Read Around the Rainbow: How does your main character react to insults?

This sounds like fun! Maybe I could line all my main characters up in a room, say horrible things to them and see what happens? Oh, yeah, that’s right – they’re fictional. Shame. I was looking forward to that.

In the absence of such silliness I can only fall back on my own feelings about how various characters might react. In most cases I suspect it’s fairly similar, since most of my M.C.s are typical British men suffering from Great British Reserve, who tend to keep their emotions to themselves and pretend everything is okay even when it isn’t (although mercifully that is beginning to change, but that’s a whole other story). Faced with an insult I suspect most of them would simply swallow their annoyance and remain polite, if somewhat icy, towards the perpetrator. The British equivalent of a sarcastic ‟Have a nice day,” through clenched teeth, perhaps.

Take Nat in December Roses, for instance. He’s just as reserved, and quietly damaged, as all my characters. And he has an even more pressing reason for hiding his emotional responses because he’s a gay soldier in the British Army in the mid 1990s, at a time when it was still illegal for homosexuals to serve in the armed forces. So he’s well used to maintaining the old ‛stiff upper lip’ in all but the most extreme cases. Towards the end of the book, though, things are changing and he’s coming to terms with his own sexuality and the possibility that he might not have to hide it any more. That means he can be a bit less careful about the way he responds, as this snippet shows.

The doctor, a thin pallid chap with a lisp, wittered for a full fifteen minutes about all the jobs he wouldn’t be able to do with residual shell-shock and a dodgy leg. When he’d finally run out of steam the careers bloke gave him a patronising smile and said, ‛Don’t worry, Sergeant, there are still plenty of openings for a man like you. You’re still fit and healthy, even if you are a…’
‛Watch it,’ Nat growled. He didn’t often lose his temper but he’d been told when he did the results were spectacular. Sure enough, the man took a step back and ran one finger round a collar that was apparently restricting him. ‛Er, erm, recovering from your injuries. Yes. That’s what I was going to say.’
Nat didn’t believe him for a second. ‛And anyway, the name’s Mr Brook. I stopped being a sergeant yesterday when all the paperwork was signed.’
‛Er, yes, of course, Ser— that is, Mr Brook. Now, as I was about to say…’
But he couldn’t add much to what the doctor had already said. There was the usual guff about security work and managing a post office or a pub, but precious little else. The civil service would be barred to him, apparently, because the army weren’t prepared to give him a reference, and casual labour such as construction work was limited because of his leg. ‛So what can I do?’ he asked eventually, exasperated beyond endurance.
‛Er, well, there’s always a family business,’ said the careers man, wiping his hands on his trouser legs. ‛A lot of our fellows go into that when they leave…’
‛My dad’s retired,’ said Nat. ‛And guess what—he was a civil servant. And he’s not speaking to me because he doesn’t approve of my lifestyle. Not very encouraging, really, is it?’

This probably still sounds very reserved and non-threatening to most non-British people but to us it’s quite an outburst! And although Nat is very cross, he’s sufficiently well trained as a soldier not to need to resort to shouting or violence – he can get his point across with the tone of his voice and the unspoken threat of physical strength alone.

The exception is probably Ghosts Galore’s Adam, who is just as quiet, reserved and slightly hapless as my other characters, but possesses a rebellious streak of mischief that he isn’t above using to get his own back. So when the TV producer who’s come to his very haunted home, Greystones Hall, to film the ghosts tells him he doesn’t believe in the supernatural, Adam and his grandfather plan a trick…

‛It’ll only take a minute. Come and see. It’s really weird.’ He led the way back to the studio with Carl marching at his side and behind Carl a smaller figure with grey hair and the inevitable pipe. Gramps, as good as his word, had come along too.
‛I came to check if this was still secure,’ he explained, letting them in. ‛The key was where you’d left it, the door was locked and it didn’t look as though anyone else had been near the place. But when I stuck my head round the door, I found this.’ Stepping aside to give Carl an uninterrupted view, he pointed dramatically to his work bench at the far end of the room. Amongst the clutter of brushes and palettes and water jars and pots and tubes of paint, a small space had been cleared. Standing upright in the exact centre of the space was a small, thin hardback book. And balanced perfectly on top of that was a much heavier tome, lying on its side.
It had taken him several minutes to get the books to stand up like that and he was proud of the result. Carl, though, smiled in a superior way. ‛Oh, come on, you don’t expect me to fall for that old chestnut, do you? You’ve been in here and stacked them up yourself.’
‛I could have.’ Adam crossed his fingers behind his back. ‛But why would I need to? It sounds like you’ve got plenty going on without me having to do that.’ He paused as a particularly high-pitched shriek echoed through the house, perfectly timed to prove his point. ‛I just thought maybe… if the whole house is overrun, the ghosts might congregate in the only room that was quiet.’
Carl still wore an infuriatingly smug grin. ‛Nice try,’ he began, but was interrupted by a soft click, closely followed by a moan. ‛What the‒?’
‛Search me.’ Adam tried to look innocent, with limited success. The hi-fi’s loop function had kicked the first CD in at exactly the right time. The moan was followed by a chorus of muffled whispering voices, rising and falling in volume and tone. Here and there a word stood out with more clarity than the rest: bleeding, headless and revenge. He knew full well it was just a recording he and an ex-boyfriend had made one night whilst they were messing about, but the sound system was well-hidden and the room’s acoustics were tossing the voices about in unexpected ways. He glanced at Carl, wondering whether it would be enough to dent the producer’s unshakeable confidence.
The grin was still in place. ‛Oh, well done, you’ve wired the place for sound too. Not a bad effort—even I can’t see where you’ve hidden it.’
Torn between hope and disappointment, Adam fought his facial muscles again and won. He shrugged. ‛Suit yourself. You already told me you don’t believe in ghosts so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Never mind—I’ll let you get back to work.’
‛Cheers.’ Carl’s grin became less smug and more conspiratorial. ‛Things are a bit hectic at the moment. But if you want to get me on my own this badly, I’m sure we could find some nice dark corners to investigate together later on.’
Was Carl saying what he seemed to be? A quick glance said yes, he really was. Yet another blush raced up Adam’s cheeks and he cursed the family’s pallid colouring. ‛Oh God, no, I didn’t… that is, I mean, it would be good but that’s not…’
‛Whatever you say.’ Carl blew him a kiss and turned back towards the door—just as Gramps set off on his party trick with the bag of flour…

Chaos ensues, which is only partly because of Adam’s mischievousness, but if you want to see what happens I’m afraid you’ll have to buy the book! You can find it on Kindle or Kindle Unlimited here, and December Roses is also available on both Kindle and KU.

Who knows, one of these days I might write about a character who isn’t afraid to let his emotions show, or who is so damaged that he follows people up dark alleys and beats seven shades of something out of them at the least provocation. Until then, you’ll have to make do with lots of ‟Mr Quiet-and-Subtles”, and hopefully enjoy some of the wry humour behind my characters’ everyday reactions.

Don’t forget to check out the other webring members’ entertaining takes on a really fun topic, here:

K.L. Noone :: A.L. Lester :: Nell Iris :: Ofelia Grand :: Holly Day :: Addison Albright :: Ellie Thomas :: Amy Spector

Pic credit: Icons8 Team on



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