Thursday, September 6, 2012

The many faces of Wade Barnett

In the past weeks you have seen a lot of Fly Away Home. It is the project I am working on most consistently, and I've been able to put at least 1,000 words into it each time I sit down. {Which has been pretty much every day!} Thus it is nearly the 40k word-mark which is pretty good! I already know that this story won't stretch out much more than 55-60k words--it is not meant to be a hefty, serious novel. But though you've gotten to know Callie, and though you've heard a lot about her boss, you don't know him that well as himself. I am going to remedy that today.

At first glance, Callie and I thought Mr. Barnett was just an old-fashioned goose who happened to be famous.

After all, he doesn't approve of and hardly understands Callie's ideal of a successful woman. To him, success is entirely based upon merit. He even looks down on his own fame as being a whim of society, and something he really doesn't care two pins about. He is easily pleased and has some idiosyncracies of his own, like having not one, but two files marked "Things That Make Me Smile" and include items like "blueberry pie," "feeding pigeons in the park," and more. He is rather considerate than otherwise, and is ever eager to be of use.
Just that description alone would make a nice, lovable character, but for me it was too one-dimensional. So Mr. Barnett is just a stick-in-the-mud, albeit a charming one? 


There is a downright alluring side to Mr. Barnett that is a bit scheming, a bit roguish, and a lot smart. Of course he means well, but he can play the antagonist on occasion. He bosses Callie around about what she ought to wear, and gives her frank opinions of everything--even when she doesn't ask for it. He's always poking at Callie, trying to whip her into a froth so that:

"...think about tonight from a professional perspective: Nalia loved you. Our little tiff has earned you a new friend already. If we both continue on clever as you please, our little partnership will take off in no time.”
“It sounds an awful lot like a set-up,” I said. “Still…it might be fun.”
Might be fun? By Jove, Callie! To see your eyebrow arching higher with every jab and to see you parrying each thrust like a master swordswoman—anyone in Society would pay good cash to see a match like that. We’ll sell the act, Cal.”

The more conversation Callie and I have with him, the more I realize there's a tiger beneath the faded brown coat. 

Wade Barnett is not a bit absentminded. In fact, he's more alive to the moment and more in tune with the heartbeat of Society than most anyone out there. It's that very thing that makes him such a cool guy. He's got the observation of Sherlock Holmes, the decency of Mr. Knightley, and the wit of Benedick.
He trusts Callie, which is also a thing that could perhaps be his downfall {no promises here} and feels comfortable in her presence. At first he was all courtliness, but the farther we get in the book the more he walks with his hat tipped back and his hands in his pockets. He starts to drop "Miss Harper" and takes up "Callie" as a more natural form of address, though he's not bold enough to call her "Cal." At the same time that they strike sparks from one another and are definitely attracted to one another, he doesn't let her forget that he's the teacher and she's his pupil. Vexing for Callie, but one of the reasons I like Mr. Barnett so much. 

        Mr. Barnett roused me from my brown study with a rap of his knuckles against my arm. “We’re here. Now remember what I told you. Be charming and engaging—like you did at the club last night—but keep your eye and ears open. Take notes on what they do tell you, but also on what they don’t. You must learn to tune your ear to suggestion and to ferret out the cause of that suggestiveness. But whatever you do, don’t be pushy.”

He has no false ideas about anything, including a relationship. He's not so blinded by Callie's wit and charm that he fails to see her bad points. He knows she's naive and not well-trained so he sets about fixing that at the same time he is relying on her. Wade Barnett is not a perfect man and he doesn't boast to be. But he is a veteran in the field of journalism and a man well-accustomed to the world. He has strong values that he is immovable on, but he's tactful and considerate of everyone.
One of my favorite tasks in writing the relationship between Calida Harper and Wade Barnett has been getting to show that they don't take themselves seriously. They are ever exchanging barbed insults that would kill other people but merely give each other amusement. There's a constant give and take in their relationship that makes for a really interesting science experiment at moments. Sometimes he's almost tender, others he and Callie spar like alley-cats. When I started Fly Away Home and realized what sort of book it would be, I challenged myself to write a character I could fall in love with...

...Mr.'ve gained my undying devotion.


Elizabeth said...

Oh, I like all the pictures!

Kendra E. Ardnek said...

He sounds like a fascinating sort of guy. I'm glad you succeeded in writing a character you could fall in love with!

Dakota Densmore said...

LOVE the pictures! (and the descriptions of Mr. Barnett too, of course. hehe) Do you happen to know WHO the guy in the pictures is? He just looks sooo familiar!!

Rachel Heffington said...

Dakota, he is Gregory Peck--an actor during the middish 1900's. :)He starred in Roman Holiday, To Kill a Mockingbird, and a ton of other films. :)

Abigail Hartman said...

I'm so glad Mr. Barnett ended up with a model like Gregory Peck. I read your snippets, and I think: "Yes. Yes, that's right. Gregory Peck is simply perfect.." Alas, for he could never play Mr. Barnett in film...!

Thank you for doing a more detailed post on this dear fellow. He's a real brick, even with his scheming and his roguishness and his wit. You can see from the start why he annoys Callie so. But though despite her issues I very much like Callie, I'm not at all sorry for her difficulties with Mr. Barnett. ^.^

Rachel Heffington said...

Yes--Gregory Peck *is* perfect for him and I am really vexed that he can't play a film version. Actually, I'm pretty sure that the picture of Gregory Peck with his pipe, and then one with his hat on the cover of Life Magazine influenced Wade Barnett. From the moment I thought of him I thought of Gregory Peck. I am glad you think it matches, because I certainly think it does!

Julia said...

Such a fascinating man! Really, Rachel, this is brilliant stuff. Let me know if you need somebody to *ahem* sample your work (can I read your book???) and share thoughts about it! I've heard I make a good critique partner... ;) Just ask Rachelle. :D


Chloe M. Kookogey said...

If there was a single doubt in my mind before now as to Mr. Barnett, it was shattered the minute I started reading this post. Rachel, he's wonderful, simply wonderful. Much as I like Callie, I think he is my favorite character in Fly Away Home; maybe even my favorite of all the characters you've written. He has the sort of personality that makes you like him almost instantaneously, even if he can be a bit bossy. Very interesting indeed . . . ;)

Anonymous said...

If he resembles Mr. Knightly, then I too, am in love with him. ;-)

Maddy said...

Wow! He does sound like a dashing character, wish I could meet him! I read this post and my first thought was, 'I must read this book!' It sounds delightful, when do you think you will finish? Will you put it up for sale on Amazon?

Rachel Heffington said...

@Julia- Knowing me, I probably will need a might luck out. ;)

@Elizabeth Rose-I am so glad you're loving him as much as I am! I hoped it wasn't just a guy I was fond of, but one that would captivate everyone. :)

@Mamie, I really think you'd like this mix of Mr. Knightley. He's a great guy.

@Maddy, thank you! I'm not certain when I'll finish--I'm aiming for November. I hope to publish it someday, but I don't intend to self-publish so it may be a little while before it's available to buy. But I earnestly hope it will be someday and I'll keep all of you updated!

Jack said...

I like him! I hope some day I can meet him even better. He sounds fantastic!