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January, 2008

Greek Ghosts

Revenge With A Pen!
Marked by words
By  Helen Dunn Frame

When developing strong characters, good writers recall the pen looms mightiest. To make their's believable, they draw from events in their lives, and what others tell them. Bottom line, authors don't have the luxury of remembering only the good times and forgetting how they felt about death and deceit.

While I don't dwell on bad memories, I tuck notes away in a My Documents file that list key points to jog my memory in achieving empathy for the protagonist faced with an enemy, evil friend, or relative.
Point in case: The other day I came home to find the telephone wasn't functioning, which happens occasionally when it rains heavily because wires aren't buried underground. My neighbour and I discovered that the phone line to my house had been severed. I called 911 on my mobile phone only to be told to contact the provider ICE (pronounced Eee-say) at 119. I was able to confirm that my neighbour - she and her husband are truly good friends and models for good characters - had already reported it
As the line appeared to have been cut between the fence and the house, I contemplated how someone climbed over the fence and avoided the three dogs that provide an early warning alarm system and might bite. Fantasizing about how it possibly happened gave me an opportunity to consider people who might be character fodder. You can be sure their names will reflect their personalities when used.
For my first culprit, I imaged the skinny, swarthy looking young man who used to work with the green grocer delivering fruits and veggies in a truck around the neighbourhood. This, presumably, fired employee shows up randomly now with a sack containing a few items that appear to have been rescued from the garbage. One time I bought some raspberries to help him out and caught him sipping the juice from the corner of the bag when I returned with the few colones! Ever since, I tell him I don't need anything. Still he persists. The other day he demanded, "Come here," ordering me to come to the gate. That didn't bode well. "I don't want anything," I responded loudly in Spanish without approaching him. 
The next candidate was a man with a tainted reputation who works for a neighbour. He walks up and down the road between the man's farm and his house sometimes tugged along by Gordo, the ugly, huge tan boxer that bit my dog Boots severely. He purposely whistles in a high pitch which hurts animals' ears. Naturally, all the neighbourhood dogs bark. (I believe that dogs sense bad people, another useful observation for describing a situation in a novel.)
When I asked him in Spanish, as a friend, not to whistle, he told me the street was public, that I could only tell him what to do in my garden. "Then don't throw your rope over my fence at my dogs!" He looked surprised that I had seen him do it.
Before I could add more suspects from my imagination, I learned a tall vehicle, probably the garbage truck, had accidentally caught the line while driving down the dirt road in front of my house. But, what about having a villain climb up on a vehicle and purposely cut overhead phone wires to a house? Hmmmm!
Here's another source for character files. Years ago in a class about dealing with loss through death and divorce (that many people regard as failure, not understanding a person suffers grief also), I learned about the importance of talking about concerns to the perpetrator. Have you noticed how some people refuse to talk about their feelings although all feelings are valid? They probably fear not liking what you have to say just as you might resent their opinion.
When someone won't talk, I write out my feelings. The moderator of the group explained that when discussion is not possible, or after death, the alternative is to write the scenario from two viewpoints, yours and what you imagine the other's to be, in order to get the necessary closure. Save copies of what you scribe for future reference when conjuring characters.
Finally, in a manuscript yet to be published, I had fun creating a persona based on a man who took bribes with the character of an "ex." I laugh when I think about it because I "jokingly" quip when I warn someone that I will remember an instance, "Revenge is mine says the author!"

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Helen Dunn Frame. A Syracuse University journalism school graduate, published in major newspapers, magazines and trade publications in the United States, England, and Germany. Her writing skills and love of travel led her to write her mystery novel Greek Ghosts. Email: Web site:

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