Carol/Mrs. Collins: Tank

WOUND: The Characters

To be fair, sweetie, it’s just easier to tell you what happened.

Mrs. Collins

Carol Collins left a lovely 2000-square-foot home, with an inground pool and delicate landscaping, a sunny but secluded deck and three full-time household assistants when the bomb-dropped in Chicago. She’d waited a day, for her husband to return from his business trip. She wasn’t sure he would. She wasn’t sure he wanted to. She knew he had a layover in O’Hare, but didn’t know when or what day. Carol Collins took little interest in Robert Collins. She took only his name and his bank account. In return, she bore him two beautiful boys and allowed him his small pleasures elsewhere.

When Bob turned up, ragged and smelling of charcoal and blood, Carol made up her mind and smiled. She’d already packed her boys’ things and some money. In her Coach purse was the single gun in the house and both boxes of ammunition. She had no idea how to load the thing, or unlock the safety device, but Carol was still in the performance stage of her escape. Deep down she assumed her husband would take care of everything.

He’d tried. Oh boy, how he tried. By the time Carol made it to the top of the staircase she understood that Robert Collins had changed. Saying little besides “Carol” and “boys” and “ghaaarrrgrr,” he chased her up the wide staircase into the upstairs hallway. Her boys stood at the end, outside of their room, right where she told them to wait. Her sweet boys, Jake and Blake, the little rhyming scheme that she picked the moment she new they were two and that annoyed Bob every time she called to them.

Her boys. Not Bob’s boys. Not now, as if they ever were.

The hallway ran long in the big house and she had time to catch Jake’s eye – he’s always been the stronger one, emotionally – and yell, “Get me your bat.” With no hesitation, the nine-year-old ducked into the bedroom he shared with his brother. He returned with an aluminum baseball bat, the word EASTON emblazoned on the side. He tossed it forward and, to her own amazement, Carol Collins caught it.

She spun, bringing the bat around with her momentum and connected with Bob’s head. Her luck held as he stumbled in his pursuit and she was able to swing again, adapting her backhand for the metal bat and landing it solidly under his chin. Blood flung out of his mouth and his crushed jaw hung open. The initial hit knocked skin off his temple and soaked his Armani dress shirt – that was a birthday present, Mrs. Collins thought.

Bob took a knee and instead of raising his hands to his injured head, like a human, he lunged forward, like something else, grabbing at her legs as she shielded her boys. She swung again and again, missing here and there, but connecting more often until what remained above the collar of her husband’s shirt was nothing more than a lump of grizzle and matted hair.

It was quite the messy divorce, Mrs. Collins would later say.

At no point did she tell her boys to run and hide. If she had to do this, they had to watch. Carol understood the world had changed, and they were going to change with it. They brought their most important belonging downstairs and showered in the small bathroom off the kitchen. They ate in silence and packed as much food as they could. Carol had the boys check for anything else – on the first floor – that they would need while she siphoned gas from Bob’s SUV into her van and two spare cannisters she found in the garage. The lingering tast of fuel in her mouth felt like a choice.

As the distant sounds of sirens tore through Pittsburgh, Carol, Jake and Blake left quietly in the dead of night and headed south. Her brother was just over the border in Kentucky. Perhaps he could take them in for a bit. Perhaps he could help her with this gun. There was a lot of things she needed to learn in this new world and there was no way she was going to let it take her boys.

You can read more about Carol in Wound exclusively in Kindle Vella.

Beverly Avery: Manager

Bev Avery

WOUND: The Characters

When we first meet Bev she’s decided how to deal with the fact that her husband is slowly turning into a vampire, or a zombie, they’re not clear on what’s following them yet. The first vamps are ragged, rotting things, but Paul is clearly not decaying in the back of Bev’s Jeep. Quite the opposite.

She’s the manager of the group, if not the leader. A good manager shifts the power and responsibility around to allow people’s talent to shine. When medical attention is needed, Bev defers to Armond and Darlene, the two nurturers of the group. Scouting belongs to Marla. Philosophizing about their situation, when appropriate, fell into Paul’s qualified lap. And Bev leaves most of the killing to Carol and her boys.

