Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Outsider

He fools everyone but her. That’s the way of them. ‘Them’ as if they’re a separate species, an influx of aliens, masking their true selves. Only a few see beneath. She has. She flexes her hands, makes fists as he walks by, red beard like a beacon but nobody’s seen the warning. He laughs, his eyes twinkle. It’s all deceit. He’s so respected and she’s the trollop, the little whore, the town bicycle. He picks his victims with care, smothers them in words, with unworldly grace and then… and then… and then....

Her lip trembles. Seduction is a gentle thing. What he did was nothing like that.

Chris Leonard


Douglas Bruton said...

Ok, I thought the rules was that if you were to do something with someone else's character, change 'em, make 'em into something beyond their original conception, then some consult had to happen, some declaration of intent.... this is a major shift in the chartacter of Darius Bredwyn... I like the piece that has been written... even the gimmickery suspense of 'then, and then and then', but I am not sure I like the liberty taken with Darius... I don't think it coheres with what has already been established... he is a joker and a clown... he is a big man.... he has a slow to rise temper... he reads romantic poetry to the kids in school... he is playful with children's names and he laughs at his own thoughts...

Now we are to believe that he is some sort of heartless breaker of women... This is a sea change in the make up of Darius. It would be like taking Doug and making him a sophisticated lover of the rich women of Greyling, and putting poetry and philosophy into his mouth, and making him look like Brad Pitt with his shirt off.

Sorry, but I must protest at this wrong.


Anonymous said...

Interesting, Douglas. This must be a difference in male and female perceptions. I found the energy exciting in the idea that Darius has a secret life and think it sets the 'story' of Greyling Bay on to a more intriguing track.

And sorry, but again I suspect this is a Men are from Mars/Women from Venus thing, but I find Darius a bit creepy so this fits rather well.

(Mind you, I have no leg to stand on as I'm just a reader, not a writer, but as a reader I welcome it when a plot twist takes me off somewhere else.)


Douglas Bruton said...

I appreciate what you are saying, Angie. And I love plot twists as much as the next reader and look for them in my own writing too.

I also take what you say about Darius and you finding him a little creepy... indeed others had said something the same and I had set myself the challenge of making people warm to him in Greyling Bay... all in due course... look back at the comments I have already posted on Darius... it is there as plain as day: 'I will see if I can make him more liked by the readers'. The poem reading in class was just the first step.

But, and I think this is the biggest BUT of all, Darius is mine. He is out of my head and as such he belongs to me. I am a very generous person by nature and have given freely of my work to lots of places. Even when I have been offered money for my work I have more often than not requested that the publication put the money to a local charity. In contributing to Greyling Bay (and to date I have sent in 8 pieces) I am further exhibiting that generosity. If someone wanted to take Darius (the idea and the description) and use him in a story and enter him into a competition elsewhere, then that would be fine by me... I do not go so far as to claim that kind of ownership.

BUT, here in Greyling, he is my creation and if someone is to do anything with him, then surely as part of the collaborative nature of the site, I should have at least been approached and consulted with. This is not Darius Bredwyn, the man who speaks in my head. This is an outsider's Darius, someone who does not truly know him.

You, as reader, might like this little shake up to Greyling... and I do think the complacency of Greyling the place sometimes could do with that shaking up... but where's the collaboration if we can at any moment do something right out of leftfield with someone else's character. Does Doug become an axe wielding murder by night? Does Alice (sometimes called Malice by the kids) pour poison into the milk of babies sitting in their buggies? Does Gideon one day strap explosives to his chest and become Greyling's one and only suicide bomber and blow up the bank or the Gwiddon? And can I do any or all of these without the creators of these characters having any say in what I do? (Joke there is that aside from Doug the rest are also my creations... not the Gwiddon, but the people.)

I remain firm in my protest that this is not Darius Bredwyn and this is not right.


Douglas Bruton said...

Looking over the 'rules'it says: "don't rewrite (other peoples') characters or force them into uncharacteristic behaviour for no good reason." (stuff in brackets is mine)

I think this piece is something of a rewriting and the behaviour is not characteristic of anything Darius has so far done or said.

