** So, the question is, why do characters do the things they do? What do their “flaws” mean? Here’s an example of an excerpt that might stir the question: Bryan “Weed” Tecco and his partner, Jill Evans (Chris Leavitt’s former girlfriend) are doing the road thing. Fraught with sexual tension, they’re driving down to LA, chasing an unknowing Chris Leavitt to retrieve files of a special video game called ‘The Situation’. Unbeknownst to them, they are also being followed by a Sahi security team led by Eric “fierce” Pierce, likewise determined to retrieve the files of the subversive game. Weed is giving the concerned but pitiless Jill some background, about himself as a keen observer of the video game industry, and more anomalously, about his and Chris’ shared preoccupation with visions they dub “Shadows”, and most shockingly, the way in which they have touched her life. Should he really be telling her this stuff? Having previously kept this secret from her–having decided overall upon a life of strict reticence–why would he be so open now? What strange decisions people make as they negotiate the distance between self and other.**
Weed looks over at the gas gauge, sees that the indicator is hovering below the quarter tank mark. Up ahead are signs directing traffic east towards Bakersfield and the five freeway, which is a straighter run at this point so they agree that taking the turn is best. Weed figures they are an hour or so still to the base of the LA mountains, the so-called grapevine. He looks at the clock: just past four, it reads. He yawns. Still mid-afternoon: this has been a long ass day, he thinks.
“We should stop soon,” he says. “Get gas, take a bathroom break.”
“Sure,” Jill replies, accepting the end of conversation. For another quarter hour there is silence as they both gaze up ahead or sideways, looking at misty, distant mountain ranges, stretches of telephone towers, flatlands, farms, and stolid, uninspired cows. Weed dwells on his secrets, feels an odd, dull weight at the base of his stomach, like something’s pushing out.
“A lot of people say that to me,” he suddenly remarks, presumably in reference to Jill’s last comment. “That’s partly why I wrote a book,” he adds.
“Yeah?” says Jill in a bored voice. She bites. “What was the book about?”
“It was about gaming. I thought Chris told you about it.”
“He did but he didn’t describe it much.”
Weed issues a barely discernible grunt. Disappointment. “Well, in case you’re interested it’s relevant to what we’re doing here. A few years ago I started blogging about games that were available on the market. I made You-Tube videos of myself playing games like Call Of Duty, commenting as I played. I got plenty of hits, then subscribers. Soon You-Tube wanted to partner with me, advertise on my site. Then with the blog, people started saying I should write a book or something, and I actually got a publisher a short while later.”
Weed pauses as if looking for reinforcement.
“Uh-huh,” Jill utters.
“People seemed to like what I was saying, which was a full-on review of all kinds of games, but also a general complaint about a games market that lacked imagination. I mean, I was good at COD, and Battlefield whatever version, but these games are mostly about wandering around with a camera on your head, being alert for resources and enemies, and then figuring out ways to kill ‘em. I preferred Battlefield to COD, wrote about how lone ranger games weren’t as good as those which fostered teamwork. At the same time, I thought more games should be like Soulcraft, which is based on Minecraft—games which find different kinds of goals for players; more creative or complex goals. When I was writing the book, which took about six months—it wasn’t long, only a hundred pages—I thought that’s what people wanted to hear, deep down anyway. When I presented the book, called Play Gone Wrong, the publisher balked, said they wanted something more positive and less mysterious in the title, though they supported the content.” Weed stops again, shaking his head.
“So what happened? What was the title?”
“A bullshit title, Today’s Top Games. It sold about a hundred and fifty copies.”
“That’s stupid,” Jill remarks awkwardly. “The title change, not the fact that it sold only a hundred and fifty copies.
“Yeah.” Now Weed sounds bored. He goes quiet again, and it seems to Jill that talking to this guy, getting stuff out of him is hard work; just as hard as prying stuff from Chris, actually. Several times she thinks to ask another question, kick the pebble that is this exchange just a little ways further. She stops herself, reasoning that at some point Weed will simply resume talking, picking up from where he left off, the context obvious from his point of view. Weed’s mind is actually elsewhere, recalling that about a quarter of the books he sold were bought by his dad, and few others by book club friends of his mom who would otherwise read anything: cookbooks, travelogues, quaint stories about pets named Marvin. When that reverie stops, his thoughts turn back to the secrets he’s keeping; specifically, the stuff he now feels pressure to share with Jill. “I got something else to tell you,” he says.
Jill raises her eyebrows. “Okay,” she answers warily.
“What you were talking about earlier, about Chris: I kinda knew about that.”
“Really? I’m listening.” Jill doesn’t sound shocked.
“I don’t mean that Chris told me what you just said. Believe me, if he had then I’d have called him out.” Weed and Jill’s eyes meet. “Well, maybe you won’t believe me. Whatever, but that’s what I’m saying, anyway. But the thing is this: when I first met you—that night of the accident—I recognized you. I’d seen you before. You know what I’m saying?” He gives her a patient, studious look, the type a teacher gives when hoping a student will get a lesson that’s been suggestively imparted. Jill looks at Weed, confused.
“No, I don’t,” she replies impatiently, “why don’t you enlighten me.”
“You were a Shadow the first time I saw you—what I call a Breather-Shadow, something that I think…well, I saw you as a vision standing next to Chris, saying something to him. That meant, as far as I was concerned, that something had happened between the two of you, or was going to happen.”
Jill’s patience, if not something else, breaks. It breaks almost to the point wherein it transfers to her feet, halting the car in the middle of the highway, which is especially dangerous given that traffic is thickening as the afternoon wears on.
“Wait. What do you mean by ‘something had happened’?”
“I mean…ya know,” he says, because he didn’t know.
“Didn’t you say that Shadow sightings or whatever alerted you to crimes, future or past?”
“Yeah.” Weed’s agreement is tenuous and foreboding. By the fierce look in her eyes and the jutting of her jaw, he gleans that Jill is about to hit Krav Maga mode with her tongue.
“So if you thought Chris had committed or was going to commit some kind of crime with respect to me, why wouldn’t you ‘call him out’, as you put it?”
Weed looks dumbstruck, caught without a good answer for the skilled inquisitor. That’ll teach him not to reveal his secrets. Should’ve stayed on Monads—should’ve have seen this coming. Not that he doesn’t have anything to say. He has an explanation for her; not a bad one, even, at least from one point of view. But it sounds feeble to him when he thinks about it—it’s too personal.
It’s different. I know you now. I…
“I don’t know. You’re right. It’s messed up that I didn’t even ask him about it.”
“Just as I figured,” says Jill, disgustedly turning her attentions back to the road. “This Shadow business is just a load of bullshit wasting everybody’s time.”
For the first time since he’s met Jill, Weed sits shamefacedly, his shoulders slumped; his jaw slackened, shorn of the steely mastication that Jill, unbeknownst to him, found quite sexy not that long ago. Meanwhile, Jill sits in her driver’s seat, fuming. The task of keeping her hands on the wheel is all that keeps her from lashing out and flailing her arms at the hapless passenger. Not for the first time with a guy roughly her age, she feels like a big sister driving a delinquent brother home after a disgraced appearance with a school principal. But it’s too late to turn back now. She’s in this thing, committed. Up ahead, appearing like an oasis in a desert, the outline of the grapevine, with the five freeway snaking its way into the hills, looms fantastically like the land of Oz. A sign by the side of the road indicates that a last chance of gas and food for many miles is coming up. Weed feels like a ten year old boy about to annoy an impatient parent with biological needs that ought to have been dealt with beforehand.
“I really need that bathroom,” he says in a pitiful voice.