That’s what happened to me this week. I wrote the end of the last scene three times before I was half-way happy with it. It might still change, depending on what I come up with this week. If you've missed any of the posts, you can check the archives or you can find the whole story, built week by week, on the Free Stories page (The Gingerbread House).
I’ve spent a lot of time this week, thinking about my first character and what his reactions are going to be to the situation he finds himself in. At the moment, he’s rather blasé about it all; basically a ‘you rang?’ kind of thing. I’m not sure if that’s going to work in the long term. I still don’t know him very well.
The second character I don’t know at all, apart from the fact he’s tall and thin, and cooks. I think he’s a baritone, although Andrew saying ‘you rang?’ in a very Lurch-type voice is very appealing for me.
I’ve begun exploring Andrew’s personality. I asked him to tell me a little about himself. What he has told me so far is a little about his background and what his main goal is and why he wants it. I haven’t yet touched on any magical ability or knowledge he might have. The opening scenes give us a pretty clear idea what’s stopping him from achieving his goal. I’ll clarify Andrew’s GMC (Goal, motivation, conflict) as I write, eventually writing it into a clear statement that will drive his responses, and also the plot.
(19 years old, slim, 5’9”, quick on his feet, quick mind and mouth. Dusty brown hair, irregularly cut, flops into his dusty brown eyes all the time, runs his hand from forehead back to push his hair out of the way. His skin is golden brown with a rosy flush because most of his time is spent in the bakery with the hot ovens. Andrew wants a quiet, calm, legitimate life as a baker but every time he thinks he’s within reach of it someone in his family needs to be rescued or a stranger needs help. He has a slight hero complex because he’s the eldest and has always looked out for others.)
I come from a large, improvident family. I’m the eldest of eight but not the first to branch out on my own. My sister, Beatrice, younger by a year, began in domestic service two years ago, when she was sixteen. I was a second-year apprentice then and still living with my mother and other siblings. My father was away, avoiding the coppers after a robbery that went wrong. He’ll come back after the statute of limitations is up, providing he’s still alive. He did a similar thing when I was eight. That’s why there’s such a large gap between the fifth and sixth of us. There’ll be a longer gap after the eighth, if there are any more children at all from them. Mum wasn’t too happy about this one. It means seven years of him away so he doesn’t get caught and deported. Some of my younger brothers are old enough to work now. Martin, at seventeen, is a second-year blacksmith apprentice. John, fifteen, has followed our father into the ‘jewellery trade’. He’s small and quick, like me and, so far, hasn’t been caught. Jocelyn, at fourteen, has been scamming older men for a couple of years already but she has dreams of becoming an artist’s model. The others are still too young to be working outside the home so they help Mum with her sewing and apothecary.
Apprentices in my home town don’t live with their masters until the last year. I’m glad I didn’t have to live with Jackson for more than one quarter of my apprenticeship. I probably wouldn’t have survived. I’ve been on the road for two weeks now and the last of the bruises have finally faded. My wrist still aches by the end of the day, but it’s not broken.
I’m on my way to put in a bid for a market bakery in Eden. I need my bid to be successful even though I can’t offer Borog as much as I’d like. I can’t go back home. If I go back, Jackson will have me thrown in jail. Or he’ll beat me to death. He refused to sign my Baker’s ticket, proving I’d completed my apprenticeship and was now approved to purchase my own bakery. I won’t tell you what he’d done to me during the year I’d lived in his house, but I wasn’t going to let him keep doing it if I didn’t have to. When he started beating me that last time, I fought back. I’m not a big man, but I’m quick, and after four years, I know how to wield those heavy pans. It only took three hits to his head and one to his balls and he signed my papers. I left before he pulled himself up off the floor. My bag was already packed and waiting by the door so I grabbed it and ran. I left a message with the green grocer for Beatrice when she shops for her employers. She’ll let the family know I’ve gone.
Buying Borog’s bakery is part of my dream. I want a quiet life; one that won’t bring the coppers through a broken door in the middle of the night. I don’t want any drama or unexpected things happening. That doesn’t mean I can’t deal with the unexpected. My whole life has been mopping up the disasters my father and, later, brothers and sister have caused. I keep a level head during a crisis and can think on my feet. I might be awash with fear, but no one would know it. I get that much from my dad.
My next task is to find out who the second character is. I can just begin writing him the way I did Andrew but that means the next scene will have to be in his point of view. This is where things begin to get complicated because the two of them need to interact and I have to know how they respond to each other and why. I don’t need to know as much about the second character yet, so his profile won’t be as comprehensive as Andrew’s. Both character profiles will build as I write.