It also says in the 'rules' : "If you're working on developing a particular character or theme, then it would be a good idea if you'd say so in the comments section beneath that character's original piece: that way, we can avoid duplicating work or sending one character off in two different directions at once."

I have done exactly that in declaring that my avowed intention was that readers would come to like Darius. How much more difficult has this been made with this contribution to Darius' character? Would we say impossible?

(I hope all this is seen as the lively debate that is encouraged - also in the 'rules')


Douglas Bruton said...

I reproduce in full my original comments on Darius. You tell me if this fits with what has been written in 'The Outsider':

"Ok, twin challenge then... to make Jane and Nicola warm to Darius and his small mischief.

And honestly, I DID think I was lightening things with Darius and his laughter and all the world infected by it.

Aside from peeing up against the harbour wall after a night at the Ship, I promise that Darius is no danger to anyone. The streets of Greyling are safe... from darius, at least."


Anonymous said...

I've been admiring Darius Bredwyn as a brilliant portrayal of the kind of teacher so many of us had to endure at (mainly) single-sex boys' schools. That fake joviality, the cringemaking nicknames, the courting of sycophants and I had been waiting for the mask to slip. That it has now done so is very satisfying.

I must take issue with Angie and say that it is not simply a case of male/female perceptions but also with Douglas and say that whether he intended it or no, Darius comes across as menacing and excitingly sinister!

As a mere male I must say I'm enjoying Greyling Bay immensely.

Gerald Robinson

Douglas Bruton said...

Dear Gerald

thanks for that 'Brilliant'... but I am not blinded by it. You just might be: Darius' joviality is not fake and that has never been suggested... he laughs even when others are not there, for himself alone. He is influenced by teachers I have known, and one in particular.

The name-calling... yes we as adults cringe at it... but I assure you that often (and in the case stated) the kids do love that... makes them feel special, especially if they are not at all tinged with malice (and that has been stated too).

Darius loves who he is, loves his job, loves the world and his place in it... there are people like that... if there is a mask, it is not to do with anything sexual or predatory about him... it is more to do with some inner pain and a history he keeps hidden.

I don't think you could read my piece Cor-Blimey Corinne (also about Darius) and think Darius sinister. I think if you read this piece you might think, if mask he has, it hides his own disappointment in love and maybe a rejection he has endured just as WB Yeats was rejected by 'Maudlin' Gonne.

I too am a mere male and much enjoying Greyling Bay and being a part of something collaborative. But what has happened here with Darius doesn't feel like collaboration... feels more like misappropriation.


Anonymous said...

Oh dear, Douglas, I certainly did not want to upset you. However, I have read both your Darius pieces and although I didn't see him specifically as a sexual predator, I DID see him as a cold and yes, sinister, manipulator hiding behind the jovial front.
I believe portrait painters frequently find that they have painted turned up characteristics that were invisible to the naked eye but are later verified by observers. Perhaps this has happened here? For Darius is much more than a jolly, friendly teacher; that would be too boring for this kind of 'strip cartoon' in words.


Jane Smith said...

Douglas, I'm sorry that you feel so very aggrieved by this latest piece. I considered it a development of one of the many characters here, rather than a violation of your work: if you look, you'll see that there are a good few instances where one writer's original creation has been continued by another.

I thought that it fitted in well with the character you'd already established for Darius. He stands in dark corners watching women undress in their own home, for goodness' sake! If that's not creepy, then what is? It's not jovial and lovable, no matter how he (or you) tries to present it.

I know that I considered him a bit dodgy right from that first piece you wrote about him, and if I remember rightly, others shared my view: I assumed that you were building him up for something like this because he was so very clearly peculiar. Fascinating, perhaps one of the strongest characters we've had here yet--but decidedly peculiar.

What one person sees as "a little harmless fun" is often seen by others who are involved in it as abusive behaviour. When I was much younger, and people weren't so aware of political correctness and all that it entails, I was often made uncomfortable and upset by such "harmless fun", and many of my contemporaries share that experience. So it's perfectly possible that while Darius could consider himself that fun, approachable person, others could find him sinister and intimidating.

Either way, this piece is here; I'm not going to take it down; and our job, now, is to build on it, and see how the story develops.

Douglas Bruton said...

