I took the weekend off — yes, my chain is broken and I start it anew today. I have no regrets. My house had hit a place of chaos that was becoming unlivable for me and it was stressing me out. Stuff everywhere. I should post a picture of my coffee table, except that it’s so much better than it was that it wouldn’t accurately represent the chaos.
On Friday, I took my niece to Universal. She, unfortunately, is not in a phase where she likes roller coasters and the Universal Parks are very roller-coaster centric, so we mostly just wandered, but we had a good time. We watched a couple shows, including the singers in Diagon Alley and the animal training show. During the latter, she leaned over to me and said, “I am completely and utterly happy,” so score, she had at least a few good moments. Her mom has been sick, so her spring break was not the imagined ideal of vacation time. A fire-breathing dragon can’t make up for that entirely, but it’s impressive nonetheless. (It really does breathe fire. You can feel the heat of it on the street below!)
But this morning I was walking the dogs and thinking about Grace and getting back into it and where I was going and I realized again that Sophia is my problem. Some characters are just really determined to steal the show and she is one of them.
With Ghosts, very, very, very belatedly (last fall if you were reading then!), I realized that I did indeed have a classic hero’s journey plot, but it was Dillon’s, not Akira’s. Akira was the mentor character. And this is Ghosts, not Thought, which was much more obviously Dillon’s story. With Grace, I realized on some revision that yes, it wanted to be Dillon’s story again. Maybe that was the third revision? On the fourth, I gave Sophia more story. Now that I’m on the fifth (I think, unless this is the sixth), it’s obvious that she’s not satisfied with what she’s got — she wants even more.
It’s strange: I realize none of you know her yet, so you can’t know what she’s like. But… hmm, an excerpt? Okay, here’s her intro. This is from the first chapter, so it’s not exactly a spoiler, but stop reading if you don’t want to know anything until the book is in your hands (or on your Kindle).
A soldier in desert camouflage was leaning against the same wall. He was young, tan, brown hair cropped short, and he looked solid, just like a living person, but Dillon was almost positive that he was a ghost. Next to him, a woman in a long dark robe, her hair covered by a tight scarf, crouched by a small boy in a blue-and-white striped t-shirt. They had to be ghosts, too, and the teenage girl with a nose ring sprawled across a bench, ignoring the men on whose laps her body rested, was definitely a ghost. Around everyone, cloudy wisps of white light bobbed and floated in the air.
Had all these people died in the courthouse? Dillon paused a careful distance away from any of the ghosts. Two of the living people walked through him, their heads bent together, their conversation low-voiced, indistinguishable in the ambient echoes and sounds of the hallway.
The soldier spotted him. “Hey,” he said, straightening. “Welcome to the party.”
The girl on the bench sat up. She stared at Dillon, her gaze accusing. “Who are you?”
The scrubbing woman lifted her head to look at him. “Oh dear, oh dear,” she mumbled before bending back to her work. “This floor will never get clean if people keep walking on it.”
“Um, hi.” Dillon gave a tentative wave in the direction of the bench. “I’m Dillon.”
The soldier pointed at himself, the woman in the robe, the boy, the teenage girl, the man in the apron, and the cleaning woman. “Joe, Nadira, Misam, Sophia, Chaupi, and Mona. Don’t worry about the others.” He waved a hand through a ball of light drifting near his face, then gestured toward the woman in the long dress and the man who paced. “She sings and he rants and some of the others say stuff once in a while, but they don’t talk to us.” His smile was friendly and his tone matter-of-fact. He seemed welcoming, but not unduly excited.
He must never have met any dangerous ghosts. Dillon hadn’t been so lucky.
But he said, “It’s nice to meet you all,” and glanced from face to face, trying to connect each of the names to its owner. If he had it right, the woman in the robe was Nadira and the little boy was Misam. From their closeness and their matching dark eyes, Dillon suspected they were mother and son.
Sophia, the girl with the nose ring, didn’t look related. She was perched on the bench, hands tucked around the edge as if gripping it, gaze intent on Dillon. With wrists like toothpicks and collarbones jutting forth from thin shoulders, she reminded him of a fledgling bird.
“Hey, you, too.” Joe gave him an easy smile. “The more the merrier, right?”
Dillon wasn’t so sure about that. But Joe’s smile was hard to resist and none of the ghosts seemed threatening, not even the nameless pacing man, so he stepped closer.
His mom was back on her cell phone, talking to his dad. Her presence wasn’t reassuring, exactly—it wasn’t like she could do anything if these ghosts were trouble—but it was comforting to know that he could communicate with her if he needed to.
“So what are you all doing here?” Dillon asked. “Is this where you died?”
Sophia snorted. “Here? With all those metal detectors at the entrance? What do you think, mass poisoning? Bomb?” She rolled her eyes and flopped back down across the laps of the men sitting on the bench.
Posting this makes me want to write, so I’m going back to Grace. But as I head back into the thicket of the middle (yet again!), I’m going to be trying to untangle Sophia’s threads from the rest of the story. If I know where she is going, I think I’ll know how to get to where the story is going. It’s not her story, but her threads are a big part of my current knot, I think. Here’s hoping that insight gives me what I need to make great progress this week!