Who best knows the story: you or your characters?

A lonely man on a dark, deadly, and lonely street.
A lonely man on a dark, deadly, and lonely street.

Ambrose Lincoln wanders down from wherever he hangs out about two o’clock every day.

He knows I’ll be writing about him soon.

He doesn’t’ want to be late.

He knows I get really upset when he’s late.

Ambrose Lincoln is not like any of the characters I’ve written about in the past.

He is different indeed.

They were friendly and outgoing.

Ambrose keeps his feelings locked away inside.

They joked around.

Ambrose seldom smiles. But then, he has little reason, too.

They made snide, sarcastic comments and wanted to fool around.

Ambrose is all business.

They came along for the ride.

Ambrose drives.

I try not to be late when I start writing.

I know Ambrose can get really upset when I’m late.

His philosophy is a simple one.

Let’s get the chapter started.

Let’s hit the ground running.

Make something happen.

Deadly.

And chilling.

Then move on.

On paper, Ambrose Lincoln moves in and out of scenes that unfolded during World War II. He’s not a soldier. He’s not there to fight. He has a mission handed him by the U. S. government.

He doesn’t know who’s in charge.

He doesn’t know where the assignments come from.

His mind has been erased during behavioral experiments. His mind is a barren landscape burned dry by the electrodes of shock therapy.

He’s not afraid.

Ambrose has no fear of dying.

He believes he may have already died, and the war and purgatory have a lot in common. Mostly, he’s just a lonely man on a dark, deadly, and lonely street.

“You’ve just written chapter sixty,” Ambroe tells me.

I nod.

He knows I try to keep my novels somewhere between sixty and seventy thousand words, and each chapter runs about a thousand words.

“I read it,” he says.

I nod.

“In fact, I’ve read them all,” he says.

“You should,” I tell him. “They’re about you.”

Ambrose shakes his head.

He thinks about grinning, then decides against it.

“You don’t have an ending in mind,” he says.

“I haven’t figured one out yet,” I tell him.

“But you’re looking.”

“I am.”

“You changed the story in the past chapter or two,” he says.

“I came to a fork in the road, and I couldn’t resist not taking it.”

“Know where it’s going?” Ambrose asks.

“No.”

“You’re gonna be surprised,” he says.

“I usually am,” I say.

Ambrose stares out the window.

The sun has dropped behind an oak tree.

The hillside hadsturned golden.

It’s the magic hour of winter.

“Where did you get the girl this time?” he asks.

“Celia?”

He nods.

“She didn’t come from central casting,” I say.

“Didn’t think so,” Ambrose says. “She’s a helluva woman.”

“She’s really pretty.”

“I knew she would be pretty.” He shrugs. “All your girls are pretty,” he says.

“She’s tough.”

“Hell,” he says, “she’s tougher than I am.”

“Celia has a hard shell,” I say.

“I can’t crack it,” he points out.

“Her heart’s tender,” I say. “She’s like a little girl. Lost. Afraid. Abandoned.”

“Could have fooled me.”

“I tried,” I said.

“How many has she killed?” Ambrose asks.

“Bunches.”

“More than me?”

“Lot’s more.”

“That’s what I thought.” He pauses, and his face becomes grim. His eyes darken. “You’re not gonna kill her off, are you?” he asks.

“I don’t know.”

“You better not?”

“Why?”

“I know where you live.”

I grin.

He doesn’t.

Ambrose stands up and heads on back to wherever he hangs out when I’m not writing.

“Don’t worry about the ending,” he says.

“Why not?”

“Just follow me, and stay close,” he says. “I’ll get you there.”

“You got it figured out?”

“If I haven’t, then you’re out of luck,” Ambrose says.

I don’t argue. I’d write another chapter, but I can’t.

Only Ambrose Lincoln knows the story, and he’s already gone.

ConspiracyOfLies

Please click the book cover image to read more about Caleb Pirtle III and his books. Ambrose Lincoln  is the lead player in Conspiracy of Lies. 

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  • Caleb Pirtle

    Thank God my characters know what’s going on. I’ve been lost since the third chapter.

    • Must be the difference between pantsers and plotters.

      I know where we’re going – my characters think they’re going somewhere else entirely. Tough cookies.

      Since they don’t know where they’re going, I get to experience their surprise as I take them there. And write it down. I love it.

      • Caleb Pirtle

        You surprise your characters, Alicia. I get surprised by them. It keeps us both happy and writing along.

        • But only I get to be the evil overlord. Trumps!

          • Caleb Pirtle

            Or maybe the creator and dictator both.

  • Christina Carson

    A fascinating interplay of writer with a character – a story in itself.

    • Caleb Pirtle

      I carry on a lot of conversations with those who do not exit. Then again, maybe they exist, and I don’t.

  • I wonder where all the characters hang out when they aren’t “on?” I’m guessing some bar where they compare notes. Great behind the scenes Caleb made me chuckle.

    • Caleb Pirtle

      They’re at some bar frantically to re-write the scene I botched.

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