In a previous post, I mentioned that Whitey, Tim, and a few other of my writing comrades from The Writing Journey had decided to take advantage of the fiction-writing master class that Mary Robinette Kowal, Brandon Sanderson, Howard Tayler, and Dan Wells are offering (for free!) via their Writing Excuses podcasts. Our group is a couple of months behind, so we’re just now getting to the second set of assignments, on creating characters. The idea was to use three of the characters we’d generated and have them walk through a marketplace to perform a dead drop. Apparently this is a common spy novel trope. While you write this scene for each character, you need to convey the character’s job, hobby, and emotional state without explicitly stating any of these things. I probably won’t subject you to all my assignments, but I found this one a lot of fun to do. Here’s one of my characters performing his dead drop:
Roscoe Lee spun the numbers on the lock and went towards the noise of the market. His bike was out of the way now, behind the train station. No one he knew would see it, especially not on a Saturday. Billy Czerwinski might get ideas if he saw Roscoe lock his bike, and Roscoe didn’t need that. Once he pulled off his next feat, Billy would finally recognize his superiority, but Roscoe didn’t want to deal with any noise from him before that happened.
First he had to do what that old black lady said. “Just put this handkerchief in a leather purse you’ll find at the French market. It will be decorated with hummingbirds and hydrangeas.”
She wouldn’t say any more than that. He had to go on the Internet to see what hydrangeas looked like. He just hoped no one spotted him putting a gay-looking lace handkerchief into a purse. Imagine what Billy Czerwinski would make of that.
He didn’t see used consoles or games anywhere, so the food was the only good thing about this market. There was kettle corn and…score! The bacon he smelled was from some stand that was giving out free samples. He snagged a handful, ignoring the glare from the girl behind the table and walked on, munching. He was wiping the grease off on his jeans when he saw Sister Mary Patrick. Christ! He ducked behind a booth that sold some kind of cloth stuff—scarves and like that—and craned his neck to watch her from his hiding spot.
She was at a stand full of leather purses. Just where he needed to go. What did she need with a purse anyway? He pulled back, considering.
“Young man!” said a fat woman. She wore glasses with a chain dangling from them, “Would you mind not touching my merchandise?”
“Sorry,” he mumbled.
She stared over the tops of her glasses until he backed away from her booth.
He wet his lips and snuck another peek at the purse stall. Thank God. Mary Puke-trick wasn’t there. Then he thought of something else, and turned his head back the way he’d come. Not there either. Was she really gone? He hoped so. He looked in every direction and didn’t spot her. Could she know he was coming, somehow? She might be hiding, even now. He moved slowly towards the leather stall swiveling his head as he went. His mouth felt like paper. No matter. As long as Mary Patrick didn’t catch him—and no one else he knew saw him either—he could drink after he finished the job.
Leather purses lay on a table or hung from hooks near it, seeming to mock him with their curlicued flowers, fruits, and birds. He was rifling through the purses when a voice startled him. “Robert! What a surprise! Are your parents here?
“Hello Mrs. Yao. No, just me.”
“Really? What a big boy you’re getting to be, here all by yourself.”
She didn’t sound like she thought it was a good idea. That was all he needed, someone asking his parents what he was doing a mile from home without supervision. Inspiration struck.
“It’s kind of a secret, Mrs. Yao. Do you think my mother would like a purse?”
It worked. She got that “awww” look that women and girls sometimes got when they thought something was cute. “I’m sure she would. Well, you be careful. Head straight home after this.”
She left, pushing her granddaughter’s stroller. Roscoe turned back to the purses. He finally found the one the old lady had described. When no one was looking, he pulled the crumpled lace handkerchief from his back jeans pocket and crammed it into the purse. Then he took off for the water fountain and drank as much as he could before hopping back on his bike to ride home.
Of the three scenes I wrote, I think this is the one that best fulfills the assignment, though I won’t know for sure unless readers share their guesses about Roscoe’s job, hobby, and emotional state. Feel free to comment below!
Anyone else out there following along with these Writing Excuses podcasts? Posting your work? I’d love to see it…