In our ongoing lessons on story development, I give you part 4 of “Wanted, A Superhero to Save the World.”
In this excerpt, the action settles to a simmering tension. Character qualities rise to the surface, both Eddie’s and Damocles’s, and more back story comes to light. It’s important to show these qualities through action as you build the back story bit by bit in ways that aren’t forced.
Authors need to introduce readers to their story world and their characters through the eyes of the point-of-view character. This allows a natural progression of illumination without “telling” or information dumping. “Show, don’t tell” is in full operation here.
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He sucked in a breath and blinked at me. “Thanks, kid.” His words came out slurred. “What’s your name?”
“I’ve seen you around.” He cocked his head. “Kind of an unusual name.”
“Well, it’s my street identity—Greek, like yours. I have to keep my real name a secret to protect my family.” I touched my cowl. “That’s why I wear this.”
“Trust me. I understand.” Damocles grimaced again. “That shock shouldn’t be affecting me like this.”
“One of those men shot you with something, like a shining white pellet.”
“And it penetrated?”
I nodded. “In your neck.”
He struggled to a sitting position and looked at his chest. “Can you see the color of the D on my uniform?”
I squinted. The streetlamp wasn’t providing much light. “Kind of dark. Black or maybe dark blue.”
“Definitely not red.”
He stared forward with a dazed expression. “And now I have nausea, a splitting headache, mild hallucinations, and the scent of strawberries in my nostrils.”
“Sorry. The strawberries are from a Poptart I had a little while ago.” I glanced around. Still no one in sight. “What kind of hallucinations?”
He massaged the pellet’s entry point at his neck. “Mephisto. I see his face, like a hologram.” He waved Mastix as if trying to swat a fly. The ropes were dull and lifeless. “A mirage. Probably hypnotically induced.”
“What does it all mean?”
“I don’t know yet.” He struggled to his feet and looked around. “Something sinister, I’m sure.”
The rumble of an engine approached. A block away, a sports car turned onto the street and drove slowly by. Paint splotches on a rear fender told me all I needed to know. “That’s them,” I whispered. “The bank robbers.”
Damocles raised Mastix and glared at them. Tires squealed. The car skidded in reverse, spun a 180, and sped away. The odor of burning rubber drifted past.
I wrinkled my nose. “Why would they come back to the scene of the crime?”
“To make sure they did the job.” Damocles’s eyelids twitched. “They’re checking to see if they succeeded in killing me. Mephisto won’t be pleased.”
I breathed a whispered, “Mephisto’s gang!”
“No doubt. They probably—” He arched his back. “Argh!”
“Spasms.” A new grimace twisted his face. “Something is affecting my nervous system.”
“It’s a poisoned capsule.” He struggled to speak. “That net must have sent a … counter-energy wave that removed my … invulnerability shield.”
I nodded. “That must be why the capsule could penetrate your skin.”
“I have to get … out of sight … in case they come back.” He staggered toward my alley.
I hurried alongside, a hand extended to steady him if needed. “Is there anything I can do?”
“Just watch for that car.” He ducked into the alley and sat against a wall between two garbage cans. The noise scared a rat and sent it skittering into the shadows.
Damocles took a deep breath and let his body relax. “The hypnotic vision means that Mephisto invented a new weapon. Leave it to him to stamp his evil deed with his own image.”
I crouched in front of him. “Should I call for help?”
Damocles stared at me with tortured eyes. “Too dangerous. With those villains lurking out there, you’d better stay hidden. Besides, there’s likely no antidote. The poison will either kill me or I’ll have to wait here till it runs its course.”
“I can stand guard.” I nodded briskly. “That’s what I’ll do. I’ll make sure no one comes here till the poison wears off.”
“Thanks.” He patted my shoulder with a weak hand. “What’s your real name? You can trust me.”
“Oh, sorry.” He drew back his hand. “Sometimes I don’t know my own strength.”
“No. I mean my name is Hertz. Eddie Hertz.”
“I’ve heard that name.” He narrowed his eyes. “The art contest winner. You drew the comic strip about me rescuing a woman.”
My heart thumped. “You remembered!” I swallowed hard and smiled. “Yeah, that was mine.”
“Who was the woman? Your mom?”
I nodded. “She’s a fan of yours, too.”
“Well, it was really good artwork, especially the building that was on fire. Lifelike. I could almost feel the texture of the bricks.”
“I just used our building as a model.” I gestured with my head toward my apartment window. “I live up there with my mom and sister.”
His eyes drifted that way. “No dad?”
I shook my head. “Car accident. Three years ago.”
“Sorry to hear that, Eddie.” His face tightened again.
I cringed with him. “It’s not getting better?”
“Not even close. It’s worse. Much worse.” His respiration quickened. “I saw your hologram. Can you project anything that’s digitized for three dimensional display?”
I squared my shoulders. “Definitely. I invented it myself.”
“So you’re the genius type?”
“Well, I guess you could say—”
“Never mind.” His face twisted tighter than ever. “Still want to help me?”
“Sure. Anything. Name it.”
“Take my belt off.”
“No problem.” I unbuckled his belt and slid it and the attached weapons to the side. I also took Mastix from his hand and laid it with the belt. “Can you breathe better now?”
“That’s not the point. I need you to hide everything from Mephisto.” His voice lowered to a gasping whisper. “We can’t let him know that he … he won.”
“Won?” My heart thumped harder. “What do you mean?”
“He will go on a crime rampage if he finds out that I died.”
“Died?” I shook my head hard. “Damocles, you can’t die because … because … you’re Damocles!”
“I’m sinking fast.” He licked his lips. “Find a syringe in a plastic pouch in my belt.”
I spun to the belt and reeled it through my hands until my fingers touched a plastic tube. I popped the lid off and withdrew a syringe filled with glowing liquid. “What is it?” I asked as I laid it in his hand.
“I call it … my last-chance solution.” He injected the stuff into his thigh right through his camo pants. When he pulled the needle out, he exhaled. “It’ll either save me or kill me.” He winked. “We can’t let Mephisto’s poison do me in, can we?”
“No. Definitely not.” A tear crept to my eye. “How long does it take to work?”
“Less than a minute. Then we’ll know my fate.”
Categories: Story Development