Monday, April 7, 2014

Creating a Character Who Is Larger Than Life

I've written a number of novels, including Stalking the Sky or Stalking the Sky (Kindle); A Question of Proof or A Question of Proof (Kindle); Star Time: New Version & New Introduction or Star Time(Kindle); Birthright or Birthright (Kindle); and Deeds or Deeds (Kindle). In writing my novel, Stalking the Sky or Stalking the Sky (Kindle), I wanted a scene over dinner to accomplish several things: First was to give the reader a sense of the vivid, dynamic and virile personality and past of the legendary Ben Buck, head of Global Universal Airline. I did that by having another person at the dinner relate old anecdotes about him that would surprisingly prove important later on in the book. I also wanted to sketch in a little of the beginnings of what grew into the airline industry and did that, too, with an anecdote, this one about an early flyer getting lost on a mail flight.

Here's an excerpt:

Dinner was a noisy affair, laced with half a century of anecdotes about airplanes and the characters who flew them, people like Danny Morell, who had a mail route in the twenties. He was too farsighted to read the compass and too vain to wear glasses, so he followed the railroad tracks below him from one city to the next. One day fog rolled in unexpectedly, and when he finally landed at what he thought was Baltimore, it turned out to be Washington, D.C. "Take me to the Postmaster General," he demanded. "I want to bid on a new mail route to Baltimore I just discovered."

Then there was the time Buck agreed to publicize GUA’s new jets, just delivered to replace piston aircraft. The plan called for him and a planeful of reporters to have breakfast in New York and lunch in Los Angeles; they’d be back in New York for a late dinner that night. It was an eye-catching stunt for a nation only three decades from biplanes and wire wing supports. Unfortunately, a new employee at Los Angeles Airport mistook a football team for the planeload of newsmen; lunch was gone when the jet touched down.

"You know," the GUA man finally admitted after the shock wore off, "I thought they were kind of big for reporters, but I couldn’t be sure. I’ve never been East."

Frey remembered the times during the war when the General, dog-tired from months of unceasing work to build an air transport system capable of supporting the war effort, would disappear for a few days of R & R. Frey was his driver then—that was how they met—and the one who shared the roistering hours when Buck let off steam.

"We were known in every whorehouse in every two-bit town that had an air base. Only the General never gave his real name. He called himself General Benjamin," the small man recalled, with a wink at Buck. "Remember Annette, with the business cards? She had business cards printed to advertise her house, with a line at the bottom of the card saying, ‘Recommended by General Benjamin. ’"

The table exploded in laughter, Buck’s loudest of all. Frey’s head bobbed up and down as he added, "Know what he did when he found out? Know what he did? He insisted on a month of free visits or else he would have his own cards printed up taking back the endorsement." The laughter burst forth again. "Annette’s cards started turning up all over Washington, and two other General Benjamins nearly ended up court-martialed."

Frey waited for the laughter to subside. "But any girl with a hard-luck story, he was the softest touch in America—"

Buck cut him off. "Nobody wants to hear that. Tell them about that time in New Orleans. Remember New Orleans, Pres?"

Frey remembered. "New Orleans was the best. Everywhere we turned there was puss—pardon me, ma’am . . . there were girls. You know what that big stud over there did? He rented the grandest whorehouse you ever saw for one solid week just for the two of us. The War Department and Western Union were three days tracking us down to get a message to the General. The lucky son of a B who delivered the message spent the next two days there with us. Western Union had to send out a search party for him."

The Old Man’s eyes were dancing as he picked up the story. "One of the councilmen got so damned horny waiting all that time for the house to reopen, he had the police break in and arrest us. They didn’t want to say prostitution was going on, so they accused us of ‘illegal entry.’"

As the laughter died down, Frey said, with a faraway look in his eyes, "There was one city where a little girl was so sweet on the General whenever we were there we lived right in the whorehouse, like kings. And me, I never had less than two or three girls there with me at a time. They don’t make wars like that anymore."

Read more: Stalking the Sky or Stalking the Sky (Kindle).

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