So tell me, what have you dreamed about lately?”
Eurydice closed her eyes and concentrated on recalling her nightly dreams. “I’ve experienced dreams where I’m running and the ground is covered in moss so I’m slipping and then, I see a bright light ahead of me.”
“A man’s hand, an attractive hand with a silver ring featuring a lyre, reaches out to me from the light. Then I get a sense that I’m climbing or flying because I’m ascending like a bird.”
“That’s interesting. Do you ever get a glimpse of the man’s face?”
Eurydice shook her head. “But I’ve heard a man’s melodic voice in my head and he’s talking to me about paradise.”
Strolling near a creek bubbling over with fish, Orpheus stared at the ground and kicking pebbles into the creek. Cassius strolled alongside the bard also lost in contemplation.
“Have you tried contacting the muses? Surely, Eurydice worked with the muses so they might have an in with her.”
Orpheus shrugged. “What’s the use? Besides, the muses I met were coquettes. They flirt, gossip, and can’t be trusted, at least not with a man’s heart.”
“Don’t even attempt then to contact the sirens.”
Orpheus shook his head. “I wasn’t planning on it. I still believe in the direct approach which is speaking directly to her soul.”
Cassius pulled off his sandals and dipped his toes into the creek. He crept into the water and grabbed Orpheus’ hand–His swarthy face tilted upwards as his brown eyes gazed into Orpheus’ blue ones.
“Come, cool off in the creek. This water has a miraculous effect, especially after the muses, who we know you don’t like, blessed the water with their chants.”
Meanwhile, after the storm passed, Eurydice and Persephone lounged on wicker chairs on a patio drinking Hawaiian smoothies. Persephone glanced at Eurydice face which began to glow with a life force again.
“So tell me about the dream you had with the man with the lyre ring.”
Eurydice placed her glass on the table and she grabbed a tie for her hair. She secured her hair in a ponytail stretching the length of her back.
“This time I saw his entire arm and a thigh.”
“Really, was his thigh sexy?”
Eurydice chuckled. “It wasn’t bad. He had calluses on his fingers which right away told me he plays some kind of string instrument.”
“Most likely a lyre since you mentioned that he had a silver ring with a lyre on it. Do you think that he’s a real man?”
“I don’t know yet. I hope so. I wonder where he is.”
In 5D, Orpheus and Cassius waded in the creek up to their thighs. The water invigorated the men and they laughed heartily tossing back their heads and splashing water on each other.
“This water really does have a magical effect. I feel fantastic.”
“Do you feel any songs coming on? I know I do. I always hear the drums of Mother Earth, even in this dimension.”
Orpheus waded back to the shore with the water tugging at his muscular thighs and calves. After he returned to the shore, he sat upon a rock allowing the sun to dry off his hair and skin. Cassius joined him on the large smooth rock, shaking out his dark hair.
Orpheus sighed. “Maybe Eurydice isn’t interested in men or falling in love.”
“So what are you going to do?”
“I have plenty here. Why do I require a woman to live out my life in this dimension? All my needs, but one are met and maybe I don’t even require great love. “
“It’s the idea of love that matters to musicians and poets.”
“I feel a song coming on.” Orpheus slipped off the rock, grabbed his sandals and returned home but his heart was not convinced of his words.
I wrote Enter 5-D as an urban fantasy but it also fits into commercial and general fiction.
Across Seattle, Eurydice scrambled down the cobblestone alleyway to the mouth of the Oracle grotto. When she reached the theater entrance, she stood under the marquee and waited for the jay to appear. Soon she heard a fluttering of wings in the background and then the bird landed in front of her on his perch.
“Oh, it’s you. Where have you been keeping yourself these days?”
Eurydice pushed back her hair from her face and wiped perspiration from her forehead. “You know well where I’ve been because you’re the one who revealed my future to me. Remember you said that I would make a sacrifice but not to worry?”
“I said that?”
“Oh, yes, you’re the one who sang in the opera house. I heard the news. What a shame that the great opera house will be empty these days. What was the governor thinking?”
“That’s a good question for you to answer.”
“So now, you’re out of work and your life has fallen completely apart, am I correct?”
“For a singer, you’re a woman with little words.”
“What do you want me to say?”
