Portal opened to challenge the darkness

Two weeks ago, I asked what you’d do if a story you wrote came true.

Well, mine has. And it’s more like a nightmare than a happy dream.

Some years ago, I wrote a short story about a woman who dreamed things that came true. Two years ago, I finished a novel called With Malice toward One about a woman, Danny Ambrose, who struggles to realize her happily ever after, only to have it threatened when the love of her life, Alec Johnston, develops lung cancer.

Both stories collided with my life last month, when my husband was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer that his doctors say was caused by years of smoking. Of course, he stopped smoking in 1999, or to be precise, on the day he went into hospital for stomach cancer surgery.

But I digress.

In With Malice toward One, the female protagonist, Danae (Danny) doesn’t find out about Alec’s cancer until he’s been diagnosed and is undergoing treatment, so her story doesn’t quite mesh with mine at this stage, except that she initially hears Alec’s wheeze and cough and worries about it. My husband complained of a burning ache in his abdomen that rendered him unable to eat for the constant pain, and over the course of the two months it took to diagnose it, we–at least I–worried but didn’t think it was cancer at all, even when he began to lose drastic amounts of weight.

A June sonogram and blood work showed nothing visible and no elevated blood gases, so my peace of mind remained intact. An endoscopy in mid-June showed nothing, but our gastroenterologist advised a CT scan. That showed a mass in the head of the pancreas. He advised an endoscopic biopsy ASAP because these things were almost always cancer.

On June 30 we had that endoscopic biopsy and, though the doctor who performed it said it looked like cancer, we had to wait several more days (through the July 4 weekend) for confirmation. In my confusion and, I admit, panic, I made a false start and got an appointment within the week with a noted Manhattan oncology surgeon, but he said the mass was too large to remove, and what we needed was an oncologist for chemo and radiation. We went home to begin five hours of intensive web research to find our oncologist.

That first meeting with him put my fears to rest. He took one look at my husband’s condition–by then he’d lost 30 pounds and looked cadaverous–and gave me a list of nutritional supplements to buy, and a daily schedule for dispensation. Since eating made him sick, I was to mix whey protein with almond milk (easier to digest than regular milk), give him a therapeutic vitamin/mineral supplement called Juven to be mixed with coconut water, and administer Curamed (or curamin) and Omega fish oil that contained EPA and DHA.

A PET (positron emission tomography) Scan in early July was encouraging. No lymph nodes were involved and the mass, while growing, hadn’t spread. However, we still haven’t gotten to chemo or radiation. The growing mass has pressed on and nearly closed his liver’s bile duct. I’d noted darkened urine, yellowing skin, and pale bowel movements, sure signs of the liver under siege. A stent had to be inserted first to open the bile duct and solve this issue.

At present, we’ve just had a second CT scan to see precisely how and where the tumor has affected the bile duct. Insertion of a stent comes next.

I close here with a note regarding the process of institutionalized medicine. While I have great faith in our oncologist (he’s the director of gastric cancers AND the director of pain management of a prominent Long Island hospital and health system) and the hospitals and centers we’ve dealt with so far, it’s important to note that each step in this “hurry up and wait” process is brought to a halt by insurance authorizations and/or waiting for an opening in a hospital for a procedure or test. Perhaps because my husband has lost so much weight and looks as ill as he is, or perhaps because our doctors are so proficient at getting authorizations processed, our insurance group has been incredibly responsive so far. I’m immensely thankful for that. Also, with a bounty of really good hospitals here, the wait for a procedure suite is an indication of how many seriously ill people there are. However, my husband’s life is in the balance, and even a 24-48 hour wait seems like forever, and often, it’s actually a week. It’s frustrating for me to know I’m doing all I can to keep this train an express, but the signals and track lanes slow us down.

Up next: Hopefully, stenting.

This is the link to Pancreatica, a site that details symptoms, types, latest news, and “disinterested information” about clinical trials and “other responsible medical care in the treatment of pancreatic cancer.” I found it an interesting, useful site, and comforting as a corroborative tool in my husband’s diagnosis and care.

Through a portal, darkly

Where do you get your creative ideas from? Nature? People? The news?

Maybe you develop a setting from nature, and people it with quirky personalities you’ve observed in friends, acquaintances, or strangers, and turn them loose to solve a mystery or murder you heard about on the news. You even add a pet here or there to enrich the story and reinforce the characters’ humanity or lack thereof.

