Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Using Scenes to Describe New Characters

Since its inception, Munsonville has been an "everyone welcome here" village. 

In the ten chapters that comprise the first part of "Bryony's Story," the village and the characters grow and develop while the plot lengthens through that development like a sneaky thread of mold.

Chapter seven, currently in progress, introduces three pivotal characters and shows the change in current ones. Instead of relying on description, I allow the reader to meet them through observation and the opinions of others, like this:

After services, as Bryony filed into the narthex with the chatter of the villagers bumping around her like molecules, she heard Mrs. Fisher's voice rise above the rest: "Twins, you say?"

            "Yes, Maybelle, Scandinavian, 'ccording to Teddy, and very, very reclusive."

            "Reclusive? Oh, my, what a thought! I just don't see how anyone in or near this village could possibly be reclusive, not when we have..."

            "The boys won't speak, and the father snaps if anyone approaches them. He talks only to Owen and only when necessary."

            "Oh, them! James didn't say they were twins, but he did insist that their fishing skills were unlike anything he's ever seen or heard. Why just last night, when we were sitting down to one of Clyde's excellent dinners of..."

            "Happy Easter, Bryony," Luther said, falling into step with her as Leo socked him on the shoulder and walked past, grinning. "That's a pretty bonnet. Is it new?"



            "...although, Sally, I once read that Scandinavians are quite naturally the most superior fishermen in the world. Do you know what Uncle Clyde once told us? The Pacific Northwest attracted so many fishermen from Denmark, Finland, Norway, and, yes, even Sweden that it was nicknamed Little Scandinavia. Why, do you know what James said..."

            Mrs. Fisher, who looked larger every time Bryony saw her, and Mrs. Bass, pretty as always, even though she was growing stout, too, walked outside, right behind Mr. Parks and Mr. Bass (who were discussing the latest fishing lures), taking the intriguing story with them.

            Twins? Real twins like The Prince and the Pauper, not simply a close resemblance, like eleven-year-old Leo and ten-year-old Luther with their matching brown trousers and suspenders and hair plastered in place?

            Bryony touched the brim, happy someone, even if it was only Luther,  noticed it. "Mrs. Parks sewed it for me, and Mrs. Pike made the flowers."

            The door opened, and Mrs. Hasset stepped inside. She wore a fitted coat that reached her boot tops.

            "Luther, let's go." She gestured with a gloved hand to the waiting carriage.

            The sheen of the coat's gray fabric and matching buttons reflected the natural light. Bryony stared, mesmerized at such lovliness, only half-hearing Luther say, "We're having Easter dinner at Mayor Pike's house."

            Reluctantly, Bryony turned her gaze away from the beautiful Mrs. Hasset. With a look of apology, Luther added, "I...I  wish you a pleasant day with Mr. and Mrs. Parks."

            "Thank you."

            "Where is your Uncle Orville?" An agitated Mrs. Parks was tying her bonnet strings and prodding Bryony to the door with her elbow. "I've looked all over for him?"

            "I think he's outside with Mr. Bass."

            "Those men and fishing! And on the Lord's Day of Days, too." Mrs. Parks held out her hand. "Come, Bryony."

            They walked in silence to the Parks' until Bryony asked, "Uncle Orville, who are 'the twins'?'"

            "Arvid Borgstrom's lads."

            "Who's that?"

            "New fisherman in town. Durned fine one, too."

            "Orville! Such language!"

            But Mrs. Parks' outburst couldn't dampen Bryony's curiosity. "Are the boys fishermen, too?"

            "Bryony, don't be so inquisitive. Orville, are you certain Mr. Griffith doesn't wish us to bring dinner?"

            "For the sixtieth time, Bertha, Ida is helpin' at the mayer's partee; Harv is goin' to Fisher Farm with Owen; and Gus jest wants to forgit about holidaze and celebratin.'"

            "He's not the same since Pearl's passing. I'm worried sick about him."

            "Gus is a growed man. Just let 'im be. And yes, Bryony, the boys fish, too."

            "Are they good fishermen, like Mr. Borgstrom?"

            "Dey git along."

            They had reached the Parks' small balloon-frame home, its maize-colored exterior, bright blue door and window sashes, and whitewashed trim a cheery beacon against the cold. Mason Woodrow's rockers, Mrs. Parks' broom, and a napping Puss were missing from the porch, but Bryony knew Mr. Parks would replace the items once the Arctic air departed, and Puss would reclaim her chair once he did.

            The trio headed to the back, as proper, per Mrs. Parks. Only company entered by way of the front. Bryony didn't mind. Extra walking no longer exhausted her, thanks to the magical power of meat.
            "I've never seen the Borgstrums. Where do they live?"

            "In yore parents' old cottage near the lake."


            "Bertha, tame yore feathers. The truth ain't gonna make Bryony brake like glasss."

            Mrs. Parks stomped up the steps. "When you're done chit-chatting, I need her assistance with meal preparation."

            WHAM went the back door. Mr. Parks, grinning, started for the barn, where Old Drew paced restlessly, hungry for Easter dinner. Bryony shadowed him.