“Let’s talk about your dreams. There’s a man in your dreams who wants to help you. But if you keep ignoring him then he’s not much help, is he?”
“I’m not ignoring him. He comes and goes.”
“This is the way of Orpheus.”
The jay lit from his perch and flew in three circles and then landed back on the perch pushing back the crown on his head with his foot. “My dear, Orpheus is the son of a muse and probably was the greatest musician Seattle ever had.”
“What do you mean by ever had?”
“He’s no longer with us.”
“He died? This man that’s supposed to help me is dead?”
“Not exactly–he ascended to another dimension.”
Eurydice found a wood and iron bench and plopped down on it. “You’ll have to explain that one. Talking to you is exhausting. Don’t you believe in linear communication?”
The jay shook his head. “Talk to Persephone and Demeter about the dimensions. Or you could find your answers underground.”
Just as the jay delivered his last word, he vaporized leaving Eurydice gasping with astonishment and exasperation. Her mind seemed more confused now as it did before consulting with the crazy jay.
Meanwhile, Demeter and Persephone rifled through Eurydice drawers and papers on her desk looking for a suicide note or some kind of sign.
Demeter grimaced. “Why is my intuition failing me now?”
Persephone pushed aside clothing that had piled up on Eurydice’s couch and she took a seat. She rubbed her temples and placed her hand on her heart and then she closed her eyes.
“She’s not dead. And in fact, she’s on her way home so we had better clean up this mess or we’ll have explaining to do.”
Demeter picked up the empty bottle of pills resting on the counter and she read the label. She pointed at the bottle.
“My mind is also playing tricks on me. This is allergy medicine and Eurydice probably was rifling through her purse looking for any remaining pills. Looking at the date on the bottle, she would have run out by now.”
Persephone sighed with relief. “We had better clean this mess. How are we going to explain our actions to Eurydice?”
Just as she mentioned Eurydice name, the women heard the key turning in the door and then Eurydice entered her cottage. She gawked when she saw her friends standing in a pile of her clothing and papers scattered on the wood floors she had polished earlier.
Demeter began picking up the papers and placing them in a neat pile on the kitchen table while Persephone folded the clothes on the couch. Demeter chuckled with embarrassment.
“We have some explaining to do.
Eurydice nodded, chuckling. “Go on…”
We caught wind of Pluto’s latest law and rushed to your cottage to warn you. We noticed the empty bottle of pills next to your purse on the floor and we jumped to conclusions.”
“You thought I overdosed on allergy pills and then disappeared?”
The women nodded in unison.
Eurydice cleared papers from the floor and couch, and then she sat on the couch next to Persephone.
“Wow, am I coming off as desperate?”
Persephone caressed Eurydice’s shoulder. “It’s not so much that, but we read of other musicians committing suicide thanks to Pluto’s new laws.”
“And you thought that I would take my own life?”
Demeter grabbed a wicker chair and sat across from the other women. She nodded. “I guess we were thinking that if we were in your shoes, we would probably consider such an act.”
Eurydice chuckled. “I can see it now dramatic diva takes her life to avenge Pluto’s draconian laws. The newspaper would love that.”
Demeter picked up a stray piece of paper and read the contents. She realized it was the deed for the cottage. She picked up another paper announcing the final mortgage payment.
“Eurydice, you didn’t tell us that you had only one payment left on your mortgage.”
Eurydice shrugged. “What’s to celebrate now? According to Pluto’s new law, which I did read about in the newspaper today, I have three months to vacate my home.”
Demeter sighed. “This is unfair. What did musicians do that caused Pluto to bring out his iron fist?”
“We took attention away from him and you know better than anyone else that the man is a megalomaniac.”
Meanwhile, on his way to the Underground, Marcus got a sense that someone was tailing him, but when he looked behind and around himself, the streets appeared empty except for a stray kid passing by on a bicycle.
In any case, he picked up his pace and headed to the main entrance to what was formerly known as Pioneer Square and now went by the name Styx Center. From the corner of his eye, he saw a whirl of something feminine. Next thing he knew Pandora strode towards him–her jade eyes sparkling with curiosity. When she caught up with Marcus she grabbed his left wrist.
She teased Marcus, “Where do you think you’re going Mister Plutocrat?”