You, the writer, are used to calling the shots, bending the rules, creating order and success where there was only chaos and failure before. Of course, it’s fiction, so we can write an HEA (happily every after), but real life promises no such ending.

So, what if the story you wrote came to life, if the romance you wrote blossomed before your eyes? That’d be nice, huh?

But how would you react if a murder mystery attached itself to folks you knew? Or if a story you wrote about a couple facing cancer together became your life?

What would you do? What COULD you do?

I hesitate to click publish here, for I have little control over this outcome, but one thing I know: We are about to find out.

Recent Review: Under Heaven, by Guy Gavriel Kay

I’ve fallen down on the review portion of my site, but I have been reading, so it’s time to begin to catch up.

For a lover of well-written fiction, fantasy, and orientalia in general, Under Heaven is a knockout. I can appreciate Kay’s desire not to be classified as a genre writer. Though his story may closely rely on and follow historic figures and their paths, nations, and, well, history, they are not historical novels. Under Heaven is based on the 8th century Tang Dynasty and the events leading up to the An Shi Rebellion. If you enjoy even the sense of historical fiction, this is a tale for you.

The story follows Shen Tai, the second son of a renowned general of Kitai, who is given 250 prized prized horses from the Kitan Empress of the neighboring Taguran Empire to honor his work burying the dead of both sides at a battleground that is still haunted by the ghosts of the slain soldiers.

The horses themselves–coveted for their use and beauty as they are–pose a problem for Shen Tai, and involve him in struggles with politicians and the noble houses that are related to and allied with the Kitan Emperor. At the same time, the horses’ value gains him entry to their world, allowing him to form friendships with many of them, making enemies of some.

He leaves his cemetery work and makes his way toward the capital, Xinan, protected by Wei Song, a female Kanlin warrior, who stays by his side through thick and thin and several attempts on his life.

Of course, there are other plots. There’s Shen Tai’s sister Li-Mei, sent north by her older brother Shen Liu to be married off to a leader of a northern tribe in order to advance Liu’s career. That match thankfully goes awry as her escape is made possible with the help of a curious man who speaks to wolves, who considers his soul part-wolf. Then there’s Shen Tai’s first love, Spring Rain, who finds herself concubine to a courtier plotting Shen Tai’s death, and the An Li rebellion, and disease and famine, all vividly described.

Shen Tai’s story arc has personal, familial, and national repercussions, and so much danger. Loss, honor, friendship, and love come together, sometimes in a seeming slow dance, sometimes slamming together as if by magic, which also exists in this fictional land.

A man of action, thoughtful tactician, sometime scholar, awed by his heroes, Shen Tai is an exceptional, humble, and human hero in his own right.

Kay’s writing is what drew me to this novel. His command of language is wonderful, powerful, lyrical, and at the same time a perfect fit for this Chinese fantasy.

While I have other novels to review, the next novel in this series will certainly be one of them.

 

You write

No doubt about it. Writing is a solitary pursuit. A story idea comes to you. You think about it alone. You research it alone. You write a first draft alone. Revise alone.

In between those steps, if you’re lucky enough to have writing friends and colleagues you trust, you share what you’ve written. You receive criticism, hopefully helpful, but even when it is, YOU have to decide if and how to integrate it into your story.

When it’s polished and perfect, you work on a query letter meant to inform and intrigue literary agents while you investigate said agents to find a good fit for you and your novel.

And then you query. And query. And query.

And wait. And wait. You’re occasionally lucky and get a nibble–a request for 3 chapters, or the whole manuscript. And then, while you wait to hear from those agents, you research others and query some more.

When agents answer with things like ‘solid writing’ or ‘terrific story but not for me’, you read them alone. And when you’re frustrated, you read other writers’ novels. Reading is also a solitary sport.

In singular moments, other story ideas come to you and you begin to think about where this one’s going. And you write.. alone.

You set aside a completed work which hasn’t found a publishing home to complete that second, and a third. You tell yourself it’s not your time, but that that time will come.

And you write.

 

Guilt

In a recent writer’s exercise prompt, we were asked to create a character who had done something truly awful, and then see if we could induce readers to sympathize with that character despite his despicable act.

Do you feel some compassion for him?

Guilt, by Donna Rubino, copyright 2016

The killing was easy. Even living with the knowledge he’d done it wasn’t hard. He told himself he had no conscience; had been born without a guilt gene.

