What do writers think about when they hurt their characters – throw them into a downward spin without a parachute?  Writers say they are not monsters, angry at the world.  Others say they stretch their characters to the limits, send them into the most miserable of places, only to worship their ascent back to humaness.  Would literature be of any value if we didn’t hurt the characters we love?  Make their weakness, vulnerability, and humility tools of self-destruction?

Two frogs fell into a bowl of cream. One didn’t panic; he relaxed and drowned. The other kicked and struggled so much that the cream turned to butter and he walked out.  Writers do put their frogs in bowls of cream and observe their descent or their survival.  Is it a game?  To sit back and watch who will self-destruct and who will survive?   Did Edward De Vere feel dread and worship for his characters?  From Eeyore to Norman Bates to Ma, characters suffer.

Who do they suffer for?

Here’s a suffering wife/mom/photographer from The Gold Fish Bowl

Yvonne curled up in the tub resting her ear on a towel she had rolled up.  Two noodles clung to her hair, and the crotch of her jeans were stained with urine.  Her face with mascara.  Ripped from the collar down, her blouse slipped from her shoulder.  A welt, like a river in a sunset meandered from shoulder to spine below a large tattoo in its first stage of design.  She didn’t want to leave the tub – cool and hard like armor.  Trying not to wonder where everyone was, she rocked and cried salt water puddles.  She had placed her hands under each armpit, so she didn’t have to look at them.

A siren sounded down the street.  There were two paramedics – Fran and Al – who rushed to the fallen man and followed procedures – introductions, questions, examinations.  They removed his glasses and comforted the boy.  Fran helped Lennon out of the trunk and scooped up the cat for the boy to hold.  She walked him from the living room to the kitchen and offered water. As Lennon drank, Fran’s attention dissolved into the walls around her.  She caught a glimpse of a mannequin dressed in a boa on a window sill.  A satin and silk quilt, pinned to the dining room wall, held a distinct collection of broaches.  Broken plates and picture frames lay scattered on the floor.  She had seen it before – two moments passing together, dinner and disaster. Then the business of bones and breakage.  She looked at the cat’s shirt.  The cat would survive, maybe be born again, but the boy.  He couldn’t live in trunks all of his life unless he became a magician.  After Lennon told her that sometimes he stayed with Bill and his wife next door, she asked Bill if he’d take Lennon and the cat for the night if it was okay with Ms. Conway.  Fran turned her attention to the cries above her – the suffering mother raw with regret.

“Since a novel is a recreation of reality, its theme has to be dramatized, i.e., presented in terms of action….A story in which nothing happens is not a story. A story whose events are haphazard and accidental is either an inept conglomeration or, at best, a chronicle, a memoir, a reportorial recording, not a novel….It is realism that demands a plot structure in a novel.”
-Ayn Rand

Does Rand’s statement work for you?  Often real events explode on to the scene and are defused seconds later.  Writing a story about real events means dramatizing them with a structured conflict wherein the characters work out a theme or moral as a result of their changing attitudes or behaviours.  Contrary to Rand, King states, “I distrust plot for two reasons: first, because our lives are largely plotless, even when you add in all of our reasonable precautions and careful planning; and second, because I believe plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren’t compatible.”  Compromise is needed.  A writer can take a couple of hours to plot the next few chapters of their book – this is creation without finer details – and yes, this can be very exciting.

It takes restraint to invest your creativity on conflict development first, then descriptive narrative and dialogue after.   When you’ve completed a few pages of plot development, then start writing.  You have already given yourself direction, which is flexible, for several chapters.  Let the excitment begin.

Yesterday, I plotted the next four chapters of Carry Me Home, a murder mystery, set in Northern Ontario in 1956, during the mining boom.  I’ve taken the time to give myself direction, even though I was tempted to dig in to stylistic development, but didn’t.  Today, I’m ready.  Very excited to take this first wash and start to layer the next with bolder hues, lines, sunlight and shadows.  Having said this, a writer needs to follow their own m.o..

Here is an excerpt from Carry Me Home:

The new flannelette bed sheets smelled like bleach and Ivory soap, but were soft and warm.  She was thankful for the wool blankets.  It wasn’t the  twelve room family mansion on Eramosa in Guelph, with its high ceilings held up with marble pillars, and its grand entrance with in-laid floors, but it had a particular uniqueness of its own, and it was hers.

