Here’s a really good article on adding some spice to your characters. If you’re stuck with a static, one-dimensional cast member in your story, use this as a good guideline to plump them up and breathe some life.
Scenes from a Hat: Resign
by Trinity Blacio
Editor: M. E. Ellis
Forced to Resign
Joe took one more glance at her home. Her car engine idled, and her bags were packed. She hated to leave the place she’d called home for the past six years.
How did they find me? It doesn’t matter that I can’t risk any of my friends’ lives. I have to leave. Tomorrow morning, my boss and my fantasy lover will know I’ve gone.
Her family’s pack had found her. The first trace of them came when her friend and confidant, Tracy, notified her someone had been asking questions about her. Tracy warned her earlier today, and it took Joe only three hours to say her goodbyes and type her resignation.
Big snowflakes fell all around her, covering her hair and body. Life in Alaska was her dream, and now it was being ripped from her.
Why can’t they just leave me alone? There are other females. They don’t need to barter me out to other packs. Can’t my father see he’s destroying me? Doesn’t he even care?
* * * *
Lone Wolf peered at his beta, Dark Horse, who sat next to him as they drove towards Joe’s home. Both of them knew Joe was going to bolt.
“Did you call the pack together and let them know we would be having company next week?” Lone Wolf snapped.
“Yes. I still can’t believe she’s from the Florida pack. To think our mate has been hiding here the whole time. Her father has backed off for only one week. He wants us mated now; he’s afraid the Northern Texas pack leader will find her.” His growl rumbled in the truck. “I called the squad, and all of them will be here tonight. I’ve told them the situation, and they know to secure the cabin.”
Lone wolf nodded, concentrating on the ice-covered road. “We’re lucky that Drake went into the office today or we’d never have known of her intention till tomorrow.”
“She needs her ass tanned…what the hell?” Dark Horse’s gaze on the back bumper of Joe’s Blazer. “Shit! It’s buried in the snow bank.”
Lone Wolf slammed on the brakes. “Watch the live wires!” Lone Wolf shouted as they both jumped out of the truck to survey the area.
“Let’s go!” The beast in Dark Horse roared to life, and he dug his way to his mate.
Dark Horse was right; Joe needed her behind blistered for this stunt. Dark Horse pawed at the passenger side of the vehicle. Lone Wolf brushed the last of the snow off the back window. His gaze caught movement inside.
He pounded his fist on the window. “Joe, slide down the back window.”
Her head popped up. Fresh tears dripped down her face and mixed with blood from a cut on her forehead. He sucked in the cold air; his beast fought to take control, wanting nothing but to clean her wounds and hold her.
The window slowly lowered they both grabbed boxes and removed them.
“Can you crawl back here, honey?” Lone Wolf asked.
“I think so.” Her broken and shaky whisper reached him, sending his protective nature into full gear. She grabbed the bag next to her crawling over the seat. A rip marred her jeans, and a deep cut on her thigh showed through. Blood dripped out, leaving a trail. Her small hand reached for his big one. Dark Horse picked her up around the waist, taking her weight off of her damaged leg. He pulled her warm body gently out of the car and sat her on the bumper.
“Where else are you hurt, Joe?” Dark horse asked, gazing up at her face while Lone Wolf kneeled down next to him.
“I think just my leg and my head. I can’t believe this! Can’t anything go right for me?”
Lone Wolf growled. “I want you to shift. It will heal you.” His voice deepened, and he smelled her response.
Her big brown eyes meet his. “I need to leave. Don’t you understand? I had to resign! It’s too dangerous.” Her back stiffened.
Lone Wolf smiled, showing his teeth. His alpha voice snarled, “You’ll not be leaving. Ever!”
Scenes from a Hat: Shame
by Desirée Lee
Editor: M. E. Ellis
Roland hunched over the small, antique secretary desk, squinting. The banker’s lamp succeeded in creating only a pale, amber miasma of illumination.
