by Peter DiChellis
The characters in a couple of my stories are staging an all-out rebellion. Seems they don’t want to rob graves for a living. But the stories are about grave robbing, so somebody’s got to do it!
Brief background: After conducting a bit of research on grave robbing (don’t ask) I imagined several different mystery-suspense possibilities and I’m following through with more than one. Problem is, the characters have decided robbing graves is hard work, so they’re issuing all sorts of rowdy complaints.
You’d think they might complain about the dastardly image I’ve created for them, but they’re actually more concerned with working conditions, wages, and employee benefits. Perhaps it’s simply a reflection of the times and maybe I’m at fault for entrapping the characters in such a gruesome sweatshop. But I’ll confess I’m considering replacing them with new characters that will stay on the page and not whine so much.
Anyhoo, in case you’re interested, here are my characters’ top 20 complaints about robbing graves.
1. Way too much digging.
2. I make them bring their own shovels.
3. No union.
4. No health plan.
5. When they’re done digging, they still need to pry the coffin open.
6. As soon as they get the coffin open, a disgusting smell leaps into their noses.
7. No pension.
8. No paid vacation.
9. It’s night work, in a goddamn graveyard.
10. The flashlights I give them have weak batteries that die at the worst moment.
11. The characters complain that everybody they work with tells ghost stories.
12. They’re afraid if they get caught no amount of explaining will save them.
13. Dead people look creepy-scary after spending a while under the ground.
14. I write strange noises into the stories. At night. In a goddamn graveyard.
15. The characters never find good jewelry because I let relatives take it before the burial.
16. When the characters find a wristwatch, it’s cheap and busted and stopped keeping time.
17. Insects. Oh my, God. I put insects everywhere.
18. No matter what the characters find when they dig up the graves, the pawnbroker doesn’t pay much for it.
19. If what they find reeks from a dead body, the pawnbroker pays even less.
20. They say it gets really awkward for them when someone at a party asks, “So . . . what do you do?”
And how about you? Do characters in the stories you write ever seem to develop wills of their own? Do they sometimes nudge you in a different direction than you originally envisioned for them? Under what circumstances do you replace or completely rewrite a key character?
Peter DiChellis concocts sinister and sometimes comedic tales for anthologies, ezines, and magazines. He is a
member of the Short Mystery Fiction Society and an Active (published author) member of the Mystery Writers of America, Private Eye Writers of America, and International Thriller Writers. For more, visit his site Murder and Fries at http://murderandfries.wordpress.com/