She had climbed into bed, scattered with text books and notebooks when a knock came to her door.

“Who is it?”


“Are you alone?”


Jean opened the door and invited her in.  There was no heat in the adjoining walkway; the arctic cold bit like frigid metal.

“Dag didn’t want me to, but I’m here anyway.  He doesn’t mean anything, Jean.  He’s entirely different when he’s sober.  You’ll see, but he does love women – how they feel, how they smell.  Their laughter, their voices.  His first wife was a Swedish model.”

“How do you stand it?”

“I left him, before we came here.  We took this teaching opportunity to give us a new start, but he’s not perfect.”

“Let him know I’m not a flirt.  I don’t want him to stand close to me or put his hands on me.  We’re next door neighbours, that’s all, and he’s not welcomed here.  Let him know that.”

Elise nodded in embarrassment.  “I’ll tell him.  We might not have gotten off on the right foot – the wine and everything.  I had some too, but we’ll be here to support you.”

A story is as great as the writer’s love for their characters.  When writers infuse these alter egos with their own lives, the novel becomes important because of this “visceral, under the skin, psychological connection”.   When does that magic moment strike, that moment when a writer can say they are totally in love with their characters?  It happens when  the writer knows more about that character than they do about a close friend or family member.  And that demands a deep commitment to creating a back story, not all of which will be used in the novel.  Have a look at the following list of must dos when creating character composed by Alan Rinzler:

Creating a Back-Story Life

1.  Know how your character speaks. In fact, speak the lines out loud to ensure the words capture an idiosyncratic style, background and accent–different from anyone else in the book.

2.  Have a portrait in mind of how the character looks, including height, weight, skin color, hair and posture. How they smell. Their favorite foods.

3.  Know how the character dresses from coat to underwear, even if it never appears in the light of day.

4.  Inhabit the character’s deepest feelings–both admirable and not, so long as they are authentic and true to the person’s role and experience.

5.  Understand their habits and skills, including special talents, obsessions, fears and aversions, traits found far beneath what the other characters in the book may perceive or understand.

It sounds complicated; it is complicated.  In th end, what are writers doing?  Getting to know themselves?  Finding acceptance and love to define them?  If readers love characters, do they love their creators?  But then again writers are writing about you.

What characters do you love?  Why?

Here are characters I love from Remains of an Afternoon:

“How can I buy you a seltzer if….if you’re holding a knife, psycho-like?  If you put it down, then we can get out of here somehow.”  The knife was suspended like a long metal beak of some robotic bird inches above her head and nobody could make him put it down.  Jane studied him – how he hadn’t changed in the four years she had known him.  Behind the weird bangs and chin tucked in as if trying to keep his neck warm, she saw the rare beauty in his face that was his mother’s.  She had seen a picture of this Mary, the tawny gypsy who at birth had been lodged on a town doorstep half a century ago.  Ricky’s full moon eyes were always glistening and reflecting.  A straight nose like a child’s slide in the park.  A crease in the centre of his full lower lip.  Like Mary’s – the Scallop Princess at eighteen, married at twenty, widowed at twenty-one.  In the old issues of her dad’s paper, before he bought it, Mary was there at the docks with a crowd of people waiting for any remains to return with search teams after the great storm of 1950.  Jane had that photo blown up.  Mary’s face large with disbelief and her round eyes fixed to with abandonment and new survival strategies.  Ricky is beautiful.  Weird and beautiful.  But not angry.  Not naturally.

Nervously, he clutched it more tightly.  “I can’t Jane,” he squealed.  His hand was cold and shaking with fatigue.  Misjudging the width of the blade, he brought it too close to his left hand.  In a micro-second, a fountain of blood squirted from his thumb joint.  The knife crashed to the floor.

Recently a student asked for tips on really getting inside their character’s head.  Charts are good – one for strengths and one for weaknesses.  You might know how they look, move and speak, but not how they feel, not how they hide, not how they get inspired.  Know why they move with slouched shoulders, or why they speak in a monotone, or why they look as though they stepped out of a chariot.  Hook up with your character in the day when you’ve got a couple of hours to step into their world.  Go prepared.  Chesterton said, “A good novel tells us the truth about its hero, but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.”  Here’s an exercise to get to know your character better:  assume your character’s identity and talk to a friend as your character would.  You’ll discover more than what you thought you knew.