            "Why is she mad, Uncle Orville?"
            "She ain't mad. She's jest protectin' you, like a Fisher Farm hen hoverin' round her chicks." He stopped and gently turned her to the house. "Now git in dere and help."

            Although the day grew sunnier and brighter, a lingering chill hung in the air, enough that Mrs. Parks interrupted dinner to walk through the house, shutting windows and griping.

            "So much for enjoying a spring breeze on Easter Sunday," Mrs. Parks said as she tucked her napkin back into her collar.

            "You'll soon be  complain' 'bout the heat," Mr. Parks liberally helped himself to more fish. "Now this is tasty. New receipt?"

            "Yes." Mrs. Parks still looked glum. "Soaked in vinegar."

            Mr. Parks looked long and hard at her. "Afore long, you'll be beatin' rugs and sweepin dust out the door."

            "Maybe." But she didn't sound convinced.

            Bryony spied the twins a week later, enroute to Mr. Drake's store. They had docked and were hanging fish, an amazing amount of fish, from rope attached to poles, much as Mrs. Parks hung laundry outside. The boys appeared identical: nearly fully grown and lanky, with a shock of blond hair falling over their foreheads. They worked in coordinated, rhythmic moves and spoke to each other in a language Bryony couldn't comprehend.

            "What would Mrs. Parks have today, Bryony?" Mr. Drake asked as the door clanged behind her.

            "Mace and cinnamon. She's frying crullers."

            Mr. Drake nodded to Addison. "The usual amount, boy."

            Addison slid off his stool to measure and package. Bryony drifted to the window and only half-heard Mr. Drake talking to Mrs. Betts as he added up her purchases.

            "Congratulations, Phoebe."

            "Fer what?"

            Two men had joined the teens. One was Mr. Munson and the other looked like the boys, except he was older, and his face twisted in a snarl.
            "The engagement of your son Paul to Ida Griffith."

            "They ain't engaged!"

            Somewhere a door banged, and a bell jangled.

            "Your order is ready, Bryony."

            She wondered from where they had come and why they had picked Munsonville to live and fish.

            "What has caught your eye?" a voice behind her said.

            It was Mr. Drake. Bryony pointed to the fishermen and looked back at Mr. Drake. His smile had fled.

            "Yes. The Borgstrums. Bryony, you must not delay Mrs. Parks' crullers."

            Bryony trailed Mr. Drake back to the counter where Addison handed her the paper sack. He had written the cost on the side eight dollars: four dollars for an ounce of powered cinnamon bark and four dollars for half an ounce of mace.

            "Thank you," Bryony said and moved toward the door, wondering all the way to The Munsonville Times office why Mr. Drake didn't like them. Thoughtfully, she pushed open the door.

            "Good day, Miss Bryony."

            At the sound Leo's voice rising over the clickety-clickety-clack of the typewriters, Luther, who was setting wood type on the cast iron press, glanced up. Beyond him, dark splotches marred the board walls.

            Mr. and Mrs. Hasset, as well as Lillian, looking very much like Mrs. Hasset with her hair put up, sat at the desks, studying shorthand squiggles while their fingers zoomed over the keys. The atmosphere, taut like piano wire, crackled with energy and smelled of ink and oil.

            "One copy of The Munsonville Times?"

            "Yes, please, Leo."

            He pointed to the stack on the counter. "That will be six cents."

            Bryony removed six pennies from her pinafore pocket, gave them to Leo, and then took a paper. He carefully counted the coins and added them to the register. Luther had resumed working, but he stole an occasional peep at Bryony.

            "It has the next installment of 'The Vicar's Ghost.' Mrs. Parks will like that."

            Bryony giggled. "If Mr. Parks doesn't find out first."

            The door burst open. Mr. Borgstrom stalked in, slapped six cents on the counter, snatched a newspaper, and stormed out.

            "That was rude," Bryony said.

            Leo shrugged. "Some folks don't have much to say."

            Bryony dawdled on the way back to the parsonage, contemplating the Borgstroms, the dozens of strung-up fish, the confident capability of the twins, and the impolite way Mr. Borgstrom had bought newspaper. She disagreed with Leo. Mr. Borgstrom did have much to say. He simply hadn't said it with words.

            "Heavens, child, what happened?" Mrs. Parks asked when Bryony trooped into the kitchen at long last.

            Bryony set The Munsonville Times on the table. "Other customers."

            Mrs. Parks tore open the spice package and quickly began measuring. "If I don't hurry, I won't see the paper until tomorrow."

            "What's the rush? You always read first."

            "Your father invited company to dinner." With loud exasperated sighs, Mrs. Parks crumbled butter and sugar together.


            "Children should be seen and not heard. Bryony, please knead so I can peek at the news."

            Bryony rinsed her hands and hurried to help, not at all surprised Mrs. Parks had yielded to temptation. Mrs. Parks was already at the table hunched over the newspaper, reading spectacles on, face cupped in her hands.

            "Leo said the next installment of 'The Victor's Ghost' is out," Bryony remarked as she rolled and pushed the dough.

            Mrs. Parks didn't answer.

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