Marcus feigned ignorance even though he stood only ten feet away from the entrance to Hades. “I was exploring this area of town. Do you know where this door leads?”
Pandora smirked. “I know where you’ve been. Olav is a good friend of mine and I’ve done some work for him. Woodworkers and locksmiths are like pardon the cliché, peas in a pod.”
Marcus blushed and he struggled to find his voice now caught in his throat. Pandora looked him up and down until her probing eyes landed on his face.
“What are you going to do if Pluto catches up with you? And you do know about his prison on San Juan Island, right?”
“At least there’s no death penalty.”
“That’s the point because from what I’ve heard, the prisoners pray for death as they languish in that surreal place.”
“I know what I’m doing. It’s true that my colleagues suspect something’s wrong with me, but I’ve managed to allude them.”
“You think Pluto doesn’t keep his eyes on his employees? If I were you I would censor your phone calls by using code words and take a different route each time you venture to the Underground and that sort of thing. You need to be sneakier than Pluto or he’ll catch you.”
Marcus shuddered and hesitated. Then his hand reached for the handle of the door. He glanced at Pandora over his shoulder as she stood a few feet away with her arms crossed defiantly across her ample bosom.
“Good luck, Marcus.”
Marcus swung the door open and squeezed inside the damp entrance before changing his mind. As he descended the stairs, his feet sunk into the moss. He pulled out a flashlight. When he turned it on, he noticed a camera swiveling above his head.
“Oh, darn! Look, you’re on Pluto’s Candid Camera.”=
Moments later, he heard the door open behind him and two pairs of booted feet land heavily on the stairs and flashlights arcing towards him. The next thing he knew, someone had grabbed both of his hands and placed them in handcuffs.
“So Marcus, how’s the weather in the Underground?”
The two men dragged Marcus up the stairs and out into the sparkling sunlight.
Meanwhile, Pandora strode on Fifth Avenue towards the old Public Market. Moments later, she negotiated the cobblestone alleyway in her wedged sandals. She approached the grotto and waited for the jay to appear. It seemed like the eternity until the bird arrived so Pandora took a seat on the wood and iron bench in the meantime.
Suddenly, Pandora heard a fluttering of wings coming from behind her. The Oracle flew above her head and landed on his perch. With one foot, he fluffed his crown.
Pandora smirked. “So, you finally showed up.”
The jay ruffled his feathers and began preening them. Pandora waited for the bird to speak but instead sat through the bird’s morning grooming routine. Finally, the bird’s shiny eyes gazed at Pandora’s face.
“Ah Pandora, what can I do for you?”
“I’ve been waiting so long I’ve almost forgotten my questions for you.”
“Even if you had forgotten, don’t you think I would know?”
I’m revisiting my fourth novel, “Love Quadrangle”. The original title was in French, “Menage a quarte” or something to that effect. The story revolves around Miranda (a writer-turned-photographer, Pierre (sustainable architect from Quebec), Francois (a travel photographer from France) and Justine (a writer and bookstore clerk from Washington State).
I chose scenarios that appear in the middle of the novel where four lives cross paths in creative ways. Pierre and Miranda are the main couple. Justine is trying to steal Pierre from Miranda and Francois is trying to steal Miranda from Pierre. But then Justine and Francois get entangled. All does not go well in love and war.
In Canada, at the newspaper office, François thought about the blonde woman he met, Justine, at the beach on the day of the race. He viewed the photographs he took of Justine in her seductive dress and heels, not exactly appropriate for a sporting event. He recalled how she hungrily kissed him later that evening, after he wined and dined her at a nearby restaurant and she agreed to share a night with him at the spa where he was staying. They made love with the passion of two people who had lived in a sexual wasteland for too long.
They spoke about Miranda and Pierre in between lovemaking, but those conversations didn’t last long. By dawn, François and Justine were completely spent and both needed to get to work–surviving on embers of arousal they had for each other.
Now, at his office, François wondered why Justine hadn’t returned any of his phone messages or responded to his e-mails. He was hoping to repeat that seductive night with her, if only.
Justine remembered that night too and her face flushed every time she thought of François’ caresses and his tongue rolling around her mouth. He had given new meaning to French kiss, but Justine was still hung up on Pierre or at least the challenge the architect provided. She had seen him working a few times at the upstairs café but she kept her distance from him. Perhaps, she didn’t stand a chance with Pierre, but he was closer in proximity than the Frenchman who was across the annoying US/Canadian border.
