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August 27, 2009 / theoldsilly

A Minor Excerpt

Yesterday on Galen Kindley’s blog, he put up a post on the subject of “minor” characters in a novel. The Kindley definition of “minor” was a character who only appeared in one scene for a specific purpose. And he posed the question, to what length should an author “flesh out” such a character? Name? Any background? Back story? Or none of that, or somewhere inbetween. It incited a lively bevy of comments and several interesting points of view were left in the gallery.

I left a comment, and also included the (paraphrased) statement of Mark Twain’s, that (and now I am quoting), “The personages in a tale, both dead and alive, shall exhibit a sufficient excuse for being there.”

I like Twain’s take. Even a no-name bit walk-on player in a once only scene had better have a darn good reason for being there. So anyway, not going to redo what Galen already did yesterday – today I thought I’d give y’all a sneak preview excerpt from the novel I’m currently writing, Detective Snoop. It’s a comedic whodunit, with a multi-layered cast of characters. I’d like you to read the excerpt and give me some feedback in the comments. Especially let’s focus on the “minor” character in the scene. How do feel she is portrayed, is it a good amount of visualization and/or profiling, too little, or too much?

Sound like fun? Okay. Let’s do this. Here is the opening scene from Chapter Eleven.

***

Stripped naked, eyes blinded and hands behind his head, Snoop stood stiff like a perspiring statue. For twenty minutes he had dared not move, captive, aware the end was near. He sweated out the final seconds before the inevitable, knowing full well this hotter than hell situation was of his own doing. He had asked for this, and would soon be paying … dearly. Then came the sound.

            Thunk! The walls of bright lights shut down and contrasting cool air soothed his toasted skin. He removed the eye patches, reached for the door handle and stepped out of the cylindrical booth. He wrapped a towel around his waist, went out of the room, across the hall to the shower, washed the sweat and oils off and shampooed his hair. Back in his rented room, he admired his fresh rich tan in the full-length mirror for a minute and then dressed. He left a tip on the chair for that sexy manager, Kiki, who was always so nice to oil his back for him, then walked to the front.

            Kiki was sitting behind the desk, reading a magazine and bopping along to some hip-hop. She smiled at Snoop and said, “Well, detective, you sure picked up some good tone this morning.”

            “Think so? Thanks, baby cakes. I was needin’ it.” Snoop flashed a grin back, thinking what a gorgeous broad white smile she had, a sharp contrast to her magnificent tan. This golden long haired man grenade is a walking full body advertisement for her salon. What I wouldn’t give to …

            “So – twenty bucks as usual, Keeks?”

            “Yupperdoodles.”

            Snoop stuck out a twenty and she rose to receive it. Snoop said, “Left you a tip in the room, doll. Hey love the blue jumpsuit. Perfect match to your eyes.”

            “Oh, thanks. You’re such a sweetie.” Kiki puckered him a kissie. “So, you off to catch the bad guys?”

            “You know me, I’m always on the case, and I always get my man.”

            Kiki ran her hand down his cheek, took on a look of damsel in distress and said, “Ooh, I just feel so much safer knowing you’re out there protecting little ol’ me from all those meanies.”

            Snoop loved the way Kiki and her assistants always flirted with him. There were other tanning salons in town with just as good equipment and facilities, but The Electric Sun God had the corner on the market when it came to cute coquettes at your service. He pulled out a square, held it on one end, wagged the other end at her and said, “That’s right, and don’t you ever forget it. Burglars, prowlers, thugs and creeps, they’re all goin’ down with Snoop on the beat.” He raised one eyebrow, winked, stuck the fag behind his ear with a cocky smile and swagger as he backed away toward the exit.

            Kiki’s eyes widened. “Oh Snoop – watch out for …”

            Too late, Snoop tripped and fell backwards over the just-dropped off UPS package. Right as he made his butt landing, a group of exuberant college kids burst through the doorway all loud and laughing, not noticing a tanned-red-faced-chagrinned detective sprawled on the floor rubbing a fresh bruise on his head.

            Kiki raised her voice from behind the counter. “You all right, detective?”

            “Fine, doll face, just fine.” He got up, collected himself, and skulked out the door. “See you next week.”

***

So talk to me. What did you like and/or dislike about the scene? There’s still plenty of time for rewrites. (smile)

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24 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. Stanley Berber / Aug 27 2009 8:31 am

    Love the excerpt – can’t wait for the book! I thought Kiki was portrayed just right for a bit part in a once only scene. I could “see” her, even sort of “hear” her voice. Good job!

  2. spunkonastick / Aug 27 2009 9:20 am

    LOL – I don’t believe I’ve ever seen “Yupperdoodles” in print before!

    • theoldsilly / Aug 27 2009 9:22 am

      Ha! I form characters from remembering people in my life. I had a high school sweetheart that used to say that all the time. 😉

  3. malsburymichelle / Aug 27 2009 9:41 am

    Nice amount of introduction and interaction. The characters were obviously friendly and knew each other so the story flowed. Nice job Marvin!