When the farm house burned, he’d sat on a tractor near the barn and watched it go up in flames—slow to catch, but then the whole thing—wood siding and roof shingles, all his ma’s homemade curtains and pa’s handmade furniture seemed to pass little spits of fire one to another like dinner servings around the table until a final belch, like Uncle Harry’s after Christmas dinner, sent a fireball skyward.

It had been fascinating the way the roof fell in with a whoosh, and sparks and cinders flew in the sky like the fourth of July fireworks. The walls eventually fell in too, blanketing his parents’ bodies, but the memory of his ma’s stare would go with him to his grave. Not that her look of disappointment made him feel guilty, no, it had only added to his frustration. He wasn’t a farmer and all their telling him he was wasn’t going to change that.

He’d walked into the fields, his ma’s last words, “you always were a mess,” reverberating in his head, and sat, hidden by towering cornstalks when he heard the fire brigade come, but they were way late; and no one even looked for him because he was supposed to be at a cattle sale a hundred miles away.

He sold the farm—every last acre—to developers. They made him a wealthy man.

After that, he’d worked hard to build a business, not that he was running from his ma’s accusation. No. More like he was showing her she was wrong. He invested well, married better. His son was 20 now and at college, a serious, industrious boy like his wife. His daughter Lily was 16 and a handful. She was a dead ringer for his ma; he remembered how she looked in that old wedding photo on the parlor wall. Since that first moment infant Lily had clapped her fingers around his, he was lost to her. Some time early on, Lily’d developed the habit of staring at him, squint-eyed, lips pressed firmly together just like his ma had whenever she’d disapproved of something he’d done.

He told himself it wasn’t guilt that made him keep bailing her out when she got arrested for underage drinking, or busting up a department store when they caught her shoplifting. He did it because she was his daughter and he loved her; and besides, she’d probably inherited his unguilty gene. There was something to be said for that.

But the day she died near killed him.

The police had called. She’d led them on a chase at speeds closing in on 100, from the interstate to the local highway to the back roads that led to the dammed river that protected the town from flood.

On the way to the hospital he and his wife passed her car—what was left of it—wrapped around a tree, the front of it split in two right into the front seat, the engine sitting beside the car as if it had been carefully placed.

His wife raced into the hospital while he parked the car, seeing Lily in the rear view mirror as he backed into a spot, hearing Lily’s baby giggle as the tires squealed against the curb.

In her room in ICU, he couldn’t see much of her. Her head was swathed; there were tubes and machines, more bandages and casts, winches and safety bars protecting every part of her. He swallowed the urge to scream as he sat in a chair beside her. All those beeps, buzzes, and whirring pumps. His wife was speaking quietly with a doctor.

Was this why you raised a child? So she could bedevil you? Tear out your heart? So you could try to save her over and again and still she was hell-bent on suicide? He remembered the time she jumped out of the old oak tree and broke both ankles; the time she tried riding her bike over the earthen dam at high water and was swept away and almost drowned.

He touched her hand. It was barely warm. He slid his fingers under her palm.

She turned her head toward him, and, despite intubation, pressed her lips together, eyes squinting his way. And then her lips parted. “Mess,” she said, and flat-lined.

A pain skewered his heart, a fire hotter than the one he’d set that night long ago. He heard a scream, but only realized it was his as his head hit the floor.

Whining about wine

A departure here from my usual never-to-be-missed ruminations about writing, or those dazzling reviews of recently read novels. (And yes I know I’ve fallen down on the reviewing job lately but I lost my reporter’s fedora and I’m useless never mind witless without it.)

Today’s blog post is about foibles. Yes. Foibles. And wine. To be explicit, my weakness is the inability to pick the correct wine–i.e., the one I’ve been tasting in my memory but can’t reproduce in real life with real alcohol.

You see, in real life a Cote du Rhone or Beaujolais Nouveau would be perfect. Unfortunately, it’s mid-spring, and you don’t want a Beaujolais Nouveau now. It’s, well, it’s not nouveau anymore. It’s past its prime and can be akin to cotton. Maybe it’s good for bathing. But no, the Japanese do that in hot springs fortified with Beaujolais Nouveau in November.

And though I’m told gamay grapes–those which make the fresh and fruity Beaujolais Nouveau–have been described as the ‘younger sibling’ of pinot noir, I never liked pinot noir. But I allowed myself to be convinced that this was what I wanted and came home with a bottle of a Burgundy region Beaujolais blend.

