Terrouge E-zine Archives
Character Crunch: Simon Flynn
By: Saarh Jevsa
G'day! Today, we'll be dissecting a lovely specimen, mouse I believe – Ah, Wood Mouse – name of Mr. Simon Flynn. Please remember that you will be tested on this next week, and I will be asking for specific names of internal organs…
…That is to say, welcome to this month's Crunch! Let's get right down to it, shall we?
Name: Simon Flynn
Age (we use years): 34
Species: Wood Mouse
Appearance: At first glance, nothing separates Simon apart from other middle-aged fatherly mice. At second glance, perhaps one will notice his ears seem a bit too big, or perhaps the large glasses perched on the end of his snout. A third glance, and one will possibly see the droopy whiskers, the baleful expression, or the slightly pudgy stomach - possibly.
Forty-three glances later, one might, if they were paying attention, take in every aspect of Simon: His watery eyes, his penchant for frowning worriedly, or staring at the roof with a vague smile playing at his lips; they'd notice his fidgeting paws, the way his tail sways when he eats food he doesn't like, and how he can't hold a fork for longer than two minutes at a time without dropping it in his soup; they will have noticed that Simon is the kind of beast who doesn't realise he had been trying to eat soup with such a utensil until the fifth time he fishes it out of the bowl.
They will have noticed his fur, common for that of a wood mouse, brownish-grey along his back and face, with a yellowish tinge around the edges, where it merges into the white underbelly and chin. They will notice his tunic, whatever colour it may be, stained with whatever colour of food he had been eating that morning; if they are particularly observant, they will notice the damp smudges where he'd tried to lick it clean and only served to wet it down further.
They will notice his lack of trousers.
(I just never could fit trousers on a mouse in my imagination…)
And, if they are a veritable great mouse detective, they will notice that tiny little spot on his cheek rubbed practically clear of fur due to his wife's constant scrubbing at it - the only sign that this miserable little mouse has a mate.
Personality: Take an average mouse, with a mate, a pup, and his own plot of farmland, with all the pride and courage that comes with such responsibilities… and then strip away every last shred of self-esteem, confidence and enjoyment, and you might come close to how Simon was before coming to the Black Arch Fort. Since his last spell, however, he has been considerably more pleasant.
Normally a bit shy and nervous around beasts at first, Simon quickly begins to make friendly talk to get them on his good side. Of course, this can often backfire and cause Simon to detest a beast for some small fault of their mannerisms, and has led to ruined relations in the past, when he has been blunt about how they annoy him. He can be very angry once provoked, although oddly enough, it is easier for him to get angrier at acquaintances than perfect strangers.
Being left alone with his thoughts for too long can lead to one of two things: Simon may begin to ponder his life, which always leads into a spiral of depression and anger; or he may follow a path of fancifulness, and start to imagine a totally ridiculous scenario, often with his head tilted a bit to the left…
Simon does not feel a large amount of love for his mate, Erys, and if he does for his son, Pegg, he will rarely show it, instead believing that they would be better off without him in their lives.
Fantastic name, I have to say. Also, the detail on the appearance and personality are excellent; we are able to form a vivid picture of Simon in our minds without having to grope for details at all.
While the style of the writing is quite amusing, it occasionally gets in the way of the actual description. You state that at first glance, he looks just like every other middle-aged male mouse – and then you go on to list all kinds of distinguishing features that one would notice if they were to look again. Why would anyone bother though, if they saw no interesting characteristics after the first glance? Either he's distinguishable or he's not.
Generally, people who are shy and nervous do not try to win people over with friendly chatter. Perhaps talking is just his way of covering up his nervousness, though? However, shy, nervous people are generally not blunt about what they dislike in another person, particularly not said person's face.
It makes sense that he gets angry at closer acquaintances more often than strangers, though. The more you know about someone, the more you have to get angry about, whereas the people you pass on the street could be desperately evil and you'd never know or care, simply because you don't know them.
I like the depression, but I can't help but wonder why he doesn't just off himself if he's so miserable and filled with self-loathing. He doesn't seem to get much out of life, doesn't really love his mate and doesn't want to care about his son, either. What is there to live for? Maybe he's just too much of a coward to kill himself - but that doesn't exactly fit with his habit of bluntly telling other beasts what he hates about them.
On to the history.
Like a great many of Redwall's residents, Simon's life began as a lost dibbun found in the wood. Apparently old enough to say his own name (but not old enough to remember any of it), he was found by a squirrel who, for the two days' journey to the abbey, treated him as a son, even giving Simon his surname, Flynn.
From there on, however, Simon was raised as any other abbeybabe, all the elders taking part in his upbringing, spreading the responsibility and blame around between them. It soon became clear that Simon was not average. And even sooner became clear that he was certainly not exceptional. While the rest of his peers went on to take positions in the running of the abbey, Simon was left to struggle over sums and letters in the gatehouse with the new season of dibbuns until eventually, to save him the embarrassment, they let him out of school to learn some trade or other. The thought was: If he's so awful with learning this stuff, maybe he'll be brilliant at learning more paws-on things, like blacksmithing, carpentry, cooking, sewing, beekeeping, gardening…
The list went on with a resounding No.
