Inspired by Bethany Jennings, I decided to do my own character interview. In the past, I always thought these were dumb. Most of my aversion stems from the fact that I write in a very visceral manner. My stories are quick, painful, bloody, and over. I don’t really have a strong sense of my main characters until the third or fourth rewrite. I’m a pantser and one of the failings of writing without an outline is that you don’t get a real sense of worlds or characters until after the book is finished. Then you polish polish polish and attempt to herd cats into a basic plot.
I’m not sure why reading Bethany’s character interview inspired me to do one as well, but it did. So, I’m going to roll with it. We’ll see what happens.
Abby Jones’ Interview of Ralph
Ralph sat in his chair kicking his feet. He’s even shorter than I pictured him. He’s not a dwarf, just not a boy blessed with long legs. His green hair is the brightest point in my gray and brown office. It shines like a beacon of joy and oddness.
I sit down opposite him and hold out my hand. He shakes it with a shy smile that pulls down the right side of his face. We exchange a few pleasantries while he continues to swing his feet back and forth since they can’t reach the floor. After getting over the shock of his bottle-green hair, I notice how strong his arms are for a boy his age. I notice the gentle shape to his beautiful brown eyes. They’re going to melt a lucky girl’s heart some day, I find myself thinking. A sense of sadness softens my smile. No, they won’t. I, even as I interview him, know his fate. I know no girl will ever have the opportunity to love the twist of his lip, or his brown eyes, or his green hair. I shake it off. Now is Ralph’s chance.
Let’s start with the basic’s okay, just to warm up. What’s your name?
Well yeah. Unborns like me don’t get last names. It’s not like we have fathers.
What’s it like to be an unborn?
Not much different from being a born, other than the last name thing, and the skills.
Skills? (Yes, I’m playing dumb to draw him out.)
You know: skills. Each unborn is harvested with skills. I guess it’s the King’s way of making sure someone wants us. I knew this guy once in Gang White (he leans in and his legs stop swinging) with the most useless skill ever. It’s amazing they didn’t just shoot him. His skill was whistling. He could whistle like his lips were some crazy flute. You should’ve seen Colin’s—that’s Gang White’s Master—Colin’s face when the boy just lit up and started whistling like a wild little bird. (Ralph shakes his head.)
What happened to him?
He got sent to the scroungers. Died I think. I don’t remember now.
And what’s your skill?
My skill? Well, it ain’t whistling. (His mouth dips down at the right with every word.) My skills metals. Iron specifically. I can work it real well, least that’s what Kent and Gil say.
Kent and Gil?
Gil salvaged me and Kent’s his brother. They’re Greenhome’s blacksmiths.
Yeah, you know, salvaged. I broke the law back when I was part of Gang White. They were going to throw me in the Prison. Gil paid the cost of my crime for me and they sent me to Greenhome instead. He’s my salvager. I, I owe him everything.
Do you like living in Greenhome?
Like? Of course I like it. We have food, clothing, and Christmas. I never even knew about Christmas until I came to Greenhome. Can you imagine? All those years on the Street and never knowing about Christmas. Seems sad now. Besides, if I wasn’t at Greenhome, I’d be in the Prison or I’d be dead . . .or both. The Prison isn’t a place you want to be. I heard (again he leaned forward) that they’re all crazy in there and they do things like sew weapons into their skin and stuff. I even heard that they eat each other when they die. (He shudders believing the stories boys tell each other after the lights go out. His legs start swinging.) I’m more thankful than I can say that Gil salvaged me. I just hope, I hope I can live up to that someday.
It has to be pretty amazing to have someone willing to do that for you.
Yes it is. (His face reddens. He wipes his eye the back of his hand and sniffs.)
So, let’s change the subject. Tell me about your green hair.
Well, it’s green cause I liked the color. When I made my first lantern with Gil and Kent’s help, I smashed a green piece of glass and embedded it in the metal. It was really neat to see the glass melt and then harden. I gave it to Gil. He hung it on his door. I’m going to make him another one and give it to him for Christmas, but this one will be a lot better. I’ve learned a lot since then.
No one thinks it’s strange for you to have green hair instead of brown or blond?
Brown? Brown hair would be strange! That new kid Jonah has brown hair. He stands out like a sore thumb, so does that girl Adele. Her hair is gray. It’s not like silver or something, just gray.
So, everyone in Greenhome has hair like yours?
Yep. Some of us just stick with one color, like my green. But other kids, mostly the girls, change their hair color almost every month. It’s crazy. Who needs a new hair color that often?
How old are you, Ralph?
Twelve, I think. I’m short for my age, but I’m strong. I can beat most of the older boys in an arm wrestle. Even the one’s in training with Duke.
Training with Duke?
Yeah, every kid trains with Duke when they turn sixteen to learn basic fighting skills and how to shoot a gun. If you want, or if he wants, you can stay in and join up with Greenhome’s army.
Are you going to join Greenhome’s army?
Naw. I’m going to be a blacksmith like Gil and Kent. I’m gonna make the guns, not shoot them so much.
Don’t you think it’s strange for Greenhome to have an army, especially one filled with sixteen-year-olds?
Are you crazy? Have you seen the Streets? Look around. (He swings his arms wide.) The world isn’t a safe place. Why last summer, I heard that there was this place out west that couldn’t harvest kids, so they sent a gang to go steal other people’s kids. You think Soul and Duke are just going to let some people come steal us? You think we’re not going to help them fight that gang? Besides, Duke always says we’re safer for the training than we are without it. At least, he always says, “we ain’t in danger of shooting ourselves with the wrong end iffen we know which end the bullets come out”.
And it’s not like it’s the little kids learning. Only the older kids get trained.
I can’t help but smile at his impersonation of Duke. It’s almost spot on. Well, Ralph, I think we’re just about out of time. Any last thoughts or something you’d like to say?
I don’t think so. I just want to make sure I did Greenhome, and Gil and Kent, proud. They gave up everything for me. An unborn from Gang White? I want to make sure I don’t say anything that might get them in trouble.
I think you did just fine Ralph.
Okay, good. Thanks for talking with me.
He vaults out of the chair and tares out of the room running and whooping like a boy on the first day of summer. I can’t help but smile at my dear brave Ralph, smile and hope he strong enough for what’s coming. He was right about the people with no harvested unborns. He was right about the gang coming for children. I fold up my paper and put away my pen. I’m glad I had this time with a twelve-year-old blacksmith apprentice because I’ll never have it again.
Ralph is a character in my Gentle Magic Fairy Tale, Icicle Rain.
So, how’d I do on my first character interview?