He paused to gaze at the Cartel clock on the wall. The low light glinted off the ormolu craftsmanship, giving the curvilinear design a haunted appearance. Time is running short. She will be back soon. I must do this now.
He clicked the pen and set it to the paper.
* * *
I don’t know why I refer to the journal as if it were a separate entity. I suppose it is like a young girl writing in a diary. I guess because I’m not a girl, I don’t think of this as a diary, even though it’s basically the same.
I have no other outlet for my thoughts. She won’t permit me to speak my mind, not yet, at least. I must earn that privilege. I did not realize when I agreed to this position how deeply entrenched I would become.
She defined it for me today. I am her slave. When I am allowed to speak, I address her only as “Mistress”. If I mess up, my punishment is harsh.
How did I end up as a slave? Sometimes, when she leaves me all alone, I wonder that. I’m a grown man. I have two college degrees. I could be out achieving all the dreams I had as a child, yet I am not. I am confined to this house for the duration of our agreement. I am at her beck and call.
I’m her maid. I’m her cook. I’m her launderer. I’m her lover. I’m her dog.
Last night brought a new breakthrough for me. I slept in her bed for the first time. Oh yes, Journal, vivid dreams carried me through until dawn, nestled in the comfort of her 1500 thread count, Egyptian cotton sheets. I didn’t even know sheets could be made that fine. As I lay down, my skin prickled to gooseflesh from the coolness of the fabric. It bore such stark contrast to the smoldering heat of her body, once I was finally given leave to touch her. My senses jolted at their journey across the broad, tangible spectrum. It momentarily overtook the reality of the situation—I was lying in her bed, HER bed. Once I remembered that, it awed me again.
Being in her bed brought me a heightened perception. Nothing before last night compared. She brought me to her private place, her sanctum. I penetrated the rift. I finally made it into her trusted circle.
I became her slave, wholly and truly. No more pussyfooting around. No more teases, taunts. She told me for certain. I am hers.
I sit here and write…and think. Many men would not want this. They could never give themselves, body, heart, and soul to a person for the express purpose of being dominated in every manner. Now that I have done exactly thus, I cannot imagine any other way of being.
If I am lucky, she’ll let me sleep in luxury again tonight. Then again, I am fortunate to be in her service. Mistress is beautiful, strong, forceful, and caring.
Journal, you know my secrets. You are my confessor, my friend, my confidante. She is my world, but you, Journal, are my inner space. You know what delves in the deepest, darkest recesses of my psyche. You know who I am. You know what I am.
I am enamored. I am in her thrall.
And I’ve never known happiness this great before…ever. I’m aroused already merely imagining what she might have in store for me tonight.
I ought to feel some measure of shame.
Try as I may, I do not.
I have to go now. I hear her key in the lock.
Scenes from a Hat: Echo
by Nix Winter
Editor: M. E. Ellis
Pale blue fading into gray, the horizon lay smooth against a backdrop of jagged, dark pine forest. Toshiro Masuda stood in the doorway of the small jet, an elegant hand reaching up to pull dark glasses down. All the blue of the sky had taken refuge in his eyes. This far north, the scent of pine and fireplace smoke in the air left him feeling out of his element, disconcerted. A wolf howled somewhere in the jagged dark of the forest, but close enough that the sound echoed longingly down his nerves.
He pushed his glasses back up. Calm as shadow, he waited. The perfect fit of his suit, a dark gray with a slight tint of blue, wrapped a powerful body, as lithe and wild as wind ruffling the pines. Raven hair gathered at the nape of his neck, held in a clasp of platinum. Only the pale golden tint to his skin, perhaps the smoothness of his face, the shape of his eyes—if one could catch him without his glasses—gave hint to his Japanese ancestry.
Again the wolf’s voice echoed over the private airstrip, crying a song deeply rooted in Toshiro’s heart.
The world granted precious few options for repair of anything, let alone something as precious as the life of a loved one. Tosh counted few enough of those in his life. He would not lose, no matter the price.