Some character building from The Drowning of Margaret Hannagh:

Robert was right.  I had too much wine, not enough control and too much of a good thing.  But it would get better, even though my heart folded into itself when I saw Robert die before my eyes.  Holding me tightly he floated me to shore in the thick-moving current, and as I reached to stroke his face, a massive beam crashed through the waves, sweeping him away.  Our fingertips had touched like a flash of lightening, then he was gone.

I’ve always managed to nurture the reverse side of a warm heart – my heart.  It was easy for me to put it all behind.  Even while he was drowning, I was erasing.  After I made it to shore, I asked around for a carriage and found a willing man.  I gave him my wedding ring to unload the corpse he was carrying and drive me to our estate on Grand Avenue.  It even surprised me how the sound and smell of the river, as we drove away, assured me of my future, despite what it had taken that day.

I had the laundry maid burn my clothes and bathe me, dress me, and put fresh flowers in my room.  I had our housekeeper bring every business and financial paper and ledger she could find that my husband had kept.  I told her to break into drawers if she had to.  I spent the rest of the day and night reading and studying our business. And surprisingly, I made vows:  never to get drunk again, never to love anyone else but Garth Hannagh, never to undermine my own power, and never to let anyone tell me I couldn’t run London Oil.  I slept well that night and every night after that, until several truths wouldn’t stay silenced.

They haven’t found Robert yet, and I’ve been waiting too long for Garth to come to me.

I recently watched Another Earth (winner of the Sundance 2011).  The main character, Rhoda takes us on her journey to redemption for having killed a man’s family in a car accident resulting in a four year prison term.  One of many aspects of this film that was masterful was its dialogue and lack of it – no one spoke for half of the film (Rhoda’s alienation from her family and friends).  As she sets herself on a path to meet the man whose family died because of her criminal negligence and does meet him, befriends him and turns his life around, dialogue gains substance and meaning.  Dialogue is withheld and introduced to correspond with the characters’ social disengagement and engagement.

Characters need to be silent and conversant.  Know when each is appropriate to build both your characters’ interior and exterior worlds.

Here is dialogue that allows silence among its syllables from The Art of Falling.

Rushing to him, she tapped on the window.  The boy jumped, focused on her, then rolled it down. “Are you all right?”  She was steady and calm.  She looked at the space between his bumper and the tree.  “Can you talk?”

He sat in silence.  Angry he wasn’t alone.   Angry that he was.   His face felt swollen with it.   Then, “Yeah…yeah…I’m sorry.”

She gave him space, time.  “You’re sorry!  For what?”
For what…for what…he thought.  For what… He lowered his head.   Why is she here?  Leave me the hell alone.  “…for doing this.  For falling asleep at the wheel.”

She thought he struggled to breathe and gave him more time. “Look, you seem a little shaken.  Breathe deeply, slowly.  Can you?”  He tried.  “Any pain?”  He didn’t answer.  “Keep breathing, then we’ll get your car turned around.”

“No!” as he forced air into his shallow lungs.


“Car’s outta gas!  Won’t turn around.”

Nan was speechless, thought about the complexity of his simple sentence, Car’s outta gas!  “You’re out of gas?  Then looked at the tree, an inch from his bumper.  “You said you fell asleep.”

“Yeah, I’m sorry you had to stop and get out of your car.”

“You don’t have to be sorry for anything,” She looked at the highway beyond and a field of cows ahead.  He fell asleep and is out of gas.  She looked again at the tree.  “Where are you going?”

“Camping.  I have all my gear.  I’m going west – all the way to B.C. to hook up with friends.  I bought this car last week.”

She looked inside the empty car.  “You’re going west?  Well, I hate to rain on your parade, but you’re heading northeast.”

“Northeast?”  And he looked at her face and the two brown moons that sat like dusk setting over his own eyes.  He stared trying to recall similar discs he had seen once, then looked away.  “Northeast!”  He was amazed.

Nan reached in and patted the boy’s forearm still wrapped around the wheel.  “You should try to relax.”  Quickly he dropped his arm to his side, and as quickly Nan withdrew hers.  “I’ll call a service centre.”


“Why not?”
“No money.”

“You’re going to B.C. without money?”

“I’ve got everything else.  In the trunk.  Tent.  Guitar.  Books. Food.”

“What kind of books?”

“The usual.  Nietzsche, Watts, Huxley, Kerouac.”