And she had made those vision boards with Pierre’s image which she couldn’t let go to waste. However, when she picked up a Law of Attraction book at work she came across a passage about not desiring someone against his will. When she read about the consequences, she tossed the book against a wall, nearly hitting an unsuspecting customer.
On her break, she listened to an Abraham Hicks teaching CD and experienced a rampage for soul mate and relationship along with the woman in the “hot seat” on the recording. This seemed good and right to Justine. But then what would happen to Miranda if Pierre left her? And maybe her manifestation was the French photographer and not Pierre.What difference did it matter which French-speaking man she ended up with?
She fought her temptation to respond to François’s seductive e-mails and she listened to his voice messages repeatedly. And yet, she wondered if that primal outdoor type would destroy her. She preferred urban men or so she thought.
She also wondered if something happened between the French photographer and Miranda even though Miranda had sworn nothing of that kind, but Justine wasn’t convinced. After all, Miranda had sex appeal and she seemed too vulnerable to not give into the Frenchman’s charms. So because of that, Justine decided not to respond to the Frenchman yet. She thought of making him wait, but she also thought he would find a wide-eyed university student obsessed with French culture to seduce in Vancouver.
On the waterfront, Pierre sat on a bench staring out at the sailboats floating on the bay. The sun sparkled on his skin as he ate a baguette sandwich that Miranda made earlier for him. He thought of taking Miranda on a ferry ride to Lummi Island, where they could ride rented bicycles and spend a few hours together. Since a break from work would calm his nerves, he thought of spending a weekend with Miranda and they could eat at the famous inn restaurant, which they had both read about, but hadn’t gotten around to dining there.
Meanwhile, Miranda drove out to Lake Samish with Racine. As the blue healer ran on the beach with a large stick hanging from her mouth, Miranda remembered the first time Pierre showed her the beach. That was soon after they had met at the lookout point on the Chuckanut Highway, but after months of only communicating telepathically.
She thought that it hurt too much to lose Pierre. Besides, she couldn’t do anything about François and since he hadn’t tried to phone her, she was out of the woods. It was possible that the Frenchman only represented a lost part of her soul or he reminded her too much of her past relationships, which should have healed by then.
Or maybe she envied the Frenchman’s independence as he traveled around the world taking award-winning photographs and grabbing lucrative opportunities out of the air. Meanwhile, she struggled to get any magazine assignment.
How did François end up on the West Coast? Maybe she should accept his invitation to get together. But she couldn’t take the risk, because eventually his charm would seduce her and for what, a short lived affair that ended in remorse? No, she loved Pierre, and the Frenchman was just a test thrown in her path. Who was to say, he wasn’t seducing women in every port?
Meanwhile, Pierre made ferry reservations for the weekend and he rented two bicycles with twenty-one gears, not knowing the terrain on the island. He had no idea how Miranda would respond to his surprise, but he aimed to impress her and get their relationship back on course. Besides, he missed her companionship.
In Vancouver, François ambled on Hastings Street. Later, he stopped by a shop and bought Justine a local designer T-shirt and a silk scarf, not even knowing her tastes in clothing. In the past, Catharine told him that every woman needs a black T-shirt and most women found silk flattering.
The Frenchman refrained from purchasing lingerie for Justine, but this left him wondering what she hid in her dresser drawers in her cramped apartment. Of course, he hadn’t seen the inside of the apartment because he was in a rush when he dropped Justine off after the night of making love to her. He had a good hour’s drive ahead of him and a deadline at work so lingering over coffee at Justine’s studio didn’t appeal to him. Besides, he never cared much for post-coital conversations which he found tiresome.
Moments later, François found himself walking towards English Bay. With his thoughts lost on Justine, his feet took over and headed towards the water with its breathtaking view of the North Shore Mountains. Sitting next to a large body of water with the sunlight reflected in it calmed the Frenchman’s nerves and gave him time to plan his next move with Justine.
