Giving Atlas a Voice

It was a tough book to write. Henry Ludlow, that sorry excuse for a protagonist, never stood a chance. It was unfair. He didn’t get much of a character arc. George Abbot said something like, in the first act, your hero gets stuck up a tree. Then, in the second, you throw rocks at him. Finally, in the third act, you get him down from there. He has changed, he has progressed.

Henry doesn’t, though. He gets plenty of rocks thrown at him and his tree is more like a thorn-bush. And in the end, he’s not allowed to come down. It isn’t a Disney ending and it certainly isn’t what people seem to want the story to be. There’s nothing really uplifting or inspirational.

Sure, you want Henry to succeed. You want him to find some strength within, some untapped resource that he needs to discover. You want him to figure out life. You want him to get it.

But he doesn’t get it. He can’t, and that’s the problem. That’s the goal of the story. Henry is doomed. He is doomed and the people who can save him won’t, or can’t. Either way, it doesn’t matter. He’s not a super hero, he’s barely an average guy.

I doubted that I was actually doing something wrong, there. Was I being needlessly cruel? He’s just a character, after all. But he’s not just a character. He’s more than that.

Then I read a couple of Franz Kafka books and I realised, yes, not all books needed to have fairy-tale endings. Not all books needed to even have likeable characters. Maybe Atlas, Broken, isn’t a nice book, or a happy book, or a readable book, but it’s a book that I had to write and now, I’ve figured, I might as well do the audiobook as well.

The setting is in suburban Melbourne. The folk are typical suburbanites. There are Tim Tams and seagulls and beer. Really, this should be right up my alley. Let’s see.

Of Crickets and Ants

In Atlas, Broken, Henry comes across a cricket in his backyard, chirruping merrily at the moon.

The next day, he finds it savagely gutted by ants.

I’m not an expert when it comes to the life-cycle of crickets. Where I live, they come out every Spring, all shiny and black, and chirp like mad throughout Summer.

During Summer you can look in the cracks in the clay soil and find them poking their glossy, black heads out, twitching their antennae, leaping and scurrying away with a purpose. Chirp! Chirp! Their song is full of energy and promise. It’s a chorus of hope, a medley without a beginning and without an end, just one, constant beat. Chirp! Chirp!

And then, as autumn sets in, you hear their tune change. They sing their sorrowful song, their lives are nearly spent. Crrr… Crrr… The grass hides little black bodies, shuffling around aimlessly, hiding when one approaches, silencing their song temporarily until they feel safe once again. Crrr. Crrr.

The cold creeps in. More and more one finds the shells of crickets crumpled on the ground. A mess of brown and black limbs, they have been trodden on, or they simply gave up scurrying. The ants are ruthless, cutting them to bits, dragging all of the smaller pieces back to their nests, leaving the chunky husk to be blown about or crushed underfoot.

After a couple of days there’s nothing left as a reminder. No marking stone, no stain, nothing. The rain has washed away anything the wind has left behind. It might as well be that the cricket never existed at all.

Cricket

If we look at Henry in the light of the Cricket, is there any wonder that he has such empathy for his little companion?Mini Jeztyr Logo