“Not so usual,” she commented and smiled.

He bent forward and panned the field through the windshield.  “I think I’m going pitch my tent right here, spend the night, then go home tomorrow.”


“Are you all right?”

“Yeah, I’m fine.  I’m awake.  I’m sorry you had to stop.”

“At least let me call your mom and dad.”

“No.  They had a going away party for me.  I’d feel like a total fuck up if I went home now.”

“Okay.  Do you want me to stay a while?  You seem disoriented.  If you hadn’t run out of gas, you….”

He looked at the wall of bark ahead of him and suddenly felt sorry for it.  For what would have happened to it.  “Yeah, I see it.  My guardian angel must have seen it too.”

You have a character, someone you’re getting to know, and as you go deeper into this person’s background – the baggage they carry around and the dreams they hold on to or let go of.  You understand the story that needs to be told.  What voice would your character want you to tell it in?  1st or 3rd person?  If you choose 1st person, you are relinquishing control of your omniscience.  You are allowing your character’s weaknesses and the limitations that come with them to direct the conflict of the story – limitations that will obscure logic and truth.  But maybe your character needs to stumble through their conflicts in order to reach clarity and self-knowledge.  Perhaps you need to let them do this.

Decide if the journey that your character is on is so personal that they don’t want you poking around in their perceptions, in their decision-making, in their memories and dreams.  They want to figure things out in their own way, in their own time.  Let them.  The characters in Catcher in the Rye and The Lovely Bones invite us into their worlds of misplaced needs and deeds.  We accept their limitations and watch them hunt down reality with amateur weapons – weapons we’ve used.  How would 3rd person narration have changed these stories?

Here is 1st person narration from The Drowning of Margaret Hannagh

I crept down the hallway which led to the parlor and grand stairway to the second story.  I stopped and sat on the first step to listen.  Hardly a hair of a moonbeam struck anywhere in the house.  I listened to his soft mumbling upstairs.  Then silence again and snoring and more mumbling.  I ascended to the top, then stopped and looked in the direction the voice was coming from.  He was in the room to the right of the landing.  joan was with him.  I couldn’t smell her perfume as I entered the room.

I could barely make out the white linens on his bed and could not define his form. Proceeding to the bed I had to reach out to touch him, to find the curves of his body.  He was reclined, almost sitting up against pillows.  I could smell rum on his breath.   My fingers had no weight as they moved over him to his face.  I smiled that he was sleeping this way, so I wouldn’t have to try to turn him.  I found the half empty rum bottle and poured some on my face. Soundlessly, I removed the knife and let it hover in front of him.

 I moved close while his dreams pushed worried words through his lips.  I moved the blade like a single strand of silk over his face from beneath his left eye to his jaw and felt the blood drain past my fingers into the sleeve of my dress.

He twitched.  His tongue licked at something moist – perhaps rum, he dreamed.  Then the pain, like war-fire, scattered along his nerves into his brain, until he jolted up.  I could hear him scream out as I ran down the stairway and left through the kitchen, throwing the knife under the table where he wouldn’t think to look. He ran after me; I heard him stumble over the upturned chair and cry out.  

Most people love music and lyrics.  Lyrics are poetry, so why wouldn’t people love lyrical prose including dialogue.  Dialogue from Casino Royale, the film is both clever, lyrical and character sharp.  On the train when Bond first meets Vesper, she asks him how he liked his lamb.  He answers, “Skewered.”  Later before they register at the hotel, he comments that she isn’t his type.  She answers, “Smart?” He quickly says, “Married.”  And of course the conversation about little fingers that comes later.  Their  dialogue is witty, rhythmic and symbolic.  People barely talk anymore, and when they do, it’s hardly meaningful.  Why not give your readers conversations  they’re not usually exposed to?  Clever conversations with meaningful words, laced with poetry.

Here’s an excerpt from The Gold Fish Bowl:

            “That’s why I’m here.  I want my kid, Lennon, to see some back bone in me.”

            “Oh, I think there’s back bone.  It needs some adjustments, but we can work on that.”

            “What about you?  What’s your bio?” 

            “I got my degree in New York, my doctorate in New Mexico and my calling in New Delhi.  I spent five years in India, then home again to practise.”

            “Do you treat a lot of angry housewives who have to handcuff themselves to their fridge doors before their husbands come home because they’re scared to death that Ms. Hyde will escape in front of the kids?”

