Thursday, April 3, 2014

C is for Characters.

C is for Characters.


I read stories for the characters.  I watch TV shows and movies for the same reason.  And one of my favorite things about writing, are the characters I help shape and who shape my stories. 

I believe the characters are the most important part of a story.  They are the heart of story, and why we stick with some stories, even when the plot lines goes astray.   Close second important story ingredients....everything else.

Below is a short fan fiction I wrote for the tv show Fringe, many moons ago, showcasing the relationship between Walter and Peter Bishop.  Dr. Walter Bishop, to this day, still resides in my top 20 favorite fictional characters.  Gotta love mad scientists.

“A Laundromat—really, son!  I have work to be done. We should have Astrix do this chore.” 

 A grim smirk passed across Peter Bishop’s lips while he watched his grumbling father shuffle past and through the door of Quickie Cleans Laundro-rama.  This was going to be a trying public outing—he could already tell.  Of course any outing outside of the lab proved bizarre at best with his brilliant and yet broken father, the uncanny Dr. Walter Bishop, once institutionalized mad scientist and present doctor of the odd and barely explained. 

“It’s Astrid, Walter and no we will not.  She’s a Bureau Agent and your lab assistant, not our personal maid.  No matter how many exploded watermelons and Gerbils you make her clean up in the lab.”  Peter added, watching his father throw his rucksack of dirty cloths onto one of the chairs by the window and begin to fiddle with the vending machines, giving them an agitated whack when nothing came from his button pushing.  Peter knew the old man had already stopped listening.

Peter rolled his eyes and began to prepare the closest two washers for their laundry, never allowing his father too far outside his peripherals and for good reason.  Walter had already found interest in the bottom side of one of the old Spin Dry’s at the end of the long room and was now on his knees beside an elderly woman’s legs.  The woman’s eyes were rounding wider and wider by the minute and Walter was now nearly on his back beneath her paisley print skirt.

“Walter, come on.  We’re using the washers right now.  Stop inspecting the dryers and the nice ladies support hose.  Sorry ma’am.”  Peter nodded to the slightly startled granny who let out a quick huff and moved to the other side of the near empty Laundromat.  

“Don’t be absurd.”  The elder Bishop stood, dusting off his knees.  “I was merely looking to see if these machines are in working order.  Washer temperatures must meet 33.888 Centigrade and dryers must not exceed 79.444 Centigrade.  My underwear must be properly sanitized of any incidental bowel or urine deposit before their next wearing and I will simply not tolerate shrinkage of my socks or underwear...”

“Good to know, Walter.” Peter groaned while Walter continued without pause.
“They are cotton Son.  Cotton shrinks.  And you know my feet and my crotch area must breathe!”  Walter indignantly reprimanded, as if this was all common and needed knowledge his son should have known.  Of course Peter did know.  Walter had given the same boisterous speech in the middle of Wal-Mart no more than a week before.

"Terrific Walter.  Fan—tastic.”  Peter placed his hands on the rim of the washer and hung his head before meeting his father’s stubborn stare.  “Now how about getting over here and helping me.  If you do I’ll give you some quarters for the vending machines.”

Peter watched his fathers eyes light up as he snatched up the laundry bag and shuffled speedily to his side. 

“I would simply love a Ho Ho and a Root Beer.  The combination is absolutely marvelous” 

In spite of himself, Peter could not help but smile when his father’s voice was that of an excited child’s.  He took his fathers cloths from him and deposited a handful of quarters in the old man’s expectant palms.  It wasn’t long before Walter had a large assortment of treats to sustain a lengthy sugar rush and Peter a few moments of peace.

It was funny. For a man who was best at taking care of number one—himself, taking care of his father had come surprisingly easy to the young man.  As a child, he’d idolized his father only to later fear and then despise him for leaving him and his mother.  By the time his father was put away at the Mental Institute, the young genius had learned to take care of himself, only trusting himself while never being himself in the chameleon-like nomadic existence he’d taken on to survive. 

But now-now he was his father’s keeper.  After a two decade estrangement he had grudgingly agreed to help Olivia and the FBI by becoming Walter’s legal guardian—rescuing him from St. Claire’s to allow his father do what he did best for the government and reality—bending it.  Peter had said yes because Olivia had needed him to at the time.  He’d done it for the girl.  But as time went on Peter found he was doing it more and more for himself.   

Besides, Walter did need him and he was his father.  The old man had grown to depend on him like a child would a parent, like Peter could not depend on Walter when he was a child.  The irony was never lost on the young man.  And aside from underwear and snack preferences, Peter was actually getting to know his father—every frightening, maddening and often amazing bit on him.

Peter closed the lid on the laundry detergent and then sat down two chairs from Walter, politely refusing the Red Vine his father enthusiastically offered.  Picking up his own bag, he pulled out a Sudoku book and an attached pen for Walter, flipping it into gnarled but ready hands.  And then he pulled out a case file Olivia had asked him to review—the preliminaries to yet another rollercoaster ride that was the Fringe division.   Peter placed the manila envelope upon his chest and leaned his head back against the window glass behind him, slowly breathing out.
If Peter was more honest—and he was getting to be—he’d admit that getting to know his Dad again was also allowing him see himself more clearly.  This last year had challenged him—made more of him.  It had allowed him to become someone he hadn’t been for a very long time—himself.   

The young mans ever present smirk became more wistful.  Funny, the kind of perspective one gets when starting to give a damn.                                             

See ya tomorrow A to Z blog buddies! 


  1. I agree. Characters are the story.

    Happy A to Z!

  2. Visiting on day 3 of the #atozchallenge with all my fellow writers. I appreciate all the hard work it takes to participate. I hope you make many new blogging friends.Your blog is visually captivating. Love the header and photographs borders. I have seen so many cluttered blogs in the last two days with the writing itself lost. I agree about characters. If I stopped all this social media fun do you think I could finally get back to my 2nd novel and write?

  3. I do the same
    Being a hairdresser helps because its fun to listen to some peep's voices and watch how they move. Body language says alot along with glints and twinkles in their eyes.

    Hugs and chocolate!

  4. I loved FRINGE but I drifted away during the last season. Odd Thomas keeps me reading his adventures just to share his company again. Same with Harry Dresden. Characters, as you say, are the heart's blood of a novel. :-)



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