“You’re in the business of creating characters,” a workshop leader at a writing conference once said. I agree I am. No, I’m not an actor, though I have a background in theater and played a few roles on the stage. That was stage one of my growth as a person, no pun intended. Stage one was the first twenty-four years of my adult life when I defined myself as an artist until I went down the rabbit hole of graduate school earning a Ph.D. and I called myself a scholar who studies performance. Stage two, public school teacher, spanned nearly two decades. Now solidly in the sixth year of stage three of this wonderful gift called life, I define myself as a fiction writer. So, yes indeed, I am in the business of creating characters.
Where do these characters come from? As a child, I hated fiction. “Tell me a real story,” I’d say to my mother at bedtime, so she enthralled me with tales of growing up on the Jersey Shore at the beginning of the twentieth century. Her adventures were far more interesting than those in the Little Golden Books of my childhood.
Through her stories, I encountered a number of intriguing characters, some I even met when I got older. Those were the indelible ones. Their stories were my secrets. I didn’t reveal what my mother had told me about their lives and how she had been touched by them, how she had grown stronger because of them or was deeply hurt and damaged by what they had done.
They were about real people. Where do fictional characters come from? They come from the only place possible, the writer’s imagination, which is nourished by life experience. I have met a lot of characters in my life, far too many to include in my fiction writing. That’s why I’m starting a new blog called Indelible Characters, where I will post vignettes inspired by people I have encountered. I may also cross-post them here so I can periodically breathe life into this portal until a revision of Eat Your Warrior Fish, my debut YA novel, is ready to launch.
This page-turner bridges middle-grade and young adult. In his short novel published in 2017, Newberry award-winning author professor at Calvin Collge in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Gary D. Schmidt, has created two compelling young protagonists—fourteen-year-old Joseph Brook and twelve-year-old Jack Hurd. I say Orbiting Jupiter bridges these two audiences, not because of the spread in the boys’ ages, but because of the complexities and mature content that would easily appeal to high school and also adult readers, despite the young ages of the main characters. This is a story of acceptance, family values, perseverance, and second chances.
Joseph Brook is an eighth-grader who by the age of thirteen has already fathered a child. He moves in with the Hurd family when they benevolently agree to take on Joseph as a foster child with all the ramifications of this youngster’s past. That means their only-child Jack will finally have a companion and have someone with whom to share the chores around their Maine farm. Jack is only a sixth-grader and Joseph is not exactly ready to slip into the role of a brother because he comes with a lot of baggage that needs careful unpacking. He is consumed by his passion for reuniting with his precious daughter Jupiter whom he is forbidden to see.
The Hurd family takes Joseph under its wing and Jack goes out on a limb risking ridicule by his friends, some of whom target Joseph, bully him and start a fight. He also refuses to heed the warnings from some of the adults at school who caution him to steer clear of this troubled youth. Joseph is not totally ostracized, Coach Swieteck and the English teacher have faith in his abilities and support Joseph in catching up academically.
It’s no wonder this book stays at the top of Amazon’s charts. Readers of all ages will fall in love with this book and root the boys on as they figure out how to adjust to one another and navigate the perimeters of what is expected of them and what is the right thing to do. I don’t want to spoil it all for you, but the story does take a dark turn toward violence when we least expect it, but never in a gratuitous manner.
Readers will find that Schmidt is an accomplished writer who not only brings compassion to the difficulties these two boys grapple but also draws the parents as full charters unto themselves who are equally challenged by the events that impact their decisions. Animal lovers will thoroughly enjoy how tending to the farm animals and milking the cows is a vehicle for tapping into Joseph’s true self and acts as a vehicle for tempering his troubled soul.
Jeremiah was a natural. His mother said it was in his genes because his great-grandfather William “Mush” Rawls had been a famous vaudeville actor with Buster Keaton in the early 1900s. But Great-grandfather Mush was not so famous that any of Jeremiah’s classmates had ever heard of him. No, Jeremiah had to make a name for himself on his own.
Take a Short Fiction Break and read “Jeremiah’s Best Trick,” my latest short story for middle-grade readers. It’s published on Short Fiction Break, a website that features hundreds of short stories (mostly adult fiction) from all over the world.
If you are really into it, you can vote for my story in the People’s Choice Awards for the Summer Writing Contest, which entails reading at least three stories. If you’re up for it, check it out: Readers’ Choice Awards Guidelines.
Read at least three or four of the stories. (There are a lot to choose from.)
Vote for your favorite by choosing its title from the dropdown list in the poll.
Share your favorite on social media and invite your friends to vote, too.
Comment on the story to let the author know you enjoyed it.
Here’s your first sneak peek at a thriller short story I’m working on that features an 18-year-old recent high school graduate who gets into some serious trouble while working at a sleep-away summer camp . . .
Crystal drove around the Pine Barrens in Charlie’s red Jeep Cherokee for hours, in a blind panic. Tell someone what happened to Charlie, or stick to the plan? She drove around in the dark, lost. Time was running out. She had to make a decision or it would be daybreak.
The journey to self-publishing and launching my first short story has been an interesting one, to say the least. Eight weeks ago, I started taking an online class called Write to Publish with the good folks at The Write Practice. We started out in early April by making our websites, so we would have a platform to share our writings and find subscribers.