It wasn’t light, and the dryness was overwhelming. In fact, all we could taste was dry. No grape. No fruit. Not even leather (though I don’t know who’d want their wine to have leather notes. All I think of regarding leather notes are saddle cinches. Not pleasant.)

Not to waste the bottle, I dredged up a favorite old chicken recipe that calls for a sauce composed of a butter/flour roux, a 6 oz can of tomato paste, and the 26 oz bottle of dry red wine. Of course, there are herbs and slivers of raw ham added, but you get the gist.

The sauce was superb.

I crossed the gamay blend off my list and trekked back to the wine shop.

“I’d like a grenache,” I said, and was instructed that that grape originated in Spain, where it’s routinely blended with other varieties.

I bought a bottle blended with Syrah (or Shiraz). It was drinkable, but while not full-bodied or heavy, it lacked the fruitiness I wanted, and so I used half the bottle along with some sugar to poach pears. They were yummy.

Back to the store. By this time, I didn’t want to be lectured. I was downright demanding. I wanted a true grenache and that’s all I wanted. A Cote du Rhone, I told the wine expert.

He told me that they, too, are usually blended–over 80% grenache in the Southern Rhone area of France, and sold me a Chateauneuf du Pape.

I thought ‘I have struck gold!’ I knew the region. Knew the grape. Its tannins would be very subtle, its nose fruity, its body light. But when I got home, I saw the blend was only 59% grenache.

Now, I don’t think I failed to make myself clear. Writing fiction, which is what I do, demands clarity–of images, actions, setting. And so I’m sure I explained myself well. Whether the wine merchant understood me or had his own ulterior motives is another issue.

I haven’t opened the bottle yet. I’m saving it for Sunday supper. I sure hope it’s what I want because honestly, I don’t have any more recipes that use a 26 oz. bottle of dry red wine.

 

 

 

The birth of a minor character

Among the many rules for creating good fiction are these: that conflict must ratchet up the tension continually throughout the story, and that all characters—even bit-part players—should be fully fleshed out. They should be physically described—even if it’s only in shorthand, and have a backstory that sets them firmly in the story. Paramount, they must have a reason to be there.

And so Father Thomas Roos elbowed his way into The Luck of Two Magpies after another minor character, Father Cletus of Escomb, was murdered.

I knew nothing about him and so I resorted to my usual method for familiarization, I asked him questions. Here are his answers.

I am Thomas Roos. I was born and raised in Bishop Auckland, a wealthy market town in the Durham diocese and home to the Durham Prince Bishops’ Auckland Castle. My father and mother and their siblings were born and raised here. My closest companion as a lad was my cousin Cletus. We attended the school supported by the Church of St. Andrew in Bishop Auckland.

When Cletus was 6, his father was gored to death by a boar. When Cletus was 8, his widowed mother remarried, this time to a farmer met at market, and moved with her children to Escomb, a separation that affected me greatly. My own father was not an easy man to please, and though I am chastened to admit it, often I did bully my cousin Cletus to feel some sense of empowerment.

In time, we did both became priests. I did so to escape my fate as father’s whipping boy, but more so because I was ambitious. My cousin Cletus, who loved letters from the first time he put chalk to slate, entered the priesthood because he had no talent for anything but ‘scribe-ing.’

I met Father Justin at a synod in Durham. As I sensed the same sort of ambition in him, and in truth was impressed by his royal stature, I applied for the position as his secretary, and was accepted. Father Justin knew I was acceptable to the King as trustworthy for passing messages, but ittle did Justin know but that our King, ever suspicious of his cousins Beaufort because they were his Uncle John’s progeny, had recruited me to spy on Father Justin.

And now, my ambition may lead me to outdo Father Justin in bringing down the House of Grifon and in gaining greater favour with His Grace King Richard. I was on my way to accomplishing this when I made myself agreeable to Lady Elisa. Her trust enabled me to spend time at Grifon’s writing desk, sampling his ledgers. This is the way to bring Grifon down—not through reporting treasonous activities, but by proving the man withheld monies owed to the King. It would be a triple satisfaction. Bringing down Grifon, besting Father Justin, and gaining justice for my cousin’s murder, for I am certain that either Beaufort or Grifon ordered it.

Whether he succeeds or not, we’ll have to wait to see. As of now, Father Thomas has gone silent.

Don’tcha just hate it when a good story ends?

