Conversations about the author–the characters being conceived almost as actors in a green room, let’s say–are not unknown in the writing world. (A thunderstorm just popped up on top of us. Blame all typos on my instinctive twitch when a close strike hits.) So here’s a conversation between characters from some of my stuff…all of them already know one another, because they all live in my head, where they can move from series to series, book to book, kibitz on the writing process and then go find their favorite watering hole to dissect “What that woman is doing now!”
Since this is the Universes blog, they’re actually on the station, and their end of the restaurant bar always has a few of them hanging out in it. Today, it’s predominantly science fiction characters; the fantasy ones have taken an excursion trip to someplace where they feel more at home. The Universal Eavesdropped App is working; you don’t have to crowd up close (and I wouldn’t advise it.)
“She’s always had a mean streak, you know.” Heris Serrano leans back. “She showed it even before I woke up as a disgraced officer in Hunting Party. Every single book, she finds someone to pick on. It doesn’t matter how hard you work, how ethical you are–”
“You? You’re claiming you’re a perfect straight arrow?” Livadhi glares at her. “You forget, I’ve known you before she picked you–you of all people–as protagonist. If she’d picked me–”
“You’d still have been a traitor. She’d never have picked you. Her protagonists are at least ethical, or on their way to being.”
“She picked that idiot Luap, in that other universe.” Rafe Dunbarger tosses back the rest of his drink and sets the glass down hard. “If you want to talk about character FAIL.”
“Other universe different rules.” Everyone draws back a little from the scarred veteran of one of Author’s lesser works, Vargas. He doesn’t come in often, but he exudes danger at a level that means he will never be anyone’s buddy. The bouncers across the room are watching, their shoulders tight. He’s caused trouble before. Over by the door his former captain shows up, a little translucent, the way the characters who die are, when they come into this place. Everyone hopes Major Sewell won’t come before the captain talks Vargas into going somewhere else. Vargas and Sewell in the same place mean a fight.
“Making my point,” Heris Serrano says. “What are you here for, Vargas?” As always, her voice is a little too clipped, a little too sure that she has a right to be in charge.
“Reminding you officer types who really does the fighting,” Vargas says. “Reminding you that you don’t own this place or that woman’s mind, and the stuff she writes, though complete garbage, is our pay. I lived through my story; you lived through your story; your whining makes me puke.”
“You like her?” Rafe asked. His arm twitches; everybody there knows a blade just dropped into his hand. Everybody knows he’s been itching to try knife-fighting with Vargas and nobody wants to be in the spatter zone.
Vargas shrugs. “Doesn’t matter, though frankly I wouldn’t waste time with her in person. Too old, too plain, not my type at all. Classical music, ye gods. Horse riding. Reading all those thick books about stuff that probably never happened. Swords–well, all right, though a machete’s more practical. But for me, a skirt that’s experienced enough but not wrinkly. And smells good.” He leans back, arms on the back of the settee, taking up more space on purpose. “But as a writer, she’s OK for me. I been in other stories, the dumb mean NCO with the criminal background, written down below the real me, and she’s given me a way to be as dark as I am and yet–I’m telling the story. And I look way better than Sewell. I keep hoping she’ll pick me up for another one, without him–” He stops in mid-sentence.
Carl has come to the table, bringing a chill. “C’mon, Gunny, let’s go look for some real entertainment.”
Vargas shrinks, bringing his arms down, sitting up straighter. “Captain. Just having a little chat…”
“I know, but we need to go now.” In an instant, the completely substantial Vargas and the almost completely insubstantial captain are gone.
The others settle back into their seats. “It’s not ever going to happen,” Rafe says. He has put the knife away. “She’s not going back to that setting again.”
“She should come back to ours,” Heris Serrano says. “There’s a lot more she could do. Sure, the younger ones might find another series to transfer into, but what about the older ones?”
“Like you?” Livadhi sneers. He often sneers now, with no need to disguise his true nature.
“Like Lady Cecelia,” Heris says, not looking at him. “She still likes horses, but she hasn’t made a place for people like Cecelia in the new series.”
“Thank all the gods,” Rafe says. “I rode a horse at summer camp once. They smell, they can hurt you badly, and they’re ecologically unsound.”
“I don’t know,” Ky says, settling into the chair beside him. “I had fun on horses. I tried to talk her into including horses in this new book, but she’s really stubborn. Does not listen to characters.” Around the tables, nodding heads. Mutters of “Right” and “That’s the truth!”
“Is it finally done, Ky?” Heris asks.
Ky shakes her head. “Not quite. Editor hasn’t approved it. Got my fingers crossed one particular scene won’t be edited out. Vargas would like it; she has that mean streak and I got to make use of it this time.”
“You did last time, when you killed Osman.”
“Yeah, but this time she had a different twist to it. You’ll see. I hope.”
“Have you ever wanted to do something she wouldn’t let you do? Or is it more she pushes you into doing what you don’t want to do?” The man they know as “the Professor” is now at one end of the table with a tankard of beer. He looks like he should be with the fantasy characters, but he’s firmly in the SF group and hasn’t been cast in the others.
The answers come thick and fast, tumbling over each other and it boils down to “Both” but more “pushing” than “stopping.”
“She threatened me with losing the lead,” Ky says. It’s the first time she’s admitted this; until she was cast again in the new book, she wasn’t about to admit that blot (even if only potential) so early in her career. “Said I wasn’t putting all of myself into it, and she had to know my worst secret.”
“She does that,” Heris said. “And she won’t let you off the hook.” More nods around the table and then everyone is looking at Ky expectantly.
“What? You think I’ll tell you ghouls? So you can ruin my next contract? Forget it.” She turns to Rafe. “I think I hear her calling us.”
“Chicken!” the others chorus as Ky and Rafe vanish.