    • theoldsilly / Aug 27 2009 11:17 am

      Thanks, appreciate it, Michelle. 🙂

  4. Karen Walker / Aug 27 2009 10:18 am

    I think there’s just enough characterization of Kim in this excerpt. The scene tells me several things about the detective: he’s a bit vain, he’s a bit clumsy, he’s a big flirt. The Kim character allows me to learn these things about your protagonist. Love your writing, Marvin.
    Blessings,
    karen

    • theoldsilly / Aug 27 2009 11:18 am

      Thank You Karen – you picked up a lot and are correct about Snoop’s personality. Lets me know the writing is working. 😉

  5. Lynn, The Story Woman / Aug 27 2009 10:32 am

    Marvin – really loved the excerpt. Really. You hooked me good when you described the detective as a perspiring statue…good suspense. Your character interaction is terrific – I could visualize the scene. Also, loved & identified with the “yupperdoodles” and “baby cakes” – could have been me talking, and the casual, innocent-type flirting was right on. I want to read more: bring it on.

    • theoldsilly / Aug 27 2009 11:20 am

      Hey Lynn – you’re the first one to comment on the false tragedy twist opening to the scene. And thanks for the feedback on the dialog!

  6. Helen Ginger / Aug 27 2009 10:44 am

    I can visualize Kiki from this excerpt. I can’t visualize her since there’s no clue as to what she looks like or her exact age, but I can see her movements and her ditziness.

    Helen
    Straight From Hel

    • theoldsilly / Aug 27 2009 11:23 am

      Appreciate the feedback, Helen the Editor! 😉 I had hoped that Kiki being a man grenade and working in a tan salon and being a hip hop lover would indicate enough of her general age group. Again, as a minor character, I didn’t feel the need to do a “data dump” and describe her in too much detail – let the reader “fill in the blanks” and use their imaginations.

  7. Lynn, The Story Woman / Aug 27 2009 10:52 am

    Marvin, I clicked on the tweet this, but it didn’t appear on my twitter updates. Perhaps it goes to your twitter page???

  8. Galen Kindley / Aug 27 2009 11:29 am

    I’m thinking your minor character portrayal is just fine, Marv. Not too much, not too little.

    She’s not androgynous, certainly. We don’t need to know anything about her background, and we don’t get anything. Her dress, mannerism, and speech define her. I picture attractive, but maybe not the sharpest knife in the drawer. She’ll probably not be running for the U.S. Senate next year, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find she was a single mom.

    I guess this is an example of how readers can take a few hints and fill in the blanks for themselves. Never thought of that aspect until just now. I see no problem with this, Marv. Works for me.

    Oh, thanks for the shout out. Feel like big time now.(Grin)

    Best Regards, Galen
    Imagineering Fiction Blog

    • theoldsilly / Aug 27 2009 11:36 am

      Excellent feedback, Galen. Just what I was hoping for – the reader fills in the blanks and Kiki comes to life the way YOU see and experience her. thanks!

      Oh, and no biggie on the shout out – HEY EVERYBODY! GALEN KINDLEY HAS AN EXCELLENT BLOG!! GO VISIT HIM TODAY! 🙂

  9. Bluestocking / Aug 27 2009 12:43 pm

    LOL! I thought the man was going to die. I’m a bit disappointed.

    • Bluestocking / Aug 27 2009 12:45 pm

      I meant disappointed that he didn’t die. You got my hopes all up.

      • theoldsilly / Aug 27 2009 1:28 pm

        LOL I knew what you meant. Glad the scene “worked.” 😉

  10. Jean Henry Mead / Aug 27 2009 12:56 pm

    I can’t wait to review the book, Marv. 🙂

  11. Cactus Annie / Aug 27 2009 1:20 pm

    LOL – loved the “false start” image of Snoop in supposed peril, then it turns out he’s just in a frikin TANNING BOOTH! Ha!

    I could see Kiki quite well in my mind – nice job. Can’t wait for the book to come out!

  12. theoldsilly / Aug 27 2009 1:29 pm

    Jean and Cactus – I’m hoping to have the book out by the end of the year. I was shooting for the holidays but if not by then definitely during the first quarter of 2010.

  13. Crystal Clear Proofing / Aug 27 2009 2:05 pm

    Marvin, I loved the first paragraph of this chapter and the false tragedy, as you put it. I totally thought the man was in some serious trouble! A very cleverly described and attention-grabbing intro!

    As for Kiki, I was able to “see” this character very clearly from the subtle mention of “bopping along to some hip-hop,” and of course, “yupperdoodles.” 🙂 I thought it was just the right amount of information. Not too much, not too little.

    I got a good feel of Snoop’s persona as well from this excerpt. For me, it’s always a tell-tale sign of a good story, when you want to know more – read more, and that’s what I got from this.

    • theoldsilly / Aug 27 2009 2:29 pm

      Wow thanks, Crystal. Getting positive feedback from a pro like you is always a good feeling! 🙂

  14. Elizabeth McKenzie / Aug 27 2009 2:34 pm

    The minor character was well written and quirky. I liked Snoop at the end when he fell over the mail. Kind of took the steam from his bravado.

  15. yvonne lewis / Aug 28 2009 8:32 am

    Excellent, never know what to expect from you, but I am never disappointed.

    Yvonne.

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