Simon eventually settled into washing laundry, where the worst he could do was bleach the green habits white and if he fell in to a tub, there would always be somebeast around to fish him out. It was here he met Silene, the most beautiful mousemaid in Mossflower country.
Then that jerk of a handsome adventurer, Johnathan, had swept though the area, swept Silene off her footpaws, and swept her out to sea to go adventuring. That was when he'd first met Erys: sobbing in a linen closet.
That is, Simon had been sobbing, and she'd opened the door.
Some five years later, they married.
Truly nothing exceptional happened at all in their lives, until a lone farmer in the south had fallen ill of fever, the hares of Salamandastron unable to help. Erys, being a healer in the infirmary, offered to travel and take care of him; Simon, surprised at himself, seconded to go with her. Although with some amount of consternation at the prospect, the elders agreed that they could go, with one of Skipper's otters to guide them safely.
They arrived too late, however. So it was that Simon and Erys, in cleaning the farmer's house and trying to take care of the fields realised: maybe we could do this…
And, for a wonderful three and a half years, through the birth of their first pup, Pegg, and with the help of their neighbours, they somehow managed.
Right up until the vermin attacked, ransacked the house, only just leaving Erys alive and the infant untouched for what reason they could only imagine… They fled the farm to the Pardon's house, where a talk with a certain sergeant inspired new hope in Simon.
After all, he had been rubbish at everything else in his life… all that was left was to try fighting.
I really like how you took a fairly mundane, typical abbeybeast's life, and then made it interesting by bringing the characters and emotions to life rather than relying on extraordinary events to make things seem more exciting.
Again, I can't help but wonder why a beast who hates his life as much as Simon seems to would bother living – and the 'coward' explanation doesn't make sense, as most cowards wouldn't be all that keen on going off and fighting. I like Simon's depression, but at the same time, there doesn't seem to be much variation from it. You can only carry on something like that for so long before something's got to give. Then again, you do mention that he has been 'considerably more pleasant' since his last stay at Black Arch Fort, which seems to indicate that something in his life has changed for the better, possibly even just his outlook.
I can't help but be intrigued by the relationship between him and Erys. You stated earlier that he feels little love toward her. From the little that we see of her here, she doesn't seem like the sort to fall for someone like Simon, particularly if she could do better. Why did they get married, then? Were they originally in love, or did they just convince themselves that they were? I would have liked to see a little more on their relationship, as it's hard to tell what they think of each other and how they get along.
Otherwise, I think you did a great job touching on the important details and giving us a very complete history, while never getting bogged down on any one event.
Last, but far from least, let's have a look at the story.
Simon Flynn heard the squeak of surprise, but he finished planting potatoes before doing anything about it. He looked up from his job just as the front door closed again, and sighed.
It wasn't that he disliked the Meaneys, no. They were good friends of his wife, and polite, kind beasts. It was just… sometimes they were too polite and kind. When you come over for tea, and are given a plate of scones to munch, do you really have to ask permission each time you reach out to take one? Or interrupt somebeast to say, "May I?" and indicate your cup of tea?
Voles were so silly sometimes.
And everytime they came over and he stopped working in the fields to greet them, they'd glance at his paws, at the dirt on his tunic, and say, "Simon! So pleased to see you again!" - but their eyes said, "Ugh." It would have been more tolerable if they'd said this instead, giving him an excuse to change into cleaner clothes before sitting down to gossip. But no; the level of politeness was such that he had no choice but to try and match it, and excusing oneself to wash while company was over was… it just felt wrong to Simon. They had, after all, come all the way over to see them, so what would they think if he were to run off to the washroom for an hour?
Possibly "Oh, finally."
So instead of going about life being sensible beasts, the compliments and politeness grew into a thick miasma that choked out all pleasure of their company, until at last he snapped. The last two times the Meaneys had been over, Simon had stayed out in the fields for as long as possible, until his wife had called him in for supper, where he ate silently, not meeting the voles' eyes.
Mr. Meaney still hadn't forgiven him for throwing the apple pie at his wife.
At least they were a bit more manageable than the Pardon's brood, though.
Simon knew he ought to apologise. He knew that if he kept this up, the Meaneys would never come over again, and his wife would be terse at him, and then she'd slip further into her moods. She missed Redwall, she missed her friends, but… But everytime he thought about apologising to the voles, he'd think about the voles at all, and doing so just made him so angry.
Simon stared down at the hoe in his paws. It had snapped in two.
He sighed again. Maybe he should just give up farming. Just as he'd given up carpentry and blacksmithing, just as he'd given up reading and writing, cooking and stitching. Just as he'd given up Silene.
Not that Erys wasn't very nice or pretty or anything, but she was hardly his dibbun-hood crush, or the mousemaid he'd tailed endlessly during the rest of his youth… But she'd been all that was left after handsome-adventurer Johnathan had swept through Mossflower, and now she was his wife. He didn't really regret it, as such… He just sometimes wished things had turned out a bit differently.
