Mark Terry

Friday, October 02, 2009

Your characterization

October 2, 2009
I'll get back to the description workshop with a wrap-up either this weekend or next week. I'm trying to finish up proofing my galley of The Fallen, which will come out next year. I was just reading a section that I'm particularly pleased with because of what it does, and I thought I'd share it with you. You tell me what it does and if it works.

Around his neck was a St. Sebastian’s medal, a steel four-leaf

clover, and ju-ju beads, the latter given to him by a friend who survived

Somalia. “They saved my ass, dude. And you need luck more than I do.”


St. Sebastian had been an officer in the Imperial Roman army, a

captain of the guard in the third or fourth century. He was reported to

have healed the wife of a fellow soldier, and then began to convert sol-

diers to Christianity. He was arrested and tried as a Christian, tied to a

tree, and shot with arrows. Sebastian miraculously survived and contin-

ued to preach, though his ministry was short lived. The emperor had him

rearrested and beaten to death.


Derek thought there was probably a lesson there. You could view

Sebastian surviving the arrows as a miracle and a sign of God’s favor, but

what were you to make of the second and final execution? That God

decided to bring him home, he had proven his faith the first time? Or

that God was sending you a message the first time and you were too stu-

pid to pay attention to it?


During the fourteenth century plague victims prayed to Sebastian,

which is how he became associated with plague. Which is why Derek

wore his medal around his neck, figuring he could use all the benevolent

oversight he could get.

4 Comments:

Blogger Natasha Fondren said...

Did you show this to me? I have this very vivid memory of reading and just loving this bit, but I'm sorta feeling like there's no way I could have read it and I must be completely making this vivid memory up.

I'm losing my marbles. It's frightening.

11:13 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Entirely possible. Maybe every time I read that passage I'm so overwhelmed by its clever awesomeness that I can't help myself but to post it upon my blog. Entirely posssssible.

12:44 PM  
Blogger Richmond Writer said...

Not knowing anything at all about what precedes this section of the story or even whether the story is a thriller, romance, or medical mystery...here is what I think.

You are foreshadowing the fact that Derek will survive some badass heroic act only to find himself in the same situation again and you want the reader to feel doubt about his survival. No wait, there was a plague reference so the heroics must be medically related. No, Somolia, he is a soldier right? Or just close friends with them? Or is he a soldier facing chemical warfare?

The bit about God tells me the narrator has a deep education in religion or he wouldn't know so much about the saint. The line "use all the benevolent oversight..." reveals his attitude about religion; doubt about God's existence.

It is well written until you mentioned the plague at which point I thought, "oh, that was a history lesson, not a taste of what is to come." Do you really need the plague part? It's detracts from the previous writing except for the line that reveals his attitude to God.

4:58 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Actually, Richmond, by this time in the story we know that Derek is a former Special Forces solder whose expertise is biological and chemical terrorism and warfare. He's deep into a huge crisis involving terrorists who've taken over the G8 Summit and he's just discovered a booby-trapped biological weapon and is deciding how or whether to try and de-arm it (he doesn't have much choice, actually).

5:41 AM  

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