I must tell you that, as a reader, I would be disappointed at this point in the storyline of An Agreeable Man. The characters don’t add up to a full deck, so how will the game play out? We have an idea of what Merlie is like, and almost of what she looks like (overweight? thin?), but frankly I see the dog Lucky Charm more fully drawn than Merlie is. We know there is a nosey take-charge neighbor but we don’t know her name or what she looks like, and we certainly don’t know who Merlie’s friends are, or if she even has friends. Remember, Jack is a very controlling man, and he has total control over a very timid wife. They don’t have children of their own, although we will learn that Jack worked with and donated money to children’s programs in town. We get the impression that Jack is a wealthy man, but Merlie seems almost dirt poor. She’s a prisoner in their house, can’t go anywhere or do anything unless Jack says so or takes her. Jack has a job – he goes to work every weekday. Jack has friends; he goes hunting and fishing with them. Who are they? What are they like? What do they look like? There are collateral characters. Mr. Simmons, owner of Simmons Fine Furnishings, and the minister, nameless and a bit boring.
So…When do we introduce and develop these characters?
One reader suggested that the after-funeral gathering at Merlie’s house would have been a great time to let us know who the circle of friends are. And the minister’s eulogy at Jack’s funeral would have told us a lot of specific information about Jack. Comments made to Merlie at church, the actual burial site, and at Merlie’s home would have widened the plot possibilities even more.
Now I, as the writer, know how the storyline develops. I know the characters and the conflict among the characters. I know the resolution of that conflict. So from now until next Wednesday, I will be writing these down and inserting them into the storyline, but I want you to be thinking about the possibilities that come to your mind.
Remember: this book is based on a true story, and I will keep to the facts of that story until I plot the end of the book.
Okay! Here’s a poem I wrote many years ago, and I think on some level it sums up how Merlie must be feeling upon reflection of her changed status.
I Hate Being Poor
All my life I’ve had to count pennies, and I’m tired of it.
Sometimes it amuses me when I think of how mismatched is my talent for spending with my small budget.
At other times, I am bitter.
I look around and see other people with bigger houses, more furniture, pets, habits which require money like boats, several cars, exotic vacations, elegant clothes.
I covet possessions!
I want things!
I even envy people their parents, their hometowns, the kids they grew up with.
The things I loved innocently were taken away from me when I was very young.
First my daddy, then our home, then my mother.
We moved around, and for years I lived in other people’s houses,
wore hand-me-down clothes,
took and made use of things other people threw away,
ate food other people selected and cooked.
Consequently, I developed no sense of taste or style.
Why dream of,
or plan for,
things I might want,
when I knew I would take what was given to me?
It doesn’t bother me so much now.
For I m daring to want again,
daring to select and go after the things I want,
and the people I want,
and make them mine.
Being poor doesn’t have to impoverish.
I intend to be rich in the things that mean more than wealth to me.
So I give you warning:
I see riches in you I will possess,
For I hate being poor.