Finally, Justine responded to his e-mails. However, her response seemed businesslike. The mystery intrigued him and he knew that he couldn’t just show up at Justine’s studio, but he could show up at the bookstore and say he just came to browse the nature photography books. Or he thought of feigning an assignment in Bellingham finishing up his Ski to Sea article for his blog. He had phoned the bookstore earlier and knew Justine worked that evening so he put his plan in motion.
On the shore of Lake Samish, Miranda sat on a log patting Racine on the head absent-mindedly. Her thoughts wandered to Pierre’s changed mood and she sensed him warming up to her once again. Though she had remained detached from her emotions–not easy to do when she worked in the same office and lived with Pierre, she knew her patience would pay off. She noticed Pierre thumbing through tourist brochures that morning and a gleam in his eyes. She didn’t dare ask about the brochures because she felt anxious that Pierre would say another cutting remark about François.
When Pierre had a bee in his bonnet he reminded Miranda of a dog with a bone in his mouth and just like she wouldn’t attempt to pull the bone out of a dog’s mouth without consequences, she also chose not to stoke Pierre’s wounded ego.
And wasn’t that what the tense home situation was about, Pierre’s wounded pride? Had Miranda known that their lovely couple outing to the Ski to Sea race would end that way, she would never have suggested it. If they had headed to Mount Baker or Nooksack River instead of Marine Park, Miranda would not have encountered the annoying French photographer. If only.
Staring at the foothills across the water, Miranda took a deep breath and brought herself back to the moment. When she looked away from the scenic background, she noticed Racine with a stick in her mouth.
“You want to play, do you?”
Miranda tossed the stick into the water and Racine rushed towards the water on a mission to bring back the splintery mass to her human companion. Miranda tossed the stick for the dog two more times and decided to drive back to town.
Later that evening in another part of the city, Justine arrived at the bookstore late because she had waited for a plumber to fix her broken toilet. Then when the plumber did show up, he didn’t have the right equipment and he needed to make a trip to the hardware store to pick up a new toilet.
Only ten minutes late for her shift, the clerks seemed too laidback to notice. Besides, Justine was on duty that evening buying used books. Those shifts usually crawled along at a snail’s pace with few people coming into the store to sell their books. However, that night, one of Justine’s favorite authors arrived at the store to give a book signing. However, the person trailing behind the author as she made her way down the stairs took Justine by surprise.
Though her heart beat wildly and her thoughts reverted to a night of lovemaking, Justine played it cool when François approached her.
Justine rearranged the books on the desk then she slowly looked up to François’ face. “What brings you here?”
“I had some research in town.”
“And you were…?”
“Okay, so I lie. I came here to see you because I thought that night was special.”
Justine turned her flushed face away from the Frenchman and she glanced around to make sure that none of her colleagues were in the vicinity. The guy in the metaphysical books section glanced over at Justine and François, but then the author called to him and that left Justine in the clear.
“Look, I’m at work and…”
“I know, but I thought we could meet afterwards. What time do you get off work? I will take you out for dinner to anywhere you want to go.”
Since Justine was in the mood for wining and dining, she remembered the cushy restaurants on the Bellingham Port. She tested the Frenchman. “Okay, could you take me to dinner at Anthony’s?”
“What is Anthony’s?”
“It’s a highly recommended restaurant that serves mainly high quality fish and it’s on the port so we could take a moonlight walk near the bay.”
François looked up the restaurant on his Smart Phone. “Okay, I made a reservation for 9:00 p.m. Is this too early?”
“Make the reservation for 9:30 p.m. and pick me up here.”
Glancing at his watch, the Frenchman wondered where he would hang out for three hours.
As if reading his mind, Justine pointed upstairs. “You can hang out in the café and enjoy the view or wander around Old Fairhaven. If you enjoy author events, you can stay for the book signing.”
“Who is the author?”
“On second thought, you probably wouldn’t like the author because she writes relationship comedy.”
Justine laughed, “You know, like When Harry Met Sally.”
“I don’t know this one, but you are right, this author probably focuses on women readers and not hardy men.” François glanced at the room filled with women. “Ah, I am right. I guess if I wanted to meet women, this would be the place.”
“And this isn’t what’s on your mind.”
“I am fine in this department. I will go upstairs and work on my laptop. I am researching the resort at Whistler. Have you been there?”
Justine shook her head just as a customer approached her with a box of books. She glanced over her shoulder at François, “Okay, so meet me upstairs in the front of the store at 9:00 p.m. Oh, and I’ll need to go home and change clothes.”
