Sunday, May 29, 2011
When Elvis Pops Into the Market
At least in my book.
(Stop me already!)
Anyway, the thing with characters in a series is that you can’t have all of them in every book. And after fourteen books, Sammy’s dealt with a lot of people. So it’s inevitable that a character will appear in one book, and then never be seen again. Especially if they’ve had a fatal mishap. Like, say, being scared to death by a girl sneaking up the fire escape of a seniors building. Or croaking from a highball of bitterness and old age. Or being clonked on the head by a can of refried beans.
Oh, wait. I killed that guy off (in Snake Eyes) but then I changed my mind. Which was a tough decision because I really enjoyed clonking him on the head with a can of refried beans and I didn’t like him and I wanted very much for him to stay dead.
I remember exactly where I was when I killed him off: Chugging through New Jersey on the Amtrak while on book tour. I remember because there was a guy sitting next to me who, when he found out I was an author, kept trying to talk to me. But I was in the middle of hurling around cans of beans and, really, you don’t interrupt a writer when they’re in the midst of hurling around beans!
It can get messy.
When I just couldn’t take his interruptions anymore, I very politely said, I’m sorry, but I really need to concentrate.
Actually, in deference to the truth, it was more a high-pitched, Can’t you see I’m trying to kill someone off?
Whatever. At that point I became a weirdo and he escaped to another seat leaving Sammy free to hurl the can and kill the creep (the one in the book).
I must have been in one of those moods, because I thought killing a creep with a can of beans was the funniest thing ever. It tickled my funny bone for days. Maybe even weeks. But somewhere along the storyline I realized that killing the guy—with or without beans—wasn’t furthering the plot; that it was actually making it messy and complicated.
After all, there are consequences to killing someone, with or without a can of beans.
Anyway, the point is, (hm, let me check, what was the point?)… Oh, yeah! Some people appear in one book in a series and never show their bean-bonked face again. If they’re dead, there’s no bringing them back. (Not if you’re going to be fair to your readers—I hate books that do that ta-da thing where, ooooh, they weren’t really dead. Totally unfair. Cheater. Go write for a soap why don’t you?)
So if they’re dead, they’re dead and there’s no bringing them back. But usually characters make it through alive (and, presumably, remain alive in subsequent titles) only they can’t all be seen again because it’s just too much to carry along.
But then there are the characters that appear when you didn’t expect them (or invite them) and rather than fade away, they pop back in from time to time, going, Remember me?
And you go, Yeah, I remember you. What are you doing back here?
And then they start talking in Elvis songs.
And you go, Oh, that’s right. You work the night shift at Maynard’s and everything you say is (pretty much) the title of a song Elvis Presley sang.
I like you!
You crack me up!
And before you know it the Elvis impersonator has you doing things like researching Elvis, which, having parents from The Netherlands, was not someone played or embraced while you were growing up, and, in fact, was not someone whose songs you really know.
And you spend days learning about Elvis and his songs and soon the Elvis impersonator at Maynard’s Market has a huge vocabulary (of song titles, and song titles only) and he is totally making you bust up with the things he says. And after a long day of writing you discover that in two pages you managed to have your Elvis say the cleverest, funniest things and use dozens of titles.
And then you realize that Elvis didn’t pop in and say, “Hey, little mama,” just to make you laugh.
He’s there for a reason!
Which won’t show itself to anyone but you until the next book, but YOU know!
So you smile extra hard at your two pages and dozens of song titles and feel happy and clever and elevated from the darker things in life.
All because Elvis popped into the market.