So, here we are in Chapter 8. It's another transitional scene that I wanted to show more of the bonds that hold the Padilla family together.
Of course we start with the aftermath of Bryan and Kenny's conflict. Bryan is showing a rare moment of vulnerability, where his attachment issues get triggered. I find that it's key to keep bringing this up, because everyone's motivations and activities are dictated by how they handle trauma. Bryan doesn't grow close to most people because of the fear they'll leave him. For a lot of people in his situation, when moments of abandonment come about, they'll dig in deeper, closing more people out, even going as far as to end current friendships/relationships so there isn't that opportunity to get hurt again. A good, common phrase I've heard from these people is, "I'd rather hurt them first before they hurt me." Fortunately, Bryan isn't at that point yet or he has done work to get passed that (I honestly haven't decided at this point). Yes, Bryan pushes people away, which makes forming those bonds harder, but he is at least still open to making them and strengthening those bonds when he's ready.
Luckily, Bryan has his dad and brother to fall back on. The two bonds he's had the longest and most consistent. Diego holding his son is what I would expect any normal parent to do. He doesn't care that Bryan is almost an adult. His son is obviously in pain and his instinct is to comfort him.
I can say this now that real Calvin would've told him to get over it, since he feels actually feels that comforting your child is harmful to them because "real men" are "tough," despite his own admittance to not being a "real man." 🙄😑 (Thank the platform for emojis.)
Anyway, this is also another situation that shows the bond between Bryan and Caleb. Just as Bryan helped Caleb after the bed wetting scene, Caleb it looking after his big brother. They have a bond that every parent should try to foster among their children, to be honest. The real life Bryan and Caleb have a similar bond for the moment, though I haven't seen them in almost year. Like their real life counterparts, Bryan and Caleb have only ever had each other, and they instinctively keep that bond strong.
In the backstories that introduce Steve, I largely avoided place names. I'm horrible at coming up with them and often have to use random name generators. Since I live in the United States, however, I decided to use names of the Presidents and the US Founding Fathers. It's common that states, counties, cities and streets are named after them anyway, so it's not out of the ordinary here, though the amount to which I use them kind of is, but what can you do? (That's rhetorical, btw.)
In that trilogy, Billy, Charlie, Ry and their dad, Rick, stop off at the same diner Diego, Steve and the boys stop at, though many years later. They're served by the same waitress, and Bryan and Diego's banter about coffee is the same Rick and Billy had. The waitress even makes the same remark to Bryan that she said to Billy. I thought it was a nice call back. The town of Hamilton is also home to a women's prison, which Billy and Charlie's mother served time in.
I never bothered describing Hamilton in the other story, aside from it having a prison and a hotel. Even in that story, I never based any of these locations on a specific state, though Washington is somewhere in the American Great Planes near the Rockies but within driving distance of Nebraska. In my mind's eye, I assumed it was at the foot of the Rockies in or near Colorado near the Nebraska border, and Washington is supposed to be the side of Portland, Oregon, with Franklin being about the size of Springfield, Oregon (the real life inspiration for home town of the Simpsons). The value of Google Maps and Wikipedia, am I right?
When Caleb asked when Steve and Diego were going to get married, I think I was channeling the readers or at least giving them voice. I've presented them as a good couple who love and support each other, though I hadn't really gone too far into their relationship at that point. As I've discussed before, Caleb doesn't have the hang ups Bryan does, because he doesn't remember Calvin. Diego is the only father he's ever known, and despite all of Diego's exes, Caleb likes Steve the most. It just seemed natural that Caleb would want Steve as a stepdad and wants his own father to be with someone who makes him happy.
I also wanted to give more context to the relationship between Steve and Diego. This was a difficult scene to write, because I wanted to show restraint with the adults and compassion towards the boys. I can't even imagine how I would've handled that situation in real life, but I would hope I had presence of mind to react the way Diego and Steve did.
This situation with the innkeeper is something I probably would've handled differently. I don't care for bigots and have a hard time keeping to myself, but thankfully, Steve isn't me. I do think we need to be more open about ourselves in public to help normalize queer culture, so long as it isn't offensive or dangerous to do so. Making out with your boyfriend at an armed neo-Nazi rally might not be the smartest idea, unless you out gun them.
the infamous phrases like "How bad can it be?" are great for foreshadowing. They're cliches for a reason, and anyone who has dared use them in real life already knows that irony and bad luck can go hand-in-hand. By this point, everyone was guessing what was coming, anyway.
Cliffhangers and foreshadowing are great ways to keep people coming back. It's a good tool for those who run table top roleplaying games, like Dungeons and Dragons, and it works in literature, as well. TV shows (soap operas in particular) and movies use this to bring audiences back for the next installment, and even though some people get don't like the anxiety such endings cause, most will tune in for more.
Every author should use foreshadowing in very subtle ways. Most foreshadowing is best used in small ways. A quick reference to something that seems insignificant in the moment that will have major impact later on (a snippet of conversation about a petty criminal going to jail in the first chapter or two, who will escape later and take the family hostage) is a good start. It can also be a big tip of the hate with a What else could go wrong? phrase, like I used at the end of this chapter. As long as the characters remain in the dark or ignorant to future events/outcomes, you can give a little taste to the audience to make them want to see what happens.
Cliffhangers are best when the scene abruptly ends in moments of heightened tension. The protagonist runs for their life from the killer and only stops when they think they're in the clear, only to have the killer step out of the shadows, and have the story change focus to another character to just ends till the next chapter/installment. An effective cliffhanger puts something of value on the line and makes the audience wait for the result. You can even prolong this tension with chapter that has nothing to do with the hanging tension, but that can piss off your audience.
Matt Stone and Trey Parker found that out in the first season of South Park. At the time, South Park was released once a month. In one of the first episodes, they did a two part storyline about who Eric Cartman's father really was. The first episode dealt with all the possible suspects and the cliffhanger was supposed to resolve that story line in the next episode. However, the second part was supposed to be released on April Fools Day, so they decided to prank the audience and pushed the second part to May, airing a different episode entirely. Needless to say, they got a lot of hate mail for it, but those same people tuned in the following month for the story's conclusion.
And on that note, I'll see you in the next one....
Edited by John Henry