Long and black, the armored limousine arrived. Even though Toshiro was well past the point of return, its arrival brought the echo back again, driving home how very fragile his position was. He started down the stairs, exiting the jet, his body a projection of casual confidence. Of all the roles he’d played in his life—geisha, slave, king, gangster, anthropologist—this was perhaps the most difficult lie he’d ever embodied.
A man, broad and easily the root of troll myths, exited the front of the limousine from the passenger side. His thick coat, lined and edged in black and white fur spoke Russian about as well as his body language spoke dangerous. Toshiro looked at him disdainfully, carefully blanked his face, blue eyes hidden.
“Masuda Toshiro Sensei,” the man asked in painful Japanese.
“Yes,” Toshiro said, pulling his passport, which he handed over to the man. “Of course. I understand that the surrender of my passport was a condition of my employment. I expect,” he said, his words misting menace, “the other terms of my employment have been met.”
Troll Man bowed, approximating something vaguely Japanese as he pocked the passport. “There has been some slight difficulty, but Boss has provided a substitute. I think you’ll find him adequate.”
“You will hope so,” Toshiro said, smiling with tight lips.
The man’s huge hand opened the door for Toshiro, while his other hand held out a photograph.
Toshiro took it and studied it with a detachment that he did not feel. “He has not been harmed? He is untrained?”
“Yes, Sensei. The subject was acquired from the United States less than a week ago. He is a fighter, but the boss thought he might meet your needs.”
“We shall see,” Toshiro said and slid into the car, expecting the other man to close the door. The predatory aura to him hid his plans well. If he could gain his wolf and leave before his scene was over, the only real challenges were reconstructing the two passports, getting to a flight that would take them anywhere other than Russia. As the door closed, he again heard the wolf cry. Lies were his element, but he would find his truth, and no matter what challenges, together they could repair the world.
Scenes from a Hat: Substitute
by M. E. Ellis
A pillow for a breast, a cigarette for a cigar, a candle for a lamp. Substitutes.
Out, out into the night now, coat collar up, fists in pockets, cap low on my brow. My gaze darts, ears listen, nose keen to catch her scent, her beautiful, well-mourned scent. I will have her once again.
She stands on the street, hands upon hips, head cocked, lips a sultry pout. Similar, so similar that the sight of her invites a lump to my throat. Could it be…? My approach doesn’t startle her. Far from it. She has been waiting for me…hasn’t she?
“Hey, sugar,” she says, candy-pink lips a wide smile. “Wanna fuck?”
No. No, I don’t, but I return her smile, nod, nod like the sucker she thinks I am.
“Come on, then.” She jerks her head towards an alleyway between the buildings behind her, lit only by the streetlamp in its mouth. The lane stretches into infinite darkness, where my imagination places many girls like her, their backs against the wall, legs spread, or on their knees, maws wrapped around cocks that don’t belong between professional lips.
She turns, sashays into the alley, shadow’s jaws closing around her. I follow, my footsteps precise on the rain-slicked cobblestones, my heartbeat accelerating. Ten, eleven, twelve footsteps later, and she stops, a grey figure, no discernable features.
“Here will do.” Her loud whisper floats, rebounds off the mouldy walls. “Fifty for full, twenty for a hand job. I don’t use my mouth.”
My broad frame fills the width of the alley. “You should do. Doing so would shut you the fuck up.”
Her sharp intake of air stutters in her throat, the release of it a breathy laugh. “What?”
“You didn’t hear me the first time?”
Eyes, they almost glow in the dark when as wide as hers, you know.
“Yeah.” She snorts, laughs again, and a clicking sound breaks through the cocooned air.
“Are you chewing gum?” She. Is. Annoying. Me.
Substitute. Substitute. Substitute, substitute, substitute—
My fist connects with the end of her nose. She squeals, sinks down onto her ass, the proverbial sack of shit, legs bent at the knees, hands steepled over her face.
“You’re not her, are you?” My nostrils flare. An ache so vast threatens to overwhelm my airy mind, threatens to thicken the descending red mist. “You…tricked me. You…almost had me…believing—”
My boot heel greets her temple, and she releases a muffled, blood-garbled shriek. Her torso thuds sideways to the damp stones, her body the pose of a cadaver left to rot.