Bev Avery, former accountant, horse-back riding enthusiast, crossword puzzler, and one-time state champion swimmer, facilitates. She makes the decisions when no one else wants to. She decides what comes next and then lets people act. She’s slight, only about five foot three, but strong, with wide swimmer shoulders and, what her brother used to call, “good wheels.” She could have been a champion sprinter, if she’d ever get out of the pool.

Now, fuck-hundred miles into the ass of Wyoming and Bev has left the water behind.

You can read more about Bev in Wound exclusively in Kindle Vella.

WOUND: The Characters

I try to write character-driven stories. When I’m reading, my immersion level increases dramatically when I can identify with a character. I don’t have to be similar to them in any way (and that’s my privilege talking) but that connection really drives the reading experience, and therefore, that’s how I like to write.

The physical description is only important to me if it drives the story. I tend to do minimal details and let the reader color in the visual person. I want their personality to come out in their dialogue and choices: what path do they take, what questions trip them up, etc. I think this is closer to how we get to know people in real life, and it’s a hell of a lot more fun.

For my Vella series, WOUND, I have a set group of characters that I use for point-of-view and a set point that are not. When I started season two I wondered if I should switch from one group to the next, but I worried that if any readers connected with, say, Carol, in season one, they may resent not hearing from her until season three (there are five planned in total). So I’m sticking with my four originals…that is, unless something happens.

I did want to take time to dig deeper into their stories (for research and for fun) and thought it might be interesting to post it here. Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be sharing some ideas and backstory of my characters in WOUND, point-of-view and other. I’ve also made some great picrew images of them, to help me paint their personality on their faces.

What’s in a name? Wait, which name?

I think in my day-to-day life I’m pretty terrible at names too. I tend to remember people by their face or some characteristic that I’ve focused on.

I am terrible at giving characters names. I ran around with a character name in my head for years, only to give him something completely different in the end (though, for some reason, the syllable scheme stayed the same). I find it’s something of an afterthought for me, even though I like to think I focus on character in my writing.

But seriously, why am I so bad at this?

I think in my day-to-day life I’m pretty terrible at names too. I tend to remember people by their face or some characteristic that I’ve focused on. But if you were to ask me, “Hey, do you remember Kevin?” I’d give you a blank look. However, if you asked “remember that guy with the blue Honda?” I’d say “Yeah! That guy. What was his name?” Kevin will always be filed away as blue-Honda guy and not Kevin WhatsHisName.

My writing is not shielded from this terrible fault.

While I’ve been working on WOUND: Thirst, I notice that I’m getting some names mixed up. While, the writing and editing are all my responsibility, picking the names in the first place was also my responsibility and I am failing on both parts. There’s no defense for this. Serial writing feels like its about being in the moment, focusing on one piece at a time. But it’s not an exquisite corpse. I can see all the other pieces and, well, I wrote them. So even if Marla is just a secondary character without her own POV, I should still remember that her name isn’t Marlene. Her mother’s name is Darlene, I think. Wait. Which one is the mother?

So my of my character creation comes out in the action and dialog when I write. I look forward to discovering what they will do and who they are. Sometimes I’m surprised by the choices they make. I also know (because I’ve tried this before) that doing extensive character sheets bleeds a lot of interest out of them for me.

I like to have a soft outline for plot (or at least know where I’m supposed to end up) but let the characters define themselves.

CAVEAT: Writers often talk about writing their characters as if they have autonomy, small sentient beings that think for themselves. They aren’t and they don’t. It’s just that during the writing, some of those decisions are not cognitively produced, or, the decision-train that produces certain actions/words is so fast and so quick, it feels like it comes from somewhere else. It doesn’t. The magic is inside you and me. I just forgot what it’s name is.

Had I more privacy, I would write a list of my character names on a post-it note and keep it prominent on my desk. However, a lot of my writing is done in the dark, for…reasons… and I want to keep it that way. So, I’ve moved an all-caps character list to the top of my Scrivener binder, in the hopes that I refer to it from time to time and don’t have to suddenly go back and correct an old chapter.

Sorry, Marla.

Marla and Darlene – what was I thinking? I’ll make it up to them in an upcoming episode.

Read the latest WOUND: Thirst episode two days before its release by supporting me on Patreon.
Read them for free on Tapas or Webnovel. Be sure to leave a like!