            “You’re creative.  That’s good.  A risk taker.  That’s a bonus.”

            “I didn’t take risks the other day.”

            “Yes you did.  You got dressed, left the house and came here.  After what happened between you and your husband, that was a brave thing to do.”

            “I made a discovery this week.”


            “That I don’t want to be predictable any more.”

and from  A Life for a Life:  Book Two   from  The Austin Del Rio Files

“You’re growing up.”

“How do you know?”

“Well, the old Aus would have let himself into my apartment, walked into my bedroom and made funny faces about Tony’s brown bum, while he slept.”

“The old Aus would have done that?”

A strawberry slid down her chin that Aus caught with this thumb and pushed into Lindsay’s mouth.

“Love tames.  Love makes you respect the hard work of others.”

“Yeah, I see that now.  Jess whispered something to me before she left.”


“She said I made her believe in family.  The kind of home I have with Cassidy and my feelings for my mom.  She said she wanted to be part of it.”

“I can’t see you having that effect on a woman.”

“You obviously didn’t want that when we were together.”

“No, you’re so wrong. I did until you caught the scent of a dozen other women.  That helped me get over you real fast.”

“I thought we had an understanding.”

“We did, but I never thought you’d cheat on me. And I know that what I have with Tony is something we’d never have.  But I think you found it with Jess.”  She looked at the pastries.  “You’re spoiling me.”

“Just trying to stay human.”  He put his head on Linds’s pillowy belly.  The sun felt good on his skin.  A gust of wind blew through the fountain and misted them.  “Now I know how my plants feel.  I like it.”

“Me too.”

“Wanna get naked?”

“Want me to arrest you, Detective Del Rio?”

He stared into her glowing face.  “Have you picked out names yet?  I think I can hear its heartbeat.”

“What?  How could you possibly know something like that?”

Gently he rolled his head across her swollen baby bump.  “You’ve never had a gut this spongy.”

“Don’t tell anyone.  We might even do the wedding thing in June.”

He stretched out his hand.  “Grab on.  It’s too damp here.” He pulled her up and folded her in his arms.  “I’d be happy to be a god-dad.”

“A god-dad and a god.”

“I don’t want to be a god anymore.”


Have a look.  Strike up a conversation.  Take a longer look.  Don’t be afraid of their eyes.  Look deeper.  Ask questions.  Listen.  The people sitting across from you are your new characters .  Have you asked them where they’ve come from, where they’re going to, why they’re hidden in the belly of a boat and have no luggage, why they’re clinging to each other?  Why the child can’t smile?  Will they ever have shadows again?  Your knowledge of them becomes their reality; their reality is what brings readers into your book and into their lives.

Here’s a sample of character detailing from The Gold Fish Bowl:

She liked the sounds of street cars.  The clacking.  The bells.  The passengers’ complaints.  She wanted to photograph legs – bowed, knobby, exposed, shiny, used.  In the aftermath I sit unwashed, and smell like Tiger Lilies on the wane after summer solstice.  She had written that on the front of a Foodland bill yesterday, and today saw some through the street car window.  She missed them, a sea of orange waves in her mom’s neglected garden.

She got off and walked south on Berkeley to his office and stared at the door.  Dr. M. Cane:  Psychology and Kinetics.  She stared, felt cold, closed her eyes and saw that woman, urine-stained, crouched in a bath tub.  Quickly she reached into her bag, and on the back of the Foodland bill wrote a note to Dr. Cane – another time, Yvonne Conway.  After sticking it in his mailbox she fled.

A man who had stepped out of his car rushed to meet her. “I’m here now.  Someone, where I ate lunch, had an allergic reaction, and I stayed to calm him.  I apolo…”

She fled past him, then north.  He found the note she left.

In a comfortable chair in his office he looked at the paper.  Tiger lilies on the wane after summer solstice?  He drew the paper to his nose, then made a call.  “Hi, this is Dr. Cane.  I apologize about keeping you waiting.  I’ve rescheduled you for Friday at two.  I look forward to meeting you, Ms. Conway.”

If I were a character in your book, would I be able to get a word in edgewise?  Writers have told me they have a hard time writing dialogue, and yet, readers love dialogue – want to listen in on characters’ conversations.  Characters have so much to say, but are silenced by rampaging narratives, leaving little space for them to communicate orally. Trust your characters’ thoughts and ability or disability to speak.  Let them develop their own voice, distinct from yours.  Once again, it’s a control thing – writers wanting censorship.  Give your characters the freedom to express themselves, stand back and witness what they get themselves into or out of, and simply listen to what they have to say.

