Friday, May 22, 2009

The Fully Realized, Completely Materialized Character by Robert W. Walker

THE FULLY REALIZED, COMPLETELY MATERIALIZED CHARCTER (finally steps up and onto the stage) by Robert W. Walker

You hit on an idea, and it surrounds a character, right? Something in his swagger, his manner, his appearance, his carriage, his stage presence…or something in the way she talks or walks or balks—something undeniable in the sense she will not be denied as the one character that insists on being fleshed out, fully realized, completely materialized. The one of many “character” voices that claims the LEAD role in your next story or novel. She steps up and onto the stage of your mind—right smack dab at the frontal lobe, and when you either wish her away or try to put her off, or go off and do various chores to put her out of your mind, because you had other plans for the story or a life to live, she is still there, lurking—if not in the frontal lobe, someplace else in there, and you know it because she isn’t going anywhere until you pay her the attention she demands and claims of you. She may flatter you, call you her creator, her God, or she may bedevil you and claim she is your creator, your God. Either way, she or he or it has a stranglehold on you.

I know it sounds weird, especially to those who do not write but it’s oh so true. When you listen to a psychic like John Edwards speak of those “spirits” who are all rushing in at him at once, all of them demanding attention and shouting, “Take me! Take me!” –you understand where he’s coming from even if you don’t understand where the “spirits” are coming from. Picture Whoppie Goldberg in the film Ghost—channeling. Writing can and does often feel like channeling spectral voices out of the past or out of the psyche or out of the collective psyche, but that’s too deep to go into here. But…well it is a lot like that when an author is fishing around for a new lead character to cast in his next novel or story. And sometimes the casting couch gets extremely crowded, but always one voice, one powerful character drowns out the rest for the duration of a story or in the case of The Root Mon from the Root Heaven Store – a poem crafted around such a truly noisy, irritating character that not only demanded to be heard but demanded it at the oddest of times and over a long, long period of time that I NOT shut him out try as I may….

In fact, I wrote the poem many long years ago just in order to get The Root Mon out of my line of vision and out of my head, so that I could go on and live a normal writerly life, if there is such an existence. But before I banished him, it would take months and many return engagements, and just recently he mysteriously returned when I picked the poem up again and read it, enjoyed it, and was suddenly smacked on the back of the head by none other than the Root Mon. He had yet two more stanzas to add to the piece! After all these years! He’d been lurking in the dark recesses of my mind all this time, awaiting the day that I revisited the poem and in a sense revisited him, and bada-bing, he jumps out at me and claims my frontal lobe again and makes me come to terms with two stanzas that needed adding. All this and I have not cracked up in the F. Scott Fitzgerald fashion of the term.

Now mind you, when he first showed up, it was just to do three stanzas and boom, I was to be done with The Root Mon and poetry! How very often had I been warned off the writing of poetry as anything I attempted stank to high heaven. Warned off it as a tone deaf person is warned to stay away from any attempt at music or song. So after those few stanzas, I felt confident that The Root Mon’s visit had come and gone, and that bye-bye meant bye-bye. That I could write something I was somewhat good at now—a novel. The next in my Instinct Series. Besides, I wasn’t terribly impressed by The Root Mon’s poem anyway. But like a horror film, I found him in my head again while I was trying to sleep, while I was trying to shower, and while trying to dress! This crude guy demanded another stanza at every turn of my day. Done—give it to him. Go away now! Again I was done with him. Went out to hoe the garden out back and wham, he came again with yet another stanza. Standing in the check out line at Wal-mart, bam, another stanza. Just demanding as hell.

This went on. At breakfast another stanza, at lunch, on the job, at the dentist office, in the library while researching a medical mystery point of fact for Dr. Jessica Coran, my true love (main character in my Instinct titles). At the beach…in the ocean…no pen at hand! Again and again he came back at me, always demanding: “You gotta do dis one, mon? Dis gotta be in de Root Heaven mix somewhere!”

