Character Backstories

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Pouring the Cup, the novel, consists of 272 pages, 31 chapters and 109,000 words.  But did you know the story started out at over 425 pages and almost 200,000 words?

This led to two decisions:  1. Cut the book in half, so remember to be looking for Book 2 by 2015 (it’s in the works now and may be done in the next six months) and

2. Take out a lot of back story.  And the original “novel” manuscript didn’t include hundreds of other pages I wrote past and future for the characters of the novel.

In my mind, you can’t create a believable character if you don’t know where they came from. Living people have backstories that shape the way they think and feel.

So I thought, why not share some of that backstory out here on the web? Readers will enjoy seeing details of events that are only hinted at in the novel, or seeing expanded versions of scenes.  It’s not unlike a Blue Ray with special features such as Deleted Scenes. And those of you who haven’t read Pouring the Cup will get a taste of book and beg for more!

So let’s start out with this tidbit:

Mountain clouds covered the setting suns this evening, casting orange and pink stripes across the lavender sky. Wandering among the orange blooms of the lilies and the blue-green leaves of the gum trees, Axandra sought only solitude and quiet, the kind of quiet that could only be found away from people. She’d spent so many hours reading and listening to others talk that she just wanted to let her senses soak in a natural scene. The colors of plants soothed her eyes, easing the ache of the muscles behind them. The melodious songs of the birds sounded heavenly compared to the drone of human voices.

She didn’t expect anyone else to be here. With her mind closed up to quiet the internal voices, she didn’t notice another human presence until she came upon him seated at the fountain statue of a little girl.

Mark Osander’s black hair contrasted sharply with the white stone and copper inlays of the fountain. He sat with his back to the water-spilling figurine, gazing upward toward the changing hues of the sky. His dark brown eyes turned to her the instant she intruded into his space, casting an unwelcoming look in her direction.

“M-my apologies,” Axandra said with a nervous stutter. “I didn’t realize anyone was here.”

One eyebrow arched upward curiously, though Mark remained silent. He did not try to rise to bow to her, but she noticed he held a cane loosely in one hand. This led her eyes to his left foot where she observed a thin cast with bronze toes poking out the open end.

And though he said nothing, she felt obligated to explain, “I’m so tired in the evening that I have to block everything out to rest. Otherwise, I would have stayed away. I’ll just go now.”

“That isn’t necessary, Your Honor,” said Mark in his deep basso voice. “I was just about to head home myself.” With a grimace that he tried to hide by stiffening his features, the man pushed himself to his feet and leaned heavily on the cane. With a shuffle, he settled more comfortably on his feet and bowed his head. “The space is yours.”

“There isn’t any reason for you to give up your enjoyment of the garden just for me, Mr. Osander,” she protested with a shake of her head. “There is plenty of room. I didn’t realize you were injured.”

“I broke my foot during my respite at home,” he explained in general terms. “And truly, it is time for me to make my way down to the Council House. You are not pushing me out.”

Axandra wanted to ask more about the foot to show her concern, but perceived that Osander preferred to keep his personal business to himself. The wall he built between himself and others made it difficult to get to know him. Even the other councilors with whom he served gave him a wide berth and spoke to him only when business required them to do so.

With a knot in her stomach, she decided to make an attempt to open a conversation. “Councilor, I want you to know that I understand your reservations towards me. If I were in your position, I might feel the same sense of . . . unease.”

“Do you understand?” he asked, again his eyebrow arching, as though he disbelieved her claim.

“I believe I do,” Axandra continued. She felt the muscles in her thighs quiver nervously and attempted to control the involuntary response. “I came here with little warning and startled the general population by my very existence. You have every right to challenge me. Admittedly, I know very little about performing the duties of Protectress. That must have everyone concerned. Councilor, this hasn’t been easy for me. Coming home again was the last thing in the world I wanted to do.”

Her last words piqued his interest and he shifted as though preparing to stay for a much longer conversation. “You ran away from home,” he stated plainly, a more complete understanding coming into his mind. “You left and never intended to return.”

“Yes, but I was six years old. I ran away my parents left me in the hands of the Prophets without so much as a promise to return,” she explained, feeling anger return while reliving the memories again. “And I stood in my mother’s presence three times and not once did she recognize me. I felt as though she didn’t care that I was gone.”

“I was a child then,” Mark said softly. His face actually showed an expression of sympathy. “I met Elora the first time when I came to assist Councilor Garmin, my predecessor. She missed you.” He gestured toward the figure in the fountain, a young girl smelling the flowers. “She requested a statue of you as a memorial to your lost childhood. I heard her mention your name many times.”

Axandra glanced down sheepishly. “Others have said similar things. It’s a side of my mother I never knew.”

“Madam,” Osander said, “do you ever have the feeling that someone is watching you?”

She wanted to say “Yes,” but her conscience made her catch that word in her throat and replace it with, “That’s a very odd question, sir.” What did he mean by it? Did he know something she would rather keep secret? She sensed he possessed advanced prowess when it came to his own mental talents. A remoter, like herself, he could receive thoughts broadcast through the air. I must keep better control not to leak, she thought.

Mark paused a moment before saying, “Indeed. Good night, Madam. We should talk again.” Hobbling away between the hedges, Osander disappeared from sight.

She let him go without another word. The conversation took an uncomfortable turn very quickly and, she suspected, by his design. He attempted to rattle her every time they met. By now, she should have expected it. She wondered if he acted this way toward everyone and that’s why they left him alone.

Trying to push his distraction from her mind, she stepped over to the fountain, taking a closer look at the artistic carving of the stone. She recognized the face now, the young face that used to grace her mirror. The artist rendered her in minute detail, including the spiral curls of her hair, the floral pattern of her ruffled dress, and the smile in her eyes. A brass plate bolted to the base of the fountain stated the title. “Our Daughter,” she read, moving her lips silently over the words. “In Memory of Ileanne Saugray, Lost 8th Duomont, 286. A gift from her parents, Elora and Mitchum Saugray. May she live happily Beyond.”

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