Indie Author Answers #12: Internal and External Character Arcs

Tip of the week:

Trello: A project management tool to help you keep all of your writing and publication tasks in check. And it’s free, so do yourself a favor.

Also, a rant/ramble about how to choose your next project to work on, and the value of creating a great pitch for your book.

And now, let’s read on to critique this week’s chapter in The Problematic Virtue:

13: Megan


Megan entered the bathroom in the house that Chris Wiles shared with his brother and sat on the toilet. She tried to ignore the visible soap scum in the shower and the dirty briefs on the floor. Boys’ bathrooms were so disgusting, but she had already decided that tonight would be the night and refused to let reality interfere with the mood.

Later, she would learn that she had left only minutes before the cops came to bust up the keg party. Once Chris turned on the charm in the backyard, under his spell, submission seemed her only choice. They spent a few minutes plotting how to elude Kellsie, Becca and Whitney, then simply escaped through the front door after Megan went inside to re-up her drink. During the drive back to Chris’ house, she sent Becca a text message letting her know that she had “found another ride,” hoping that Becca would get the joke.

She liked that Chris was older and not as interested in the drama as boys her age. After a painful episode of infidelity with her high school boyfriend, she lost her appetite for the complications of juvenile romance. Last year as a freshman, she (with the help of her therapist) had decided college would be different. New town, new friends, new Megan. New Megan would not allow faith in fallible people to trap her. New Megan would not allow betrayal to rule her life.

Still, whenever Chris’ name came up in conversation with her friends, or sometimes when she simply thought about him, her lips parted and color rushed to her cheeks. She found such puppy love notions as knots in the stomach cringe-worthy when other people described them, but something about this boy made those clichés acceptable this time.

As she finished up in the bathroom, the longhaired boy Brian crossed her mind. She had learned his name when they had both been inside witnessing that testosterone-filled altercation. Megan had been stealthy; none of them knew she eavesdropped comfortably from a few feet away. She moved close enough to his girlfriend to get a sense, and Megan discovered enough to dislike her. She was a wailing lush, the kind of girl who would have a tramp stamp tattoo. Megan had looked down at the brunette’s feet, clad in brown strappy-sandals, with cankles connecting her feet to her calves. A woman with cankles has no business exposing them to the world like that. At least wear socks.

When the cankled lush had said his name, she now could match it to his face. She would not forget. While not the first cute boy on campus or at a party to have caught her attention, this one’s mystique kept expanding in her mind. Such an honest, sincere smile he had.

Why can’t I get this boy out of my head? Chris. I’m here with Chris tonight.

Megan washed her hands and dried them on a towel that she hoped was clean, although that was probably too much to ask. She exited the bathroom posthaste and returned to the living room where Chris awaited her on the couch. He was reclining, with the lights low, and some soft music playing. Chris had thrown on the mood a little too thick, but she could forgive such things. Boys were fairly predictable in that respect.

She sat next to him on the couch. His reclined posture pulled his t-shirt tight against his body and highlighted his broad chest and muscular arms. She licked her lips and fiddled with her hands to prevent another dopey grin from appearing on her face. This was the best part, with everything so fresh and so full of discovery.

“Did you have a good time tonight?” he said.

“Sure,” she said, “your brother and that guy getting all huffy in the living room was retarded. I don’t even know what all that horseshit was about.”

“I didn’t know what went down until after it happened. Derek hangs out with a strange bunch, and I don’t even know half of them, so I just stay out of it. I think I’d rather not know what he gets up to, most of the time.” Chris took two beers from a six-pack on the table, and offered one to Megan. “Who were those girls you came with?”

Megan waived off the beer, still buzzed from the three wine coolers she had consumed at the party. Now she wanted to be clearheaded. “Those are just some girls from my floor. One of them is my friend; the other two were just kinda along for the ride.”

“You like your classes?”

“Um, yeah, I guess. They’re going to be tough this semester, but, you know.” She wondered how long he would make small talk before he made his move. She straightened her back, leaned forward and gave him the best doe-eyed suggestive look she could conjure. He did nothing. She decided to crank it up a notch, and so she unbuttoned the top two buttons of her shirt. He finally took the hint and leaned in to kiss her. Not their first kiss, but certainly their most passionate in the short time she had known him. He swept her up in an instant. “Go ahead,” she said, “you can do anything you like.”