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In The Mourning Day (Thicker Than Water Chapter 9)

John Henry


When I first envisioned Jefferson as a town, the fictional city of Charming, CA from Sons of Anarchy came to mind, but certainly smaller.  Thoughts of a rustic, desert town, with pine trees and scrub brush lining the streets instead of lush foliage and bushy oaks.  The town could fit anywhere along Highway 97 from Central Washington to Central California.  The motel they stayed in based on an experience a friend of mine had at some crap, roadside place.

Unless the situation calls for it, I usually avoid over describing a scene.  Being a table top gamer, I find that letting others form these places in their mind better than trying to translate what's in my head.  Sure, it might be lazy, but it also allows the reader to create their own version of the world.  Some may not have seen Jefferson as a high desert town but a shabby logging town or English country village.  What Jefferson looks like doesn't matter to the overall plot of the story, in the end.

I also take this stance when it comes to character descriptions.  Unless the character is important to the story, I like to give just enough important detail to make the character rememberable, but not so much that I'm imposing my image of the person onto the reader.  For more important characters, I'll give more details, such as physical descriptions, but I still won't give a lot or try to be vague enough to allow the reader to keep what they've already envisioned with some adjustments.

An example of this is when I describe Bryan and Caleb in this chapter.  I don't recall giving a lot of physical description of them prior, so the readers have already had an idea of what they thought the boys looked like.  I was aware of that I hadn't properly described them, so when I did, I wanted to be sure that it was minimal with detail to get what I wanted to across.  Bryan needed to look like Donna, with Caleb looking like Calvin.  The real life counter part to Bryan does look like his mother, and neither boy looks like the real Calvin, fortunately.  However, I gave the description I did, since he'd be looking for people who looked like Donna.

At the time, I wasn't sure if Donna's mother or other relatives would be at the funeral.  I think I planned to have a brother, her mother or some other relative there, but ultimately decided that Donna's addiction caused her to die alone.

Pastor Dave is from the same story series that Ry, Billy and Charlie are from.  In fact, David Williams was one of Charlie's best friends from elementary school.  His father was also a pastor.  The reason he didn't bat an eye when Diego referred to Steve as his boyfriend was because David was around when Charlie was figuring out his own sexuality.  David didn't have many friends, so seeing how kind and carrying Charlie was had an impact on David that lasted into adulthood.  David was the one who performed the wedding of Ry and Charlie, which Steve was going to ask when Calvin arrived.

At this point in the story, I still wasn't sure how connected I wanted my stories to be, so adding David was a little tricky for me.  Again, those are not stories that would be allowed on his website due to the nature of the stories, as they violate several guidelines; however, I had decided to make a connected a universe with the potential of full crossover series set in Washington High School.  The details to those stories are not necessary to the overall story I'm telling here, at least of the writing of this blog post.  Any necessary details will be given context, so I wouldn't be throwing in subtle jokes or hints that nobody would get and not make sense.


I used this as another opportunity to show the bond between Bryan and Caleb.  Bryan helping Caleb with his tie, offering support and holding his little brother at the funeral...those are all things we want our children to be to each other, while the reality isn't close to this at all for the most part.  I like to think that Bryan cultivated this relationship, with Diego encouraging it.  Caleb is the only person in Bryan's life who has been there for almost all of it and hasn't left, and I like to think that Bryan acknowledges this and tries to make sure that it never changes.

At the diner when Diego goes to the parking lot, he saw Calvin.  He wasn't 100% certain at the time, but he went out to confront him, but Calvin drove away before Diego could get a proper look.  It's a bit of foreshadowing I hoped people would pick up on later.

Not being religious, I didn't want to spend time with David quoting scripture.  Everyone is entitled to believe whatever they want, but I certainly don't want to seen promoting any particular religious views.  I originally planned to have the service be more detailed when the idea of Donna's family being there, but once I came to the conclusion that Donna's family wasn't showing up, I figured David would've gathered some people from the church and Donna's closest friends.  Being an active drug user who lost her kids, I made Donna homeless, which is inline with the real Donna when she lost the boys to the real Calvin.

Speaking of Calvin, when I envisioned this chapter, I didn't originally plan on Calvin being there.  I planned to save him for the later in the story, with Diego getting into an argument with Donna's brother or mother.  They were going to accuse Diego of keeping the kids from them, but Bryan was going to clap back about why they hadn't adopted him and Caleb.  There was going to be some weak excuse that showed they were pieces of shit, similar to Donna.  In the end, I decided to cut them all out.  Their presence would've only muddied the plot I wanted to tell and serve no real purpose.  The story is about Diego raising two boys that his former friend abandoned and wants back for some unknown reason.  Adding a third or fourth party just seemed unneeded.

And the cliffhanger....  I love writing cliffhangers.  I know I've talked about them before, so I won't go into again.  However, this one took a couple of rewrites.  I had Bryan noticing Calvin and saying something, then Caleb asking who the person was watching them, but settled on Diego noticing Calvin.  I think it was the most impactful, and I rewrote the part at the diner to line up with this moment.

As I mentioned in the comments to this chapter, the physical description I gave to Calvin the story was passive-aggressive.  The real Calvin is rather vain about his appearance, despite it not being deserved.  The real Calvin has severe resting bitch face, going bald, and has a perpetual homeless look about him, even when housed.  There are also other descriptions about his appearance that aren't necessary to the discussion, but needless to say, that the real Calvin would be annoyed that I described a character based on him as I did.

The comment section highlighted a few key notes to the themes of this chapter and story: 

Caleb's emotional state and what Calvin his really up to.  As mentioned in earlier in this chapter and Caleb's bedwetting, Caleb has emotional issues and is emotionally sensitive.  He never really knew Donna but grew an attachment to her.  The impact of Calvin showing at Donna's funeral could have an impact on Caleb that has yet to be addressed.

As for Calvin's motives, we're on Chapter 28 and no motive has been established.  There are motives, but since it's a key part of the overall plot, I won't be discussing it/them here; however, most of the guesses in the comments were wrong.

This was a relatively short chapter for this story, and it was almost part of Chapter 10; however, I like the cliffhanger too much to have be a mid-chapter break.  It did make writing Chapter 10 more difficult, but that's for the next installment, so I'll see you in the next one....

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