Downton Abbey, the acclaimed PBS Masterpiece series, has ended after six exciting seasons. The main characters all received happily ever afters: Lord and Lady Grantham, hale and hearty, parental duty done, have grandchildren in the nursery. Robert has Mary and Tom to help run the estate, and Cora has her hospital work. Mary and Henry, Edith and Bertie, and Isobel Crawley and Richard Grey have all happily married. The indomitable Dowager Countess Violet is healthy and as pithy as ever. Barrow has metamorphosed from his self-centered, angry, conniving self into a man who realizes the value of friends and ‘home’ and has earned the title Butler, while Mrs. Hughes and Carson retire on Downton property with a pension, and Anna and John Bates have a son. Fellowes has even left us with a hint that Tom Branson might find favor with Edith’s new magazine editor.

What made it a hit? The attention to period detail in fashion and costuming, in history and news, in servants and service? In the interplay of station upstairs and downstairs? The beauty of Highclere Castle and  its natural surrounds?

All that, and the uniqueness of the characters and their personalities, certainly. The drama, births and deaths (and occasional resurrection… or maybe not), the interplay of fate as crafted by Fellowes and by history with these characters, surely.

Did we love Mary at her bitchy best? No, but we did love to hate her for it. Did we root for Edith to earn a happy ending through all those seasons? Yes, and were disappointed, as often happens in life. And dear Sybil. How we cried at her death, and our hearts broke knowing that Tom would have to raise their darling daughter without her.

We made it through the war to end all wars, through turning the Abbey into a hospital, went from horse and carriage to horseless carriage, watched candles give way to electricity, and telegrams to telephone. We saw the modern evolution of the kitchen–fridge, toaster, mixer, and all.

We learned that Cora was one of the golden era American princesses whose parents married them to British nobility, surrendering fortunes to gain them titles. Thankfully, for Cora and Robert, it was a love match–even if he didn’t seem to let us know it initially. But even that rang true. After all, his upper class Victorian and Edwardian upbringing didn’t allow for public displays of affection, so his coolness was appropriate. But in time, Fellowes warmed him up.

Thing is, all of this is what makes for a great novel. The depth of fully realized characters, the tension and conflict between them, their goals, and the world their occupy. Drama, Humor. Setting. Detail. Story. Story. Story.

Downton may have ended, and will remain a fond memory for many of us, but that empty Sunday night space only means an extra hour or so each week that we can lose ourselves in a really great novel.

The rooster crows, the hatchet falls

When Jenny was four, her dad brought home a dozen adorable fuzzy yellow chicks for Easter–Peeps come to life! She was delighted when he said she could raise them, and helped him set up a quasi-chicken coop in the garage of their tract home on suburban Long Island. Jenny fed them Cheerios every morning. Mom was downstairs a lot, so Jenny knew she saw to their other needs.

She didn’t know whether dad had intended to butcher them from the get-go or not, but it seems his hand was forced when several of the chickens turned out to be roosters who woke the neighborhood every morning at 5 am with their crowing. That, and the loud, cackling squabbles that broke out several times a day, necessitated their demise.

She never wondered if dad knew what to do. After all, he wasn’t farm raised. He grew up in the Bronx. So did mom. Jenny just assumed he did. After all, he was Dad. So, she matter-of-factly watched as dad set up a wide board in the laundry room atop mom’s washer and dryer one June day, and she kissed each bird goodbye before dad chopped their heads off. She wasn’t squeamish. No. She was curious, and observant, fascinated as a few ran around the laundry room floor, headless, and others continued to flap their wings, sending a flurry of down and feathers skyward to fall gently after the guillotine had dropped and dad tossed their heads into the slop sink. She was delighted with the chicken foot he gave her, especially when he showed her how to make the claws open and shut by pressing one particular spot.

She tucked the treasure in her pocket, and gave the whole exercise no more thought, knowing that dad said he’d pluck the chickens and mom would be the one to clean the blood spatter from her sparkling white appliances and always spotless cement floor.

Shortly thereafter–at least in her four-year-old frame of reference–six-year-old Joey came knocking on her door.

“Can I play with Jenny?” he asked.

She was so happy when mom let him in. Other kids were gone for the summer at camp and she was lonely, but it wasn’t long before Jenny broke a vase trying to pitch Joey a ball. She’d given no thought to what a baseball could do to inanimate objects, and she had no idea how to make a ball go straight when she threw it.

