When this prompt came into my inbox this morning, I thought, “Yes! I know I talk about instinct A LOT in my writing. I’m SURE I have TONS of clips I could do a post about.” Well, maybe not as much as I thought…
I make a concerted effort in my writing to avoid word repetition. I had an entire novel built one one man’s instinctive actions (he had amnesia, so he was just kinda winging everything). The word “instinct” and its variants came up only six times in the entire novel. At its most basic level, the goal of the story was to show the protagonist, Godric, without any of the trappings of his past. Much of his current situation is mired in politics, money, danger, baggage, murder, magic, and… well… general confusion. I knew that if I started a story with HIM, it wouldn’t fly.
It had to be built on his character; without memory, his identity could only be revealed through instinct. I took all of that noisy backstory away and shooed my raw little protagonist into the light of the plot, for all to examine. As his history is revealed, as the torments of his past are once more laid upon his shoulders, you come to understand why he is, who he is, and the reasons behind his actions even as those actions come to light as well.
The fundamental building blocks of his character can be boiled down to a simple list of principles: a conflict between men is best resolved through war, honor is everything, women should be given deference, protect family above all, and life has a purpose. Over the years, this code has gotten him in a boatload of trouble – everything from war to heartbreak to ending up on the blacklist of more than one secret society.
Without further ado, I give you a most colorful clip from The Memories of Godric Dorial (a.k.a. Bill’s first book):
“Waylon,” her voice was raised and her tone angry. “I said I wasn’t interested, now will you please-” She was walking toward the street, only a few feet away from the porch.
Jean-jacket man caught her arm, “Lizzy, I know you need…”
Elizabeth was trying to pull away from the grip, and that was all Godric needed. This man was hurting his Elizabeth, and that was utterly unacceptable.
He saw red and he ran for the man with every ounce of his Viking blood pounding through his warlike veins. Less than five bounding steps were all that stood between him and the cretin holding Elizabeth. Godric slammed into him with a vengeance, and they both hit the ground hard.
Godric punched him once in the face to make sure he was paying attention. “You listen to me, and you listen carefully.”
He tried to wriggle out from under Godric, but the Viking was fifty pounds heavier, six inches taller, and trained in every conceivable art of warfare, even if he couldn’t remember it.
Godric pressed his forearm down on the man’s windpipe to cut off further unnecessary talking from the viper under his hold. “Now is not the moment for you to talk. Now, you listen. You see that woman, the woman you just assaulted?” he glanced over his shoulder at Elizabeth, who had both hands over her mouth and her eyes wide with shock. “You are not to speak to her without her consent again. If you are walking down the same street, you will remove yourself from her view. If, by some miracle, she chooses to engage you in conversation after today, you will only speak to her with deference and respect, because this is the finest woman I have ever had the good fortune to meet. And lastly, you will never, ever lay another hand on her again. If you do, I will break every bone in whichever limb you have so chosen to sacrifice. Do you understand?” He lifted his forearm from the man’s windpipe.
“Who the hell are you?” There was a challenge in the man’s voice, a dare. He was practically inviting his own death.
Godric felt his heart burning hot within him, but he refrained from using his light to destroy this wretched creature. “My name is Godric, and she is under my protection.”
Waylon’s eyes flicked to Elizabeth and back to Godric. “Dorial?” He went from an angry shade of plum to white as a sheet in less than three seconds.
“Good. You’ve heard of me. Now, leave while you are still breathing.” Godric stood and brushed his jeans off.
Waylon scuttled to his red and white pickup without another word, only casting vicious glances back toward them. When he roared down the street, Godric finally turned to face his Elizabeth.
“What have you done?” she whispered in horror. She struck his shoulder, tears welling in her eyes. “Do you have any idea what you just did?”
“Elizabeth, I-” his anger turned to ash in his mouth. He had wanted to drown Waylon in a hurricane of anger, but he kept his fragment instinct in check in deference to her.
She sat down on the steps of the ‘B’ with a thump and held her head in her hands. “I am so doomed.”
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