My wife was beginning to become suspicious. I was distracted to be sure. I was living with this wild and crazy Root Mon in my head, and he was telling me that I had not “fully realized” who he was or just how much “ju-ju” he possessed, and that he wanted to “completely materialize” on the page I prayed, so I had to put up with him until he was fully fleshed out (on the page). And that meant another stanza, and another, and even now years later, he has COME BACK! Scary, yes. Exhausting yes, but in the end I am proud to present The Rootin’ Tootin’ Root Mon of Root Heaven below and you tell me if “living with your characters” for a time does or does not pay off. I think this is a great example of what is meant by the “fully realized, completely materialized” character in something of a nutshell, something we authors strive for in our prose as well. Here is the Root Mon in his own words and on the stage that he built:


by Anton “Mystic Ruler” Dupree a.k.a The Root Mon, a.k.a. Robert W. Walker

(*to be read to the sound of Reggie music playing in you head)

You carrying a curse?
Got urgent pain?
Can’t make de water?
Head a bustin’? wife a-fussin’?
Jus’ you come to Root Heaven…
the famous Root Mon’s Store
Here’s a broth,
here’s a stew
you want both
for what you gotta do.
You got needs?
Plannin-a-big sacr-o-fice?
We god seeds
and chickens on ice!

We got bugs, scrubs, and herbs,
and all ll kinna spice!
Need dem magic words?
Have a dose-a-crawlin’ lice.
Eat a canna magic rice,
a-pinch of snuff
for dat ol’ wart
to kick-start the heart.

Toad sweat’ll get you up’n’fit
wid no shivers, shingles, or sneeze,
so get whatever you please
wid heavenly-heavenly ease
at the Toot-ah-Root Mon’s store—
Root Heaven.

We got fat slugs
and tobacco plugs.
Got fuzzy cut worms
for cuts, scrapes’n’burns.
for fever it’s the poltice
and the crucifix cross.
Got many things for stings:
herbs, toots, roots’n’things.

Go-head, make my day
wid dat bottle
of turtle-nip-spray.
Toss a snake rattle
o’er your left shoulder
onto a big boulder
beside a flowin’ river
at the midnight hour.

So get whatever you need—
no talk, guilt, or greed.
Join de Root Mon’s club!
Special on de belly rub,
and on de herb’n’potion.
Jus’ whisper who gets
Dis notion, dat lotion.
Hex on/off as you please.

Get stalks and stone,
min’rals and bones,
cat tails in pails
Wid good’n’plenty snails!
Got a clip of royal bangs,
eyelashes from de King,
Bob Marley’s gol’ ring!
All’s at Root Heaven!

Take dat magic tobacco,
Wrap it in calico and
file it wid cat gut.
Find a cemetery,
dig a deep rut,
and bury it up.
Prescription filled!
Got de enemy killed!

Fix you up wid a hex sign,
Tack it to de nearest pine.
Throw a magic lotion
into the nearest ocean.
Chew eyes of black raven
Whenever your cravin’
the really big ol’ cure.
All at your Root Mon’s Store!

Swallow de snail slime!
Ain’t no crime
to be fit and prime,
and in self-help
there’s protection
and at once
you be sheddin’ dat
godawful middle-section.
In de health we trust.

Guard your fleas
Curses come in threes!
Get even however you can,
And glory-be, mon
If’n you want
To regain health,
Joy, and prosperity
Then you lis’n to me!

Forget dat ol’ 7-Eleven!
Get y’self to my Root Heaven!

THAT’S my story and I’m sticking to it. Happy Writing and Reading
Rob Walker


Morgan Mandel said...

I've never tried poetry. Good for you, Rob. Good job.

Morgan Mandel

Terry Odell said...

Characters taking over I understand. I know authors who know their characters long before a plot happens.

Poetry -- that I don't get. My first crit group had several poets, and I felt totally out of it. When I studied (because I had to) poetry in school, it still rhymed. Or was in Latin.

Deb Larson said...

Characters are selfish and self absorbing - much like babies only bigger!
Poetry is such a strange animal - and I enjoyed your Root Mon. Weird, but enjoyable :)
DL Larson