This is what I have about the second character so far:
Tall (6’2”), thin (bony), dark chocolate hair, green-hazel eyes, fair skin, 25, wizard, more powerful than the mistress he apprenticed with. Officially has one more year on his apprenticeship but he has already mastered all the requirements and then some (a lot of things studied in secret because Mistress Osborne refused him access to the texts). His mistress, upon realising Thomas’s strength, coerced the two gremlins she raised [Hansel and Gretel] to imprison him in the house. Hansel and Gretel are the only ones who have access to the house, and therefore Thomas. They visit regularly, trying to get him to agree to allow Mistress Osborne to leach his powers from him. He won’t agree because he knows she’ll kill him once she has what she wants. While she is his mistress, she can contain his powers, but she can’t ever take them by force. Others she’s taken powers from have succumbed to her sexual wiles. Thomas is immune to her, but not the gremlins.
His incarceration has lasted two years so far. His confidence in escaping is teetering but his innate arrogance hides that fact. He can’t fight against the gremlins’ magic, but he’s been working the last two years on a way to freeze it so that he can circumvent it and find a way out of the house. If he can defeat Mistress Osborne, the gremlins’ magical hold over him will dissipate.
In his first days in the house, when he realised he couldn’t use his magic to escape, Thomas sent out a call for help. It didn’t work and, in his despair, he forgot about it. He doesn’t realise his call manifested as a coin that would appear only to someone strong enough to break the spell holding him captive.
Now to continue the story:
Andrew slipped sideways, staying out of reach of the scowling man. “Is that any way to greet a guest?” He fished the coin out of his pocket. “I can’t be that unexpected,” he said as he held the coin aloft again. “You did leave your invitation lying around for me to find.” As he rounded the table he glanced at the pan on the stove. “Hmm, bacon smells good, but you might want to take it off the heat before it burns.” Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough for two in the pan. Andrew’s stomach grumbled.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” said the man as he stalked Andrew. “How did you get in here?” The upper half of his body swayed slightly as his feet stopped as if stuck to the floor. “Can you get out again?” The scowl fell from his face, replaced by boyish hope. He looked around wildly as if a portal was about to open in the middle of the room.
Immediate violence apparently averted, Andrew grabbed a ladle from a hook above the Aga and quickly stirred the bacon and onion mixture before moving the pan off the heat. No sense in letting perfectly good food be burned. He checked on the tall man before spying a loaf of dense bread on a shelf next to a small stack of plates and bowls. Swiftly he lifted items off the shelves and assembled an impromptu stack of bacon and onion sandwiches. He deliberately placed on plate in front of himself and the other at the far end of the table.
“Sit, sit,” he said jovially. “You can tell me all about yourself.” Andrew pulled his chair out and perched on the edge, trying to make his upper body appear totally relaxed while his feet and legs were positioned for quick escape. “I’m Andrew,” he said expectantly as he picked up one half of his sandwich and bit down. He hoped he’d have long enough to eat it all before the tall man attacked.
To his surprise, no attack came. The tall man glanced around the room once again and, appearing disappointed, pulled out his seat and collapsed into it. “You can’t get out, can you?” he asked despondently as he prodded a finger into the heavy bread in front of him.
Andrew chewed through another bite of his sandwich before he responded. If he was going to be thrown out or killed, or whatever, he wanted it to be on a full stomach. “I haven’t had bacon this good in ages.” Probably never. This much salty goodness wasn’t something his family ever got. He could remember only twice he’d had bacon at all. One of those was a sample from the butcher at the markets. The other was a packet his brother had lifted from somewhere. They’d eaten it all in one sitting and used the drippings in a pudding for the next day, in case the coppers came looking. It had taken longer to get the smell out of the house than it had to dispose of the evidence.
“I’m Andrew,” he said around his third bite. “This is good.” He wasn’t sure if his words had been intelligible. He was mostly moaning over his food, his stomach cramping in joy that the first food it was given in three days was so good. “Pity about the bread.”
“What?” The tall man dropped the sandwich he’d just picked up. “That’s the best loaf I’ve ever made.” He picked up his sandwich again and took a large bite. His cheek bulged and he grimaced as he struggled to chew the dense lump.
“You’ve got the balance of ingredients mostly right; a bit heavy on the yeast.” Andrew squeezed the remnants of his meal before popping the morsel into his mouth. “I’ll show you how to fix it.” He poured himself a mug of water from the carafe on the table, then sat back and sipped. “What’s your name?”
“Oh.” Strawberry pink suffused the tall man’s cheeks. “Sorry. I’m Thomas.”