Not upset with you Gerald or what you said or what you saw in Darius... but would like you to have cited the evidence for sinister... so I can learn not to do that with someone as gentle as Darius... one of the first comments on Darius pointed to him as a fairytale character. Jolly and larger than life is what I was going for... and I think he was going to have enough complexity for him to be more than cartoon.

Jane, sorry if this all comes out as a tirade. Sometimes you create a character and the love you invest in the character means you are very protective of him/her. What you say about "instances where one writer's original creation has been continued by another" is fine. In the previous post to 'Outsider' Mercy has something going on with Darius and I had not seen that coming... but what is going on there is a 'continuation' of the character of Darius, and not a complete change of him... that is what I expected for Darius and expect for all of my characters put up here... just as some of the other Greylingers have entered into my work... but I know I have 'used' other people's characters sympathetic to who they are and what they are. I do not think, despite misgivings of oddness or even irritation expressed by some readers, that there was ever any menace in Darius. Therefore I do not think this piece has been sympathetic to the character I made. As I said before, it would be like taking Doug (damaged and not any more grounded in the real world... mad, a little) and making him into a calculating killer or a lover.

And Darius does NOT watch women undress... you have confused him with Gideon, and even Gideon does not watch Alice undress and does not watch her because she is undressed! I am a bit surprised that you make this error about characters in Greyling. Perhaps this has influenced your assessment of Darius as 'dodgy'!!! Please read the two Darius posts ('Darius Bredwyn is Loved' and 'Cor-Blimey Corinne') and you will see that although he might irritate some with his impish playfulness, he does little that could be construed as 'dodgy'... pees in the street when drunk once and has a temper that is best not roused... but not really dodgy.

As to what Darius considers himself to be, I have so far deliberately not revealed his inner voice. What we have are the observations of others and they all laugh WITH and a little AT Darius (laughing at him kindly)... I have been at pains to stress his playfulness and the absence of harm in what he does... his names for the kids have no harm, whereas the kids' names for the teachers do have spite (Malice for Alice). That was to throw up that Darius was gentle.

I do not think I could now continue with Darius and be true to who he is. It is not a violation of my work... my work is still visible for what it is. But it is a violation of the rules as I see them laid out and a violation of who Darius is. I do not think this 'Outsider' post is true to him. I bow to your role as editor of Greyling, but I think you have made a few errors here.


Anonymous said...

Have you considered at all that the woman/girl in the new piece might be deranged? You appear to have dismissed or overlooked this as an idea completely.


Anonymous said...

This is a case of standing too close to your character, Douglas; it's always painful to 'murder your darlings' as the saying goes. I'm another reader who found the jollity false and as for giving children nicknames, who told you they love it? Not a child, I'm betting. It's difficult to quantify just how it is that Darius comes over as unpleasant and sinister, he just does. And I too had assumed you had designed him to be just that and were leading up to an explosion.
If he really seems gentle, lovable, caring and jokey to you, it's interesting that so many readers see him differently. Sadly this often happens in writing: I once wrote about a woman I thought was sweet and vulnerable but in the end too many people insisted she was a manipulative b***h that I took a cold, clear look at what I'd written and realised they were right.

What is in our heads doesn't always translate to the page.

Kate J

Douglas Bruton said...

I am a teacher and the stuff about the names is based in truth. I thought they would not like it, but they do... if the name is not cruel or malicious. they see it as sort of affectionate... really.

And I don't think this is a case of standing too close to my darlings... I think your choice of words is very pertinent... Darius has been 'murdered' here and who amongst us would stand back and watch that happen and not feel the urge to defend the darling.

My objection is fundamental to the game I am playing by being a contributor to the site. The rules are there to govern how it works... I feel what has been done to Darius here does not fit with the rules.

In the previous post Mercy and Darius seem about to be involved romantically. I did not see that coming and did not have that planned for my 'darling'. However, there is no objection from me to what was going on there because what was written about Darius there was synpathetic to the character Darius is. In the 'Outsider' there is a new Darius... not just a new side to him, but a new character to him.

As to others seeing Darius differently, I accepted that... and I set myself the challenge of winning others over to him by developing him further. But there is nothing to redeem in this sexual predator that Darius has been forced into becoming. But look through Darius as he has been written and point to any bit that tells you he is deep down a sexual monster preying on carefully chosen and vulnerable young women. Everything else points against this.