“Then, maybe we need to make the reservation for later…” With those words, François bounded up the stairs like a real woodsman.
In the Columbia Neighborhood, Miranda stood over a boiling pot waiting for the pasta to cook. She had picked up pasta sauce at a local restaurant and with the price she paid for the sauce, she decided it was more economical to buy the pasta at Trader Joe’s and cook it herself. She tossed a salad earlier and found the homemade dressing Pierre had made the previous week.
Moments later, Pierre arrived with two hybrid bicycles in tow. Miranda nearly lost her cool demeanor watching Pierre balancing the bicycles with each arm while keeping the front door open with his foot.
“I have a surprise for you?”
“Did you buy those bikes?”
Pierre shook his head vigorously. “I did something crazy and I rented the bicycles. But you know that I haven’t rode one in years.”
“That makes two of us. So what’s the occasion?”
“Remember the Lotus Inn?”
“This is the inn on Lummi Island that you take that little ferry to, am I correct?”
Miranda left the pasta boiling on the stove and she helped Pierre push the bicycles up against an empty wall. “These are nice. How much did it cost you to rent them?”
“Only $25 each a day and we have them for the entire weekend. You see, we aren’t going to take the Jeep on the ferry.”
Miranda chuckled, “We’re not?”
“How long has it been since you have ridden a bicycle?”
“Oh, I don’t know, maybe twenty years.”
Pierre chuckled. “We’re riding bicycles all weekend because I booked a reservation at the inn.”
Pierre took a deep breath and smiled. “What are you making? I smell basil and…”
“Oh no! I forgot about the pasta.” Miranda rushed to the stove and turned off the burner. She took a fork and tested the pasta. “Oh, darn, it’s mushy. Well, at least the sauce is extraordinary.”
Pierre ambled to the kitchen and pulled a baguette off the top of the fridge. “Let’s eat the sauce with bread. My brother, sisters, and I did this when we were children. We dip the bread in sauce. If we still have some of the goat cheese left we can have that too.”
Suddenly, Pierre had the urge to cook. He pulled zucchini from the fridge, chopped garlic, drizzled olive oil into an iron pan, and sautéed the vegetables. He added the sauce while Miranda warmed the baguettes in the oven.
“Have you ever been to Lummi Island?”
Pierre shook his head. “But I have brochures and a map.”
“That’s encouraging that you have a map. I know men who won’t consult maps.”
“These men get lost and then blame it on their partners.”
“Oh, so you know that routine too?”
“And I prefer to read maps instead of fight with my partner for several hours. It’s more peaceful this way.”
Pierre poured the vegetables onto a large plate while Miranda sliced the baguette. Then she handed the leftover goat cheese to Pierre to spread on his baguette. After taking a bite of his masterpiece, he grinned.
“Maybe we don’t need a five-star chef.”
Miranda savored the bread and vegetables. “So then we can skip the ferry ride to Lummi?”
“Ah no, I already made reservations, besides, I want to see you ride a bicycle.”
“Is this your sadistic side coming out?”
“I don’t have a sadistic side.”
“All humans have a sadistic side.”
“Who told you that?”
“Racine told me when we were out on one of our walks.”
Pierre glanced over at Racine stretch out in her dog bed snoring. “I forgot about the wisdom of a blue healer and her trusty stick.”
“Don’t make fun of Racine. She knows things.”
“And she tells you about my sadistic side, no?”
“She didn’t mention you in particular.”
“Okay, so now you are playing with me. But you’ll see me on a bicycle too and maybe when you see how graceless I am, you’ll leave me.”
Glancing at the bicycles resting against the wall so smug and shiny, Miranda suppressed laughter. “No, but I will bring my camera and then blackmail you later with the photos.”
“And who is sadistic now?
Miranda guffawed. “Now you know the truth about me.”
As she ate the last bite of her baguette, Miranda’s mind wandered to the romantic weekend that awaited them. She sensed that after they digested the heavy dinner, they would make love that night too. She could smell the scent of lovemaking lingering in the air and it had been too long since the couple held and caressed each other. Beside, garlic and tomatoes had that effect on Pierre. There’s an Italian lover hidden in every man.
