Take one or more of your characters, and explain one of their quirks.
A Balm To Our Every Chagrin
Lawrence Snyder, aged 6. Three inches shorter than average; five pounds underweight. Blonde hair too short; eyes too big.
When Lawrence enters the first grade, he learns three things:
1. Simple addition.
2. Kids are mean.
3. If you hold your tongue long enough, those mean kids will finally ignore you.
He was sent home early from school after some girl who had close to a foot on him thwacked him good right in the eye socket. And it wasn’t fair that all the girls were that much taller than him, and it wasn’t fair that the school called him mom to come pick him up (because he was fine, REALLY, just embarrassed, and a little embarrassment isn’t worth almost getting his mom fired and then what are they going to do?), and it wasn’t fair that he had to go back to school the next day and the day after that and the day after that ad infinitum.
For all that his self-imposed silence protected him, it did nothing to help him make friends with the Amazonian girls and the gargantuan boys.
Larry Snyder, aged 16. Still three inches shorter than average; five pounds overweight in pure muscle. Hair too ‘flowy’; face and eyes finally reconciled.
Three things that Larry learns in high school:
1. Mean kids will always be mean.
2. He is much faster and much stronger than those mean kids.
3. Silence has been, and likely will always be, his best friend.
The trick behind learning to silently take a punch is practice. Lots and lots of practice. Larry wasn’t an angry kid, no matter how often the school psychologist prophesied that he was going to be that kid who brought a loaded semi-automatic to school and raged postal, but he was aware. He would silently watch and listen and observe, quietly padding around the social circles of the school – floating contentedly in the inbetween. And when he stepped in the boxing ring, he was no different: he would watch his opponent with a stony face, looking for weaknesses, searching for the single crack in their defense where he could methodically pick them apart.
And if he needed to take a few punches to win the war, then so be it. But he would never cry out in pain; never offer his attacker anything more than a muffled ‘hmph’ that was less in his control and more the action of his battered diaphragm pushing the air from his lungs against his will. As he worked his way through opponent after opponent, the silence in the ring grew and grew until it was practically the third man on the mats.
Larry, aged 26. Unconcerned about those missing three inches, has made them up with the three-inch above-average circumference of his biceps. Hair: long. Eyes: acceptable.
Three things Larry discovered about himself at the gym:
1. He was really, really good at hitting things.
2. He was really, really good at silence.
3. He was loyal almost to a fault.
He had met Karl at that gym: a scrawny 18 year old with a shock of brown hair and enough charisma for the both of them combined. They were the same age and so wonderfully opposite that they stuck together. And if Larry watched Karl’s back (which needed a surprising amount of watching for such a skinny kid), and Karl explained to cute girls that Larry wasn’t mentally challenged just “in the middle of a vow of silence” (or “searching for spiritual guidance through introspective contemplation” or whatever other extensive, yet charming, lie that Karl came up with), then their relationship was one that benefitted them both.
He should have known that Karl, with all his silver-tongued quick wit, would get himself --and by extension, him -- in trouble. But Larry couldn’t help but get swept up in his enthusiasm. And the fact that they never got caught was a plus. Well, except for that one time when a security guard caught them as they were about to pull this mini-heist on an ATM, but Karl just turned on the charm and by the end of the operation, they went home with Jessica’s phone number.
And if Karl took Jessica out on a date with the stolen money, it was okay because he secured Larry a date with Jessica’s best friend.
nt – 4/16/10
Notes: If you remember my post from 3/26/10 (Our Lady of Salvation), I wrote a little back story for one of my characters from Harem, Riviera. Larry is also from Harem and needed a little fleshing out before I continued writing him. He was just as mysterious as Riviera, and, while I’m okay with expanding him later, he’s too quiet and I needed to know why he was pulling a Zen Master on me. Karl is also from Harem and somehow managed to sneak his way into this story. Scene-stealer.
Title taken from a Henry David Thoreau quote: “Silence is the universal refuge, the sequel to all dull discourses and all foolish acts, a balm to our every chagrin, as welcome after satiety as after disappointment.”