I don't think I am being precious about a creation... I am standing up for truth in fiction and coherence.


Douglas Bruton said...

Thanks for the lifeline, BigFatLion... but

The woman in the piece may well be deranged... but it is not 'spoken' by her, but by an omniscient sounding narrator. It even seems to be his thoughts on the page in places, Darius' thoughts... so I don't see Darius being rescued from this piece.


Jane Smith said...


Your first comment in this thread made it clear that you weren't happy with this piece. All you addressed was that you felt it made Darius look bad: you've not really considered who The Outsider might be, or why she feels like this.

Despite several other people stepping in to support this latest piece, you've kept banging on about your unhappiness on how Darius is being treated here to the point where I have no sympathy left for you, I'm afraid.

Please, consider this. You have now made six long comments here, and sent me two even longer emails about it. Together, they add up to nearly 3,000 words.

Chris's piece totals 107 words. ONE HUNDRED AND SEVEN. And here's the breaker: it doesn't even mention Darius directly, not once.

Jane Smith said...

Does anyone have anything to say about Chris's piece? Because that's what we really should be discussing here now.

I felt it was a startling revelation about the underworld of Greyling Bay. This piece makes me feel that there's something sinister at large here, especially when it's coupled with Chelsee's story. And I admired the writer's economy; establishing such a horror in so few words. I look forward to seeing more from Chris, and hope that this splurt of comments won't dissuade him or her from submitting further work.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Douglas, I've just re-read the piece in the light of what BigFatLion has suggested, and I think it adds a whole new dimension to Greyling bay. Though you say it's written as if narrated, I got the sense that the Outsider could be a Walter Mitty type character dramatising herself. And I find that uncertainty very entertaining because it's about perceptions and about manipulating the reader. Darius wants to be loved. The Outsider piece is written as if some sort of seduction has happened, yet there is an ambiguity about it. What happened? Someone who is deluded exists in that alternative reality. That is real to them.

So who do we believe? Darius the Jovial, Darius the Good. Or Darius the seducer?

That uncertainty adds a frisson to both characters. Is Cor-blimey at risk with her crush? Or is Darius' reputation at risk from The Outsider... If he's arrested even if allegations are false, that would remain on his CRB check, justified or not... with a few fantasised words, The Outsider could ruin his career.

The potential with this is huge.


Nicola Slade said...

Those are valid points, L and BigFatLion and whether the suggestion is in her head only or possibly true, it will have a huge impact on Darius, the school and the town. These things drag on for months and years and are increasingly common so it's a very interesting and plausible plot development.

Somebody on here suggested that this is to do with the differences in male and female perception and I think that's a valid point too. I am another reader who assumed Darius was a man behind a mask, as someone says on here and I think Douglas could easily go with this plotline, especially in the light of Chris's piece. That way Douglas's defence of Darius can be shoehorned into the whole story and would dovetail beautifully with this potential accusation.

Don't be upset about it, Douglas, look on it as a challenge - have a go at convincing the reading public of Darius's innocence!

Anonymous said...

The girl in the piece may have already told people about Darius (or at least her version of events) and been dismissed due to her 'bad' character. Who knows, maybe she accuses people of stuff all the while. To me it's all very intriguing.

J. Fredrikson.

Nicola Morgan said...

O wow. You'll have to forgive me if I can't get my brain round all the details of this conversation, but I need to comment because I was one of the people who originally did (and still do) find Darius creepy and a character whom I would hate in real life. Douglas, I think Darius is a brilliantly drawn character, incredibly real, and maybe that's why we all feel we know something about him. Just as a "real" person engenders a whole host of conflicting responses in the people he or she meets, so will a fictional character. I can't stand people like Darius in real life. Personally, as a child, I hated it when teachers made up names and when they thought I liked it and I had to pretend to. But whether I like Darius or not is irrelevant (though the challenge of making me and Jane like him was a good one!). I think, you should be flattered that we have all reacted to Darius as we would if he was real. He has become real. I haven’t a clue whether our reactions are a man / woman thing - though actually, I am pretty sure my husband would share my deep mistrust of Darius.