Mom banished them to the backyard.

“What do you want to play now?” Jenny asked, eager to please the only playmate she’d had in what felt like forever. He proposed follow the leader, and so she trooped after him down the slide, then up it, and then they played Simon Says, which she really didn’t understand and lost interest in. She didn’t have rollerskates, and Joey wasn’t allowed to use his brother’s skateboard, so she was at a momentary loss as to what to do.

And then inspiration struck.

“Let’s play house,” she said. “I’ll be the mommy and you be the daddy.”

Joey agreed, and raked a stick across the sparse grass of the lawn, while Jenny knelt and pulled what she thought were weeds like her mom did.

Joey dropped the stick and dusted off his hands. “There. Yardwork done,” he said while glancing about.

Jenny knew with some certainty he was bored and that she could lose her playmate, and so she hopped to her feet. “Time to kill the chickens!” she said, and explained about the hatchet, the blood, the headless carcasses fleeing the scene. To make it more interesting, she pulled the chicken foot out of her pocket and showed Joey how the claws clenched and unclenched.

Joe paled, looking a lot like the white hens themselves had, and then he said, “Mom’s calling. I gotta go.”

What goes into an antagonist?

Recently, I’ve been mulling over the effective traits of antagonists, so it was ironic that  the commercials of a particular yogurt company I’d been aware of worked as a primer in creating those traits.

The first two commercials, which aired around mid-year 2015, featured a kind of spunky brunette in 60s mod fashion who danced around while a voice-over in mock-French accent proclaimed good news–the product had reduced its sugar content by 25%. And, as the French-accented voice insisted, the yogurt still tasted good–or “gyud”.

That high-pitched voice didn’t sell either sincerity or ‘gyud-ness’ to me, but I thought she’d make a ‘gyud’ devil in angel’s clothing type of antagonist. After all, who’d think this cutesy innocent capable of malevolent activities, of acting on some deep-seated personal desire, or capable of vengeance? Terrific!

Then came a commercial featuring a burly bald man in a lovely gray suit who looked like he belonged either in a boxing ring or working for the mob. His stomach rumbled as he strove to convince us that dining on his tiny cup of yogurt with what appeared to be a demitasse spoon would assuage his hunger.

i didn’t buy it. Of course, this actor’s been seen on TV and in the movies, and surprise of surprises, among his many roles he’s played a boxer and a bounder. Well, he’d work as an antagonist based on his all-too-cultivated malevolent looks alone. I mean, he looks like a bad guy. But if satiating his hunger with tiny spoons and such manly victuals as yogurt is his thing, I fancy him as my type of quirky brainiac antagonist; perhaps, the industrialist ex-Nazi type who plans to eliminate mankind and create a new world a la Ian Fleming’s Dax character, highly if bizarrely motivated (at least to finish his yogurt).

After those two, the company released a commercial that features some poor fella on a ladder waiting for permission to pick fruit, while a young woman in farm duds stands below in the orchard. After telling him ‘not yet’ a few times, she finally yells “Pull that peach!”

Of course, I didn’t understand her command the first few times the commercial aired, and when I finally did, I thought the exercise silly.

But I know what kind of antagonist she’d play, a dominatrix, maybe seeking a partner with sticky fingers for a bank heist. Clearly, he’d play her minion–no, not like Stuart, Kevin or Bob–but the unquestioning dupe in her evil plans. I can see her hiding her nefarious deeds, using her minion as a foil. As for him, I presume he’d be an adaptable minion, and therefore, in the end, might overtake his dominatrix antagonist out of revenge and claim supreme power–bwah-ha-ha!

The most recent commercial viewed features mom, dad, son and daughter, lounging about the kitchen spooning yogurt into their mouths. Of course, as their mouths are full, all they can manage are eyebrow wiggles, smiles, and a lot of ‘mm-mm’s.

This cast put me in mind of happy-go-lucky soldiers of the dark, the zombies who unconditionally follow their evil master’s commands, their brainlessness mirrored in their empty smiles and their ‘mm’ing sounds. In the end, they too, might turn on their leader and become more amorally ruthless than he was.

So, yes, all of these commercial characters are candidates for antagonists, either with annoying qualities that would enhance their vicious deeds, or with innocuous qualities that clearly must hide a diabolical mind.

So ultimately, what goes into an antagonist? Yogurt. And no, I don’t remember the brand.