Which she will be after I’m done, for her breaths grow short, and her appendages spasm, inciting twitches to her fingertips, her feet.
Sarah? Sarah, where are you? Come back. I need you. I can’t…can’t accept any more…fucking…substitutes.
She won’t listen. She never listens.
But I’ll keep looking, and I’ll find her. Oh yes, I’ll find her.
Today, I’m lucky enough to have another guest author. Out of the hat, my friend Jaime Samms picked the word “germination.” I’m pleased with the resulting story, and I’m honored to share it with you! Thanks again, Jaime! Delightful scene!
Scenes from a Hat: Germination
by Jaime Samms
Editor: M. E. Ellis
The natural glamour of sunlight on snow stretched off into the distance. Each flake sported every colour at once, then no colour at all as dancing shades of trees played across the brilliant surface. One slight tilt of the head, and a tiny, glimmering beacon sank into the blue depth of shadow.
Lyre touched one long finger to the crystalline beauty. An instant of chill seized him before a coin-sized hole opened in the bank of white flakes. He looked up and watched the sparkling expanse surrounding him while an eternal breath passed through him.
“It is time.”
He rose, waded into the drift, lay down. Under him, snow sizzled into nothing until he lay with the frozen earth under him. The shock of cold sank its teeth into him, gripped him with lethargy. Above, only an ovoid of pure, endless blue.
His thoughts fell up.
Light Dazzled. Faceted crystal wings tinkled in the still morning, wakened the world to sound and frigid vibrancy of winter sun. Deep sapphire eyes glimmered down on him from a delicate, opal-skinned face. Diamond fingers reached to his cheek. The cold, rigid touch nicked his skin. Blood welled, dripped down his cheek to the earth.
“Good-bye, Lyre.” A spill of impersonal laughter, the clicking of wings, and the sky above reappeared.
Air sighed, picked up strands of his hair, and wove it into a tangled web above him. The web caught, a sail that lifted.
“Come, Lyre. Not yet.”
It whispered in his ear, caressed his face, tickled up under his clothing—tempted. He shook his head. The hair shivered free of the wind’s clutches and settled back around him. A whistle of frustration whipped over the snow’s surface screening his view in swirling white, pricking tears to his eyes. It didn’t want to let him go.
The tears escaped and followed the blood into the earth.
“Flee while you can!” Air moaned over the earth, groaned through the trees, cajoling. “Run, Lyre!”
He didn’t move.
Roots broke through the loam, wrapping around his wrists and ankles. He shivered.
“Too late.” The wind died away. “Good-bye, Lyre.” It whispered into silence.
The trees stilled their branches, concentrated on prying tendrils through the soil to twine in his hair, pluck at his garments. His skin tingled where tiny roots slithered over his ribs, along his spine, explored the length of his arms and legs as the last remnants of his attire disintegrated.
They claimed him with their minute, intimate slide over bare skin. The earth under him finally warmed, and he closed his eyes.
The soil shifted around him, rising to cover hands, feet, hair.
Every precise touch, every whispering sound, every shimmering vision played through him, drifted into the world, taking bits of him with them until he was every root, every sigh of breeze, the sunlight dancing off the snow.
Where his body had been, tiny green shoots and pure petals of white opened their faces to the sun, welcomed his gaze, waited for him to come again.
Thanks to the wonderful random integer generator at http://random.org/ I have two winners for the SfaH contest. One winner gets a $10.00 gift certificate from Wild Child Publishing, and the other gets something far less lucrative: a custom character in the long version of “Rejection.” Trinity Blaico is the gift certificate winner, and Faith Bicknell-Brown is the character winner.
Also, a recount (or maybe a last minute vote I hadn’t seen) put Rejection over by one vote, so I started working on it last night. I didn’t get far, and this will be a difficult one because the story, the emotions triggered, and the characters make me sad.