More importantly, I think Chris’s piece is brilliant. I love the phrase “town bicycle.” The piece perfectly portrays the quivering stress (is it anger or shame?) of the girl, and whether she’s a reliable narrator or not is something that I am dying to find out.

It's a great angle and one that's surely going to be important in Greyling Bay. I think the challenge for the rest is to create something as gripping! We can't have the other characters simply watching ...

Douglas Bruton said...

Ok I have thought about this and really listened to what's been said... I am constructing a new Darius Bredwyn piece... watch out for 'Darius Bredwyn Loses His Laughter'... and 'Corinne Crushed'... and more... I have had my say and as has been said, 'The Outsider' is a good and dramatic piece... and I am up to the challenge of rescuing darius from the tongues of gossip... watch this space... and sorry if I have come across all bristly and bullish (maybe there's a bit of Darius in me!!!)

No hard feelings, Chris.


Nicola Slade said...

Excellent news, Douglas. What fun! This is a real shot in the arm for Greyling Bay, isn't it? Fireworks and ructions ahead. Can't wait.


Sally Zigmond said...

I thought the whole point of writing fiction was being professional and not being precious about one's characters.

I may be missing something here but I fail to see why Douglas is getting so hot under the collar. Surely the whole point of Greyling Bay is that, as it develops organically, it takes on life of its own?

If you want to retain control of Darius, then I suggest Douglas doesn't post on a public collaborative writing venture.

I thought Chris's piece was very strong--mainly because of its brevity. Whether the narrator's view is right, wrong, mad or sane doesn't matter. What matters is the quality of the writing.

Every time.

Douglas Bruton said...


I care about my writing. I care about the things I make. I care about the projects I give my time to. I care about writing cohering, and being good, and making sense, and character development being psychologiaclly sound. I am sorry if you think expressing this makes me unprofessional.

Yes this is a collaborative site... and yes I expect my characters to end up in places I had not forseen... but I still expect coherence and psychologiacal plausibitlity and fictional 'truth'.

I also thought Chris' piece had strength. But I think I was right to take issue with what was made of Darius... when I had explicitly stated that Darius was no threat to anyone on the streets of Greyling... surely making that statement and then finding him made into a sexual predator is grounds for being a little perturbed... Ok I was a lot perturbed and got carried away. Sorry to all for that. But not sorry for caring about writing and caring about things being right at Greyling Bay.


jonathan pinnock said...

Bloody hell, how did I miss all this? Hmmm. About time I sent another one in ... *evil laugh*

coyleys said...

Well! I seem to be in a minority.
Chris’s piece was a grand job (6 house points) but! It was Doug’s character.
As Nicola said “who assumed Darius was a man behind a mask”. That may be so, but it is up to Doug to unmask him.
All stories are ‘stand alone’ but they could all be building up to some dark sinister secret or maybe he’s some super hero “To fight for true, justice and the Greyling way”. If we tamper, we could unknowingly corrupt Doug’s story line.
Having said that, it has sparked off a lot of controversy.
Great stuff.


jonathan pinnock said...

Right, let's try to get the URL right this time. What I said was: couldn't resist blogging about this. Absolutely fascinating.

Jane Smith said...

Coyleys, I appreciate your point (and Douglas's, too), but things are slightly different here: it's meant to be a collaboration. We've already had several instances of people sharing characters, and moving the storyline on in new ways: that sort of interraction is one of the big points behind this whole project.

Jonathan, thanks for blogging about ths: I shall go and have a look at what you've written. Fingers crossed that there's not even more blood spilled as a result...!

Martin Reed said...

Interesting discussion on an interesting project. I had rough drafted a piece for submission here. Unfortunately the editorial line (or lack of) has put me off.

I'm all for characters evolving, being taken out of their original authors' control - that's part of the appeal of the project - but there are a couple of points that concern me...

Firstly, in this case, a major character revelation was made without the original author's knowledge. Yes I know there's an element of free for all in a collaboration like this, but Chris and Jane, surely one of you could have let the original author know about the change. Letting Douglas know your intentions is not only expected behaviour in a collaboration, it's just basic good manners. And Jane, your own stated rules suggest doing this for the practicality of not having two authors taking a character off in two directions at once.