And now here he was, thirty-four years old, holding a broken hoe in a messy field that wouldn't hardly grow anything, hiding from his second-choice-wife's friends. Being useless again, as he always was.
Any minute now, Erys would call for him to come in. He wasn't sure he could face even her this time.
He bent down to pick up the sack of potato sprouts, to begin planting them, and paused. The ugliest bug in the world crawled over his paw.
He opened the sack. It was writhing.
He dropped it and sat in the dirt.
Maybe he could run away. Nobeast would really miss him. Sometimes he had the feeling that Erys only tolerated him because… because… Sometimes he had the feeling that Erys only tolerated him. She had probably wanted handsome-adventurer Johnathan as well. He probably wasn't even her second-pick at all.
Any minute now.
A third sigh, and he stood up. He could just walk away. Go, perhaps, to Southsward, where nobeast knew how useless he was, and wouldn't find out until after he'd passed through. And if he got lost, or waylaid by vermin, nobeast would mind. The vermin might, he thought, perhaps be a little irritated that he was so useless a traveler that he didn't have anything worthwhile to steal, though.
So why was he just standing here? It was almost dark. Supper would be getting cold. Erys still hadn't called for him.
Simon turned and looked at the house. The door was open, no lights in the sitting room window. Had the Meaneys left, then?
Curiosity overwhelmed his depression, and he stepped closer. He could hear things now, soft crying from the bedroom; Pegg was awake. Another pang of guilt tore at Simon's heart. Pegg… he'd almost forgotten about him. His own son.
That was it, then. If he couldn't think of his own son while considering leaving, then that was proof he had to go. Erys could find somebeast useful, who could teach Pegg how to read and write and do sums and farm and cook and build things…
Pegg would be better off without such a useless father as Simon.
Yet even as he turned away to slink into the forest, something tugged at Simon's mind. Pegg was still crying. Erys could always calm him down by now. Where was she, then? Had she left with the Meaneys without telling him? Maybe, it wouldn't surprise him. But with the door open and the fire out, and Pegg still inside?
It just didn't add up.
Simon crept closer, ignoring the myriad tracks in the dirt outside the front door. There was only a little lamp left on in the house, and it was on the floor. Simon picked it up and held it aloft, to illuminate a scene of disaster. Pots and pans, all sorts of dishes littered the kitchen floor, the cupboards hanging open and bare. And there, under the table, Erys.
Simon cried out, and knelt by her side. She was breathing, but bleeding, unconscious. Gently, he cradled her head in his lap and burbled apologies and oaths to her as Pegg's incessant crying filled the house from floorboard to rafter, out a broken window into the air; together, a klaxon call of sorrow, wailing over the barren fields as night fell.
That had been seven months ago.
The Pratchett reference was amusing, if a little distracting. To be honest, I felt a little cheated by it. It's a brilliant first line that immediately draws us into the story and shows us something of the character we're about to get to know. However, the fact that you didn't come up with it yourself drew away from it just a little, in my opinion. But on to the actual story.
From his personality and history, Simon sounds a little mentally challenged, which I found to be an interesting characteristic; however, this doesn't seem as apparent in the story. If he had so much trouble learning skills (or anything at all, for that matter) you'd think it would be apparent in his thought-process, but he seems to be able to think pretty clearly. Perhaps he fails to excel simply because he doesn't care?
The ending was a little surprising; while the application is an excellent snapshot of Simon as he was seven months ago in his storyline, it's probably not the best description of what he's like currently. This also means that most likely some of the things I commented on, such as his depression, may not be valid when you consider how Simon may have changed over that time. Probably, it would have been preferable to focus on the here-and-now aspect, unless Simon hasn't changed significantly between then and now.
The accounts of his relationship with Erys leave something to be desired; we can tell that neither of them is very happy with the other, but for the most part, it's all described in a very vague, fuzzy manner. There doesn't seem to be any motivation for him to marry her, if he really doesn't love her, and she just sounds like she could (and would) do better than Simon.
Overall, there are some contradictions throughout that are a little bothersome. The most obvious is the depression and his apparent failure to do anything about it, either positive or negative. There's also the contrast between your description of him in his personality and history and how you describe him in the story. In the former two, he comes across as a rather simple, mentally impaired beast, but when you write him, he seems very complicated.
Now, then. What I love? You have drawn me in perfectly. I want to know more about Simon; he intrigues me the way he is now, and I'm curious to see how he will develop and change. For the most part, you have a very good balance between telling just enough to keep us interested, but not telling so much that we get bored. Your writing style is amusing and lovely to read – you tell a story very well.
Of course, this column can't continue without a supply of characters to crunch. To have your character featured in a future issue, please fill out the following form:
Species (does not apply to human characters)
If possible, please include a writing sample with this character; I ask that the sample be 1000 words or shorter. It should either be in the form of a short story or an excerpt from a story or RP that showcases your character. I will accept both human and furry characters.
To send me your character, either PM Saarh Jevsa on Terrouge forums, or email me at email@example.com
Farewell until next time!