At the port, after an expensive dinner at Anthony’s, the evening felt anticlimactic as Justine and François headed back to Justine’s studio. Even though the apartment resembled a college dorm room rather than a home, Justine could at least boast she had a brand new toilet, even if pink toilets didn’t suit her.
Her partner didn’t seem to mind and as soon as she locked the door, he began undressing her. They barely made it to the futon couch when François remembered the gifts he bought for Justine in Vancouver. He pulled a lavender boutique shopping bag from his pack and handed the bag to Justine.
“Here, I bought this for you.”
Justine peeked in the bag and then coyly smiled at the Frenchman. “So you had plans all along, didn’t you?”
“But of course. After the last time we spent time together, I thought I would enjoy spending time with you again.”…
Perhaps, I sound high and mighty when I mention that I include bigger themes of humanity and the journey of the planet in my comic novels. Hah! Yet, I wanted my writing career to dovetail with my metaphysical practice. Also, my current trip is to produce podcasts of my short fiction and chapters from my unpublished novels.
I’m doing this because it is a fun way to waste precious time. And because I feel frustrated that agents ignore my work in favor of dark thrillers and all those romances. Well, that stuff sells, I understand. But I am going to quote that song, “What the world needs now, is love, sweet love” and comedy–lots of it.
And I would like to think that the Holy Saints possess a sense of humor. I envision them laughing at their foibles in my heartfelt urban fantasy. A girl’s gotta do, what a girl has gotta do.
In 2004, I met saints. Well, I met the saints in my thoughts. I began to obsess about the saints. I coaxed memories from my brain revolving around saint cards my mother kept in a steamer trunk when I was a child. My mother grew up Catholic and attended a Catholic school for girls in Panama. I wasn’t raised Catholic so the saint cards fascinated me. Around the same time, I watched superhero cartoons, “Super Friends.” And years later the saints on the cards and the superheroes would merge into super beings.
So in 2004, while I was diligently writing my morning pages each day I felt inspired to write my first novel three pages at a time–longhand. And I turned to this idea of marrying Saint Francis of Assisi to Joan of Arc. Actually, I obsessed about this concept. I had no idea how to write a novel even if I had attempted to write shorter fiction. And I knew my novel would need to include magic realism and comic relief. After all, I was poor and depressed at the time so I needed to cheer myself up.
When I began my novel I structured it similar to The Little Flowers of Assisi, which is based on true stories about Saint Francis and the Friars Minor. And around ten drafts later, I finally came up with a novel despite its vignette structure is hilarious and mystical. Below you will find one of the chapters featuring two of my favorite saints, Anthony of Padua and Francis of Assisi contemplating modern life in Central Park, New York City. When I read this chapter at an art gallery in Seattle in 2007, the audience members were in hysterics. This surprised me because they were aloof when I first arrived at the gallery. During subsequent readings, audience members also enjoyed the humor, often comparing it to Monty Python (though that was not my point).
In 2007-08, I blogged the novel and it attracted quite a following, mostly from Asian countries. Then later, I removed the blog because I realized the novel needed extensive revisions. It was a semi-finalist for the first Amazon Debut Novelist Contest in 2008. And then, it appeared on the Authonomy Site from 2008-2010. This excerpt is from the latest version of the novel.
Our Brothers and Sisters, the Birds and the Bees: Francesco Talks Sense to Saint Anthony.
The autumn wind blows leaves in a spiral then sweeps them across the frosty grass. Despite the chill in the air, Saint Anthony shuffles his way through Central Park–his feet swathed in torn leather shoes with holes in the soles. His tattered trousers keep sliding down his hips and he wish he had a belt or suspenders to hold them in place. At least the old wool overcoat covers his thin and bare hips, even if its threadbare state leaves him shivering from the wind.
Of course, all of this is just a disguise. Anthony prides himself on his Merlin-like qualities. He marvels at how he can transform himself from administrator sporting short hair, a decent suit and a clean shave, to a ragamuffin. He practices poverty when ever possible so that he can understand the “invisible people.”
How can you help the poor if you do not truly understand their plight? He thinks of his dear friend, Francesco. How he once lived at a homeless shelter while he studied veterinarian medicine. Then Jeanne came along and changed all of that. He still thinks Jeanne was the best thing that could take place in his friend’s life. For Francesco to marry a woman that will cook for him, share her stories with him and give him companionship, and not just any woman.