Secondly, no matter how sound the writing, this is quite a blatantly populist character development. I can't help but feel the author has glanced at earlier comments about Darius being a little 'creepy' and thought, oh OK let's make him a sexual predator. That's a rather predictable character development. I think someone lost sight of the 'literary' here and chucked the idea of well rounded characters out with the trash.

Perhaps Douglas was never going to be the one to remove this character's mask, and I think that's OK. But the manner in which it was done, what was revealed when you ripped it off, and the constant missing the point of commenters in this thread seem, well, crass.

Nicola Morgan said...

Look, I know we're all serious writers and that writing is very serious stuff - I know that as well as anyone - but is it possible that we're taking this a bit too, er, seriously? Any chance of letting ourselves go a bit? Jane set this up and does a lot of work on it and none of us is forced to participate. So if it goes down a "populist" (???) "literary" (???) path for a while - is this so bad? After all, people might like to read it. Which is possibly the point of writing of all sorts.

jonathan pinnock said...

I'm working on that zombie storyline right now ...

Jane Smith said...

Martin, I'm sorry you've been put off Greyling Bay by what's happened here: because I think it's been a good thing. It's livened us up, it has forced a lot of us to examine our feelings about the project more closely; and it has already sparked some strong new pieces.

As for the apparent lack of editorial direction, well--you've not seen half of what's been going on (even I can barely believe the number, volume and content of the emails that Douglas has sent me over this, and I've read them!), with this piece or with others, and so I can understand how you might feel that. It's not the case, though.

I think you're doing both Douglas and Chris a disservice by suggesting that this is a predictable development, because that suggests that their work is far less subtle than I think it is (or perhaps it's me you're insulting there...!). How does this piece prevent Darius from being a well-rounded literary character? How does it lower the literary tone of the other pieces here? I don't think it does either of those things.

I'd like to remind everyone once again that there has been no revelation here. Right now all we have is a relatively vague accusation of nothing specific, from a character whose background and trustworthiness we don't yet know. Is this enough to convict Darius? And if so, of what? That can only be answered by people writing their view of it, and submitting their stories. They'll have to be prepared to endure my apparently directionless and crass editorial discretion, though, but hey! Them's the breaks.

Sally Zigmond said...

As someone who has created two totally different characters for GB (Owen and Helen) of course I have my own ideas as to where these two might be going. However, I would be thrilled to bits if someone else viewed them in a different way from that which I envisaged.

(And as Jane keeps patiently pointing out, Chris's piece is only one unidentified character sounding off about another. That person could be mentally ill, drunk or on drugs. Darius hasn't changed. Darius can still be everything Douglas wants him to be.)

Here's an exercise. Pick a well-known person about which a lot is known (or not known). How about Princess Diana? Ask a hundred people what they think of her. My Dad thinks she was a vain, vacuous trollope, my Mum thinks she was a lonely little girl. Ask another hundred and you'll find all sorts of opinions based on prejudice and rumour and a smattering of truth somewhere.

The same with fictional characters. If people disagree about Darius then that shows that Douglas has done his job as a writer. He should be flattered. This is a collaborative venture, after all. I did notice that Jonathan had made 'my' Prospect Cottage tattier than I had imagined it but then I thought it was interesting that what Owen and his wife thought was fresh and modern may not be. I liked that. There's nothing to stop Douglas writing his own novel or short story about Darius. Nothing's broken.

BTW what would Douglas say if it wasn't Chris who'd 'altered' Darius but Stephen Spielberg? Would be complain then?

And as Nicola Morgan said, let's lighten up a bit. I think Owen may be a secret transvestite...go on, I dare you...

Douglas Bruton said...

Dear Sally

I have no idea who Chris is. He may well be some big-time literary giant or holywood producer. It makes no difference to what I have said and I would still have said it.

As the instigator of this rather long debate (and having had the most to say!!!) I would like to herewith draw a line under this and move on. I think it has all been said, all been suitably aired and we are all a little clearer on what can happen in Greyling Bay. In that spirit I have sent a piece to Jane that seeks to begin a rescue of Darius' reputation.

Thanks to everyone who has thought about this debate and this piece by Chris.

Best to all (really)