Thursday, June 6, 2013

Dialog with a Protagonist

Peni: So, Galen, I was skimming for the synopsis and I realized, we never find out what's up with you. You know, backstory.
Galen: Eh, nothing to tell.
Peni: You were in foster care and desperately unhappy and alone when you found Bethany cutting herself and tried to suck the bad stuff out of her. Why were you in foster care? Why were you so desperately unhappy and alone?
Galen: Duh, I was in foster care! Look, I don't have the big dramatic story. Not everybody in foster care does. Sometimes you just never catch a break and life sucks. Not a big deal.
Peni: It was a big enough deal for you to enter into Bethany's whole self-destructive bad karma fantasy and get emotional satisfaction out of "sucking out the bad stuff" with the blood.
Galen: Look, nobody wants to hear my whole life story, all right? It's boring. Go here; no, go there; no, not enough funds for that, go over there; start this program - no, that one - nope, no program for you, you're not bad off enough.
Peni: That was it, wasn't it? As bad as you felt, it was never a big enough crisis for anybody to take the time to deal with it.
Galen: Yeah, well, nobody ever raped me, either. I don't mind not having the crises. Crises suck.
Peni: But you always had to deal with the crises of people around you, and without one, it was never your turn to get your needs addressed.
Galen: I didn't want them addressed. You know what happens to people whose needs get addressed? They get jerked around. Because nobody cares about them, not really. They care about keeping the blood out of the carpet. They care about making the screaming stop.
Peni: By "they" you mean the people in charge, right? The social workers and foster parents and so on. Because obviously you care. You were doing your dead level best to help Bethany.
Galen: Yeah, and I screwed it up and now I had to leave her alone in a hospital. I want a sequel, bitch. I want to fix that. She's crazy as a bedbug and I had to leave her there so she didn't die but they aren't going to fix her any more than I did. Let's talk about that!
Peni: I'm not writing a sequel to a book I don't even have a contract for. We're not talking about the future. If you want a future, you've got to work with me. You've got to give the reader/editor/publisher a hook. They won't buy into you if there's this big gaping hole in your backstory. Where exactly does this rescue fantasy you're trying to live come from?
Galen: Make something up. I got nothing. Make sure you throw in an alcoholic and some child abuse. Audiences love child abuse by alcoholics.
Peni: Audiences hate being lied to.
Galen: So, a junkie maybe?
Peni: Who gave you the Bat Out of Hell disc?
Galen: What makes you think I didn't jack it like I did the Swiss Army knife?
Peni: You only jack things you believe you need. And besides, it's an old, old disk. It came out in 1979. Why the hell are you still listening to it? How'd you even keep it nice so long, living like you did?
Galen: It's not the original. I had to jack it more than once. 'Cause I like it, so what?
Peni: Where'd you hear it first?
Galen: Oh, ages ago, I had this foster mom, she'd listen to it. Only house I was ever in that wasn't too crowded. She'd play it full bore and we'd play air guitar and we had this dance we did - you know that bit "if I gotta be damned you know I wanna be damned dancin through the night dancin through the night dancin through the night with you?" We had a dance to that, her and me and the other kid. She was fat - oh, boy, she was enormous, but she could dance and it was fun, you know? It was kind of a kick in the head when I got bigger and figured out what's really going on in that song. But I just like it.
Peni: Why'd you leave that house?
Galen: Oh, she was in this accident. Couldn't do it any more.
Peni: What kind of accident?
Galen: I don't know. Nobody ever told me.
Peni: What?
Galen: I don't know, all right? The other kid and me got home from school and there was this social worker and he had our stuff and said Sharon was in an accident and we had to go to the shelter. And we didn't even go to the same shelter. And we didn't get to pack our own stuff. She had given me a copy of the disc and we both had this player we were allowed to use, but we didn't get to take that with us. The guy who took us away didn't believe us when we said that stuff was ours. And nobody I asked ever knew what happened to her, so after awhile I stopped asking.
Peni:...That sounds pretty huge to me. Having somebody taking care of you and then poof, you're somewhere else and you never even know if she's alive or dead.
Galen: I don't know whether any of my other fosters are alive or dead, either.
Peni: Do you care?
Galen: Shit, no. Look, don't get all sentimental on me. Compared to almost everybody else I was ever around, that's nothing. She wasn't my real mother and I wasn't, like, her favorite kid ever or anything. She might have passed me on eventually, anyway.
Peni: Or she might not.
Galen: Yeah, well, that's life, you know?

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