Here’s a conversation from Threads that balances narration with dialogue and lets both Dr. Rossi and Alice, his patient speak independently of the writer:

He looked at the monitor and called her into his office.  She saw him an hour a week, unless she couldn’t sleep, then her dad would panic and make her do double time with the mind prick.

She held out the branch. “I come in peace.”  Then gave him the offering.

He studied her face as he pulled up a chair opposite her and started recording. “Think of it as a movie, and you’re the star.  You’ll be famous one day.”

“Are you my agent now?”  It was a like/hate relationship.  She hated how he thought he could do something for her, how he never cried for her, how he wore expensive clothes when she was heart-frayed, and she didn’t know why she liked him. Maybe because he was helping to keep her dad balanced, by taking her on as his patient.  Maybe because for fifteen years he was documenting her bizarre life in case one day she totally forgot who she was, and the good doctor would be there, pretending to save her.  She didn’t think he even liked her.

“I don’t want to be your agent.”  He recalled the last H.E.A.D. episode (hyper empathetic acute dreamopathy).  “It’s been months since the last coma.  You were dreaming you were in Efes when it happened? Right?  Where’d you go this time.?”


“Have imagination will travel.  Was it first class or economy?” And his mouth smirked into self-applause.

“Rossi, you’re an asshole.  My dad should be paying me to come here.”

“I was trying to be funny. I know it’s out of character, but I thought I’d try it before you throw me against the wall like you do every fucking session.  You don’t get it, Alice.  I’m the best, the very best.  I’m it.  I try to lighten things up, and you keep blowing out my candles.”

“That’s the problem.”

“What is?”

“Candles light your way in the dark.  Spacemen light mine.”  Rossi stared at her.  “It’s a metaphor, Rossi.  They’re not real spacemen.  They’re men and women, at least they look like men and women.  They live here and there. They have names and professions.  They live and die.  They know me better than I know myself.”

“Ally, yesterday your heart stopped, and orthodox medicine saved you.  Where were your space buddies then?”

In creating villains, writers have the onerous task of building a person who is responsible for the protagonist’s growth.  If the writer is committed enough, the villain will be a three-dimensional nightmare whom we’d never want to marry, but whom we’d want to google now and again, just to keep us a safe distance from the dark side of business.  Moriarty, the White Witch, Mrs. Coulter, Tom Ripley, Hades, Moby Dick, Hannibal Lecter, Mr. Kurtz, Voldemort, Iago, and Alex Forrest are some of many villains who attach us firmly to their inescapable, immoral predispositions, inviting readers along for the ride.  And we want this ride, but only if the villain is worth our time, only if he imbues us with the need to examine our own intricate value system.  Readers get to ask themselves how they would handle the bad guy differently from how the protagonist does.  And that’s great fun.

Here’s a villain, Garth Hannagh,  from The Drowning of Margaret Hannagh:


There wasn’t a day that passed from early morning to late night that Garth Hannagh didn’t wish his wife, Margaret, dead.  He dreamed about it – waking up in a thrill-seeking sweat.  In his office he daydreamed about M.Os.:  arsenic, a pillow, a vertical fall, a blunt weapon.  Garth had never imagined a drowning, until May 24, 1881, Victoria Day.  He had no idea fate would deal him a river, a catastrophe, and an opportunity he couldn’t refuse.  He hadn’t planned on killing Margaret that precise day, but when he quickly assessed his dreams, daydreams, and the harsh reality of his loveless marriage, he let fate seduce him into fulfilling his death wish and acted like any man of war would.  Margaret had become his enemy and needed to be eliminated.


Garth sat on the edge of the cot.  The boy remained limp.  He lifted his hand, then let it fall.  He leaned in close to the boy’s ear and whispered, “If you wake and say anything about that day by the river and that black-haired woman, I’ll come for your mama and cut her up and feed her to the pumas.”   Amos’s eyelids fluttered.  Garth wasn’t expecting it.  He would have let the boy live in a moment of his own spiritual reinvention, but the boy’s eyelids fluttered in new horror – perhaps just enough horror to quicken the boy’s will to survive and to see justice served.