Anthony wonders why he hasn’t connected with a former saint in that way. Goddess knows there are several fine single women saints residing in Manhattan. Of course, The Virgin is off limits, but he heard that Saint Catherine of Alexandria is available. She seeks a partner and won’t settle for anyone less than a saint.
The saint plops down on a bench. He gazes into the distance and notices a familiar figure. Could that be Francesco out walking Bernardo? Yes, it is. He wonders what the two of them discuss these days now that Bernardo returned as a hound. Well, at least the Franciscans meet Bernardo’s needs. Anthony heard a rumor that Clare adopted the greyhound. What a fortunate dog!
If only beautiful Clare would give her hand in holy matrimony, but obviously that would never happen. She’d have chosen Francesco in any case. What woman wouldn’t?
Anthony waves to his friends. The Italian saint and his hound approach their fellow Franciscan. “Oh, my dear Anthony, how wonderful it feels to see you here in this beautiful park on this wonderful late autumn day. I see that you have taken up with Sister Poverty again.”
Anthony smiles wearily, “I’ll be back with Sister Charity next week. I was just taking a break from the office routine…you know trying to understand instead of being understood. But I wonder my dear friend can one man really make a difference by being poor himself?”
Francesco plops down on the bench. Bernardo rests at his feet. He rubs his chin, pondering Anthony’s complicated question.
“I often wonder the same thing myself. After all, the poor need money more than they need sermons. They need food, warm clothing, and shelter and how can you provide those necessities for them if you have nothing like that to give? I think about how we went wrong in telling people to throw away their possessions and live like the birds.”
Anthony considers this food-for-thought. “And yet when we lived in grottos, people took pity and provided for us. I can’t think of a time when I felt so much joy to trust completely in providence and see that trust rewarded.”
“Those were the days. I can’t imagine we could get away with that in Manhattan,” Francesco sighs. “And even if this city has its own beauty, it could never compare to Assisi. Anthony, here you are hiding out as a self-imposed hermit. They could cart you off to Bellevue.”
Anthony laughs, “Yes, I’ve had a few close calls. Say, I wanted to ask you about Brother Bernardo and since you have him here with you…”
Francesco pats the greyhound’s head. Bernardo wags his tail as he hears his name mentioned. “Well, as you can see, he’s healthy and filled with Goddess’ presence. I almost wish I came back as such a faithful companion.”
Anthony nods and laughs. “Yes, I know what you mean.”
Francesco glances at all the people passing by women with strollers, athletic men, and women on roller skates or jogging with their sporty dogs.
“I wonder my dear friend, what goes on in the minds of all our brothers and sisters as they pass by us? Do they contemplate Goddess? Do they wonder about Sister Poverty? What do they think when they see us sitting here dressed in rags? Do you think they even notice us?”
“Oh, I think not. Today, our poverty only inspires guilt and fear, not compassion. I know because when I solicit donations for the church, few people give. They say that they are broke when they are swathed in furs…”
Francesco grimaces at the thought of ignorant humans draping themselves in the coats of their brothers and sisters. It is stealing after all.
“I don’t understand how people can proudly wear fur unless they are Indian and prayed to the creature in which sacrificed its life to them.”
“In this city at least, there’s an indifference to natural products and Goddess-made goods. Today people eat fake food when Goddess still provides a bounty of fresh vegetables and fruit.”
“Do you think that this is fall of man and womankind? Is it possible that we have returned during the earth’s last breath?”
Anthony chuckles, “Oh, my dear friend, there’s no use in getting apocalyptic. I think it was much worse when humans experienced plagues and wars that lasted a hundred years. Now things are a bit more contained. Life is easier for lots of people although not for all.”
“It’s more difficult for others.”
Anthony smiles, “My dear friend, look at you. You have clothes and you’re married to Jeanne d’Arc! Even if this place isn’t Assisi, it’s not bad. In fact, I quite like it.”
Bernardo wags his tail as a young man strides by walking two greyhounds that he recognizes. The two dogs wag their tails in response. The saints watch with total amusement.
A smile forms on Francesco’s weary face. “There goes Brother Juniper and Brother James.”