The first Wednesday Writing Challenge went out this week. Since I can’t ask others to do what I will not do myself, I’ve written my response. Here again is the prompt:
Create a pessimistic character. Create his or her foil by making an optimistic character. Put the characters in a room and let them talk.
Create a pessimistic character.
The main character of one of my novels in progress is Torq d’Amman, a former slave turned assassin who is about as dark as they come. It’s a kill or be killed world for Torq, and he made up his mind a long time ago that no one cares about him but himself.
Create his foil.
On the flip side we have Cora, a seven year old dynamo who has just lost her mother and was forced to leave her home. Despite her recent hardships, she is a happy, curious child. When Cora meets Torq – who pulled her from the fire that killed her mother – she becomes obsessed with him. She sees beyond his cold killer exterior to the man he is inside.
I’ll be honest, every time I put these two together, fun happens. For this exercise I wrote an interaction between these two characters. It’s a little bit of magic I’m not sure I’m ready to unleash on the world. It’s hard to share pieces from a work in progress. But since there’s a good chance this scene won’t make it into the novel anyway, I’ve decided to go ahead and share it.
(an excerpt from Beast, by T. A. Hampton)
Torq stood in the corner of the room, half facing the window and half turned into the room. Shadows filled the corners, filled his mind. From where he stood, he could see the alleyway outside, as well as the entire room. Ellisa sat before the fire with the herb woman, her back to the entrance. The foolish woman presented herself as an easy target.
Cora entered like a bright whirlwind, pushing against the shadows. Torq tried to ignore her, but instead of joining the women, the girl bounded directly over to where he stood. She bounced on her toes trying to see over the sill of the window.
“What are you looking at?”
“Nothing. I’m watching.”
“Watching what?” Cora strained again to peer out the window before turning back to Torq, trying to follow his gaze.
“You can’t watch everything at once.”
Torq didn’t answer the girl. Instead he turned back to watching. The alleyway remained clear. The two women still sat close, conspiring together some plan he would likely find objectionable. Cora stood at his feet, just outside of arm’s length. She stared up at him, her face serious.
Suddenly a twinkle brightened her eyes and she dashed away to where the women sat. She popped up behind them like a marmot. When she caught Torq’s gaze, she laughed and dashed away again. This time she crawled under a chair in the far corner and peeked out at Torq, again catching his gaze before scrambling back out again.
Torq tried in vain to ignore the girl’s antics. It would be as easy to ignore a sudden sun break at midwinter. Again and again she moved to a new position around the room, giggling in delight when she would find Torq still watching her.
At last Cora stopped by the door. She stood unmoving for some time watching Torq. He very nearly dismissed her from his mind, grateful that she was still at last. Then he noticed that she crept slowly along the wall, freezing the moment she thought he looked at her.
When she arrived at the corner, Torq reached behind him suddenly and grabbed a fistful of her clothing between her shoulder blades. She let out a surprised squeak as he lifted her into the air and brought her forward.
Just as he did this, he caught a movement outside in the alley.
“Someone is coming,” Torq said. He carefully set the girl down and pressed himself against the wall by the window in order to see better.
“That would be Henri,” the old woman said rising to her feet. “He’s here to pick up flowers for market. I’ll go meet him.”
Torq watched, and sure enough, a middle aged man entered the alley pulling behind himself a small cart. He saw the man smile and wave as Enyd greeted him from the other end of the alley. Satisfied the man posed no threat, Torq turned back to the room to find Cora staring up at him with huge round eyes.
“You really can watch everything at once.”