These days my current writing projects include two novellas, both of which are attempts at stretching my writing chops by doing something different from what I usually tend to write about. One is my first real fantasy story and it's an attempt to do a very moody, atmospheric piece (might post part of it later). The other is science fiction but is much more character-focused than most of my stuff. This week I tried jotting down something of a character sketch for what I hope the main character of that second novella might turn into. Most of my characters tend to be contemplative or overly serious, so here's my attempt at a more eccentric person. Background is that the character, Janet, is a new arrival on an asteroid mining crew:
Gelo R. Fleisher
There were ten of us, all gathered in a semi-circle around the comm board. Charlie, apparently the crew supervisor, was going on about team spirit or something but I wasn’t really paying attention. I’d started on Roger’s latest jigsaw puzzle last night and hadn’t finished it until two in the morning, so I wasn’t feeling particularly chipper at the moment. The fact that I was standing in front of a ventilation fan that was dumping stale, hot air onto my head wasn’t helping my mood either.
“...and let’s all welcome Janet, our newest spinneret technician. She’ll be helping us with today’s job.”
I nodded politely as everyone’s gaze flitted over to me.
Charlie placed his hands on his hips, stuck out his chest and in general put on a pretty good alpha male impression. “Alright crew, so today we’ve got to perform tether maintenance on the asteroid coupling...”
The hot air was really starting to get on my nerves; my skin had started prickling and I could my face starting to flush. I raised my arm up straight.
“Um. Do you have a question?” It was Charlie.
“What? Nah. Just getting a little hot. Raising my arm like this helps keep my body cool, makes the blood travel longer through the system.”
Everyone was still staring at me. “Really, don’t mind me, go on.”
“All right...like I was saying....” I soon stopped paying attention again. Charlie seemed like a nice guy; a little full of himself, then again who wasn’t, but the man sure liked to talk. Words, words, words. Maybe I should go to my bunk after this and email him my collection of Sam Spade radio plays. Audio; now that’s the writer’s medium. One hundred percent dialogue, pure brevity of style. In those old 20th century radio plays everything had to be conveyed to the listener via dialogue and the bangings of an overworked sound effects guy: “Gosh, it sure is cold and dark in here Sam.”, “Don’t worry baby, just hold my hand and stick close to me. Yeah, just like that.”, “Aieee! Look out Sam, there, in the shadows! It’s the killer, and he has a gun!” “Not for long! Take that! And that!” “Oh Sam, you’ve subdued him.” “Yep, he’s out cold, and now to figure out whose behind this mystery.” “My goodness, it’s Senator Clyburn!” The essence of clarity and direction. Charlie could learn a thing or two from them.
“...Janet and her crew will then take the spinneret up and...” That piqued my interest and I decided to go back to following the conversation.
“...we’ll use the drive train to bring everyone up to the spinneret and then Janet, you’ll decouple the pod for transport to the asteroid.”
What? No, no, no. What was he talking about? “Charlie, you should stick with scheduling and leave the spinneret mechanics to me, that’s my job.”
Charlie had stopped talking, his mouth still agape and staring at me with an expression which looked like a mix of disbelief and shock. Was that too harsh? Hmm...I had to explain myself. “Don’t take it personally, it’s not like I’m saying you’ve got a small penis or anything. “
The whole crew was gawking now. Um, time for more explanation apparently. “I mean you’re doing fine on the pep talk, but you’ve got the technical stuff all wrong.” I put my arm down, blood sufficiently cooled. “I mean look, if you stick us all on the load train and then blast it towards the spinneret chances are that we won’t be able to slow down enough to make the coupling and instead all go flying into the asteroid. Then kersplat, we’re all mashed across the side of that rock like you hit it with a sock full of wet oatmeal. And you don’t want to do that because then you’ll go to hell for killing us all. Maybe jail too.”
Charlie looked back down over the schematic on the comm station, biting his lower lip, his forehead furrowed in concentration. He knew I was right.
The rest of them were still staring at me.
I put my arm back up.