Tuesday, May 17, 2016

My Favorite Character by Suz deMello

Now, here's a Sophie's Choice. The results of the choice aren't as radical, but a difficult choice nevertheless.

Who have I written? Everything from sheikhs to schoolgirls; Regency rakes and gardeners. Ask me to chose my fave? Impossible.

Here's a selection from one of my favorite stories, Viking in Tartan. It's currently available in Six Steamy Shorties: Short Romance Stories. 

Keith Kilbirnie, immaculate in dark trews topped by clean white linen, stood at the scullery door and regarded his sister. Rhona had always been a brat, but he had never seen her so disheveled. And the company she was keeping—Och.

He advanced, one hand on the hilt of the long knife he always carried in his belt. “And what have we here?”

Rhona dropped the bannock she’d been devouring. “Brother!” She flung her arms around him.

“Doona ye ‘brother’ me, ye imp. Where have ye been all night long? I searched for ye everywhere! And who might ye be?” he asked the stranger, a dark giant with a fierce, wild demeanor.

“I am called Erland Blodson.”

“A Viking?” Keith whipped out his knife and crouched in a defensive position, ready.

“Nay! He rescued me!”

Keith eyed Rhona, noticing salt stains on her formerly elegant cyrtel and sand in her hair. “What have ye done?”

Rhona stared at the stone floor. “I took a boat out last night and left...tried to leave.”

“She nearly drowned,” the Viking said in a rich bass. He picked up a mug and drank deeply.

“She passed the night with ye?” Keith asked.

The Viking put down the mug and wiped foam off dark stubble with a brawny forearm. “Aye.” He locked eyes with Rhona, whose cheeks reddened.

Keith leaned against the long wood table in the scullery’s center while the maids, who should have been chopping onions, stared. “What a tangle.” He rubbed his forehead. “The Bute may attack.”

The Viking smiled. “Not likely.”

Rhona pressed against Keith and looked up at him with wide eyes. “Can ye fix this with Da, do ye think?”

“Lassie, this is not breaking a jug or taking Da’s favorite mount. This could mean war.”

“Nay,” Blodson said. “I fought the Bute on the beach this morn. He’s dead.”

Keith drew a startled breath. “And his men?”

“They fled.”

“Why didna ye tell me?” Rhona demanded of Blodson.

“A man doesn’t boast.”

“Unhhh...” Their da appeared, gripping the doorpost, eyelids puffy. He blinked. “G’morrow, me bairns, and, uh, ye.” He fixed a bleary, bloodshot gaze upon the Viking. Da’s stained linen was open over his thrusting belly. His graying hair straggled over a balding pate, and he reeked of sweat and strong drink. Pressing his lips together, Keith tried to conceal his shame.

But Blodson set down his ale and bent his head respectfully. “Good morrow, milaird Kilbirnie.”

“Who are ye?”

“This be the man who rescued my foolish sister,” Keith said, pleased the Viking showed respect despite Da’s slovenly appearance. “She took out a boat last night to flee marriage to the Bute. Who is dead.”

“Dead? How?”

The Viking shrugged and smiled. Da blinked, his attitude visibly changing. Keith could practically see Da’s clouded brain trying to sort matters out.

Da’s gaze brightened. “Och, I doona have to pay him the dower-price.”

“Nay,” the Viking said. “Nor to me. I do not want a dowry. Your daughter’s hand will be enough.”

Their da told Rhona, “Ye deserve a beating.”

“Aye, Da.”

“Ye’re lucky I am not quite fit this morn.”

“Aye, Da.”

“Get oot of me sight.”

She scooted toward the door and the Viking followed.

“Nay, not ye,” Da said.

Blodson stopped.

“From where did ye spring?” Da asked.

The Viking grinned, teeth a bright flash against his burgeoning black beard. “I was sent from Skye by King Haakon to take your keep.”

Da stared, jaw slack, then bellowed with laughter. “Weel, ye have done that, and without a single strike of a blade!”

Why do I like this selection? I think it's cute and funny. And I like all these characters.

On a more writerly note, it expresses character without telling the reader what the characters are like. Take Erland. He's obviously strong and powerful--he dispatched an enemy that who, from the context, seems as though he was powerful also. But Erland is modest about it, saying, "A man doesn't boast." The reader also gets the idea that Rhona is a bit of a brat, and her brother Keith is highly conscious of his position in life while their father is a slob.

The best writing shows rather than tells about character and conflict.


  1. What a fabulous excerpt, Suz! I could see it all vividly.

    You've got good control over the dialect, too. It's just enough, without being confusing.

  2. Like Lisabet says, such visualization and comprehension with so little 'tell'. Even the narrative has a kinetic life of its own. Looooove how the vernacular reads. That's always a quandary--how much is enough and how much is too much.

    Gonna make my post tomorrow look lame, since both characters I focus on also speak with accents. Perhaps not so well as your characters. Gulp...

  3. Very deft handling of the dialect, indeed. I tend to chicken out and just try to convey a vague sense of vernacular speech by tweaking the patterns of speech a bit. I could never do dialect as well as you do, Suz.

  4. Thanks, everyone! I do love that story. It's the first in a series, so it's free forever...hope to stoke sales of the novels when they shake loose from my former publisher.

  5. I'm amazed by the dialogue, like everyone else. I'd never have the guts to take on that particular accent (or any accent, really).

    I like what people say about the showing rather than telling, and, based on that glimpse, I love Keith.

    If your former publisher is the same as my former publisher, good luck on the shaking loose... I'm struggling a bit with mine.


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