I recently went shopping with a friend and found this snow globe. I tweeted it with saying that Adelie would love this… stopping dead in my tracks after I hit “Send”, wondering if I’d gotten insane. Adelie is a fictional person. Yes, she used to collect snow globes as a kid, much prettier ones as this. But that I even thought about her like a friend as soon as I saw a snow globe?
Making up human beings is not an easy feat, if you don’t want cardboard cut-outs. Humans are incredible complex things, but what that means I only understood as I tried to pen some on paper. We all have things we like and things we hate, we have weaknesses and strengths, a bunch of problems, etc. None of us is purely good, or completely evil. We all acquired our personality through living. Imagining a human being means coming up with a lot of these things out of thin air. The more you know, the easier it is to write them, even if a lot of the stuff doesn’t even matter for the story. Adelie’s snow globe collection is a give-away, mentioned in passing. But it tells us that before she became a die-hard soldier, she once loved kitschy things. She might even love them now. In an homage to Calvin & Hobbes, Nate owns a pair of lucky rocket ship boxer shorts, a fact that won’t be mentioned at all (1), but I know it. It tells me that under all his prim and proper, perfect outer shell, there’s a man who doesn’t take himself all too serious.
Coming up with all these little quirks is great fun. Trying to sneak them in even more. I once read a glorious quote (2) that said, that if you cut back a 800 pages manuscript down to 200 pages, the information will still be felt in the remaining pages, but not if you only had written 200 pages in the first place. That’s what prompted me to go down every little rabbit hole my muse throws at me, coming up with snippets like this:
Adelie lounged in her chair, turning the soda can between her fingers, smiling about something privately.
“What’s so funny?” Nate asked, grabbing himself another chair. Those research station kitchens had the most comfortable chairs.
“Ah, nothing. I still have a bit of trouble believing that the 13 bottles of Rum are really for this experiment. And not for a party. Even though Dr. Renner doesn’t look like he’d a party in ages.”
“Ha, talk about it. He looks as dried up as a raisin.”
“Nate!” She shot him a half-amused, half-warning look.
“What?!” He did his best innocent face and she shook her head, crumpling up the soda can.
“Okay, time’s up. I’ll go and ready the shuttle for our flight home, you find Ophelia? Bet she’d cornered a poor lab rat to talk shop with them.”
She took aim and threw the soda can ball against the switch of the trash chute, hitting it fair and square. The chute opened just in time to swallow the dropping can ball.
“Nice shot!” he grinned.
“You trained me well.” she laughed, got up and left the kitchen.
I don’t know if this is going to end up in the final story, but I liked the idea of Nate and Adelie sitting in front of trash chutes, being bored, and trying to hit the switch with crumpled up soda cans. It just sounds like something two competitive people would start doing. Maybe they even have a leader board, running since their Cadet times. It is sort of important to me to give them a history that doesn’t only consist of longing looks and unrequited love. Those two are first and foremost best buddies, even though my personal weakness is to write fluffy stuff with them. Nobody’s perfect.
(1) Because the Alpha Reader found it silly.
(2) Which of course I now can’t find because that was pre-Ember times.