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In this surreal road novel, Anthony searches for the father he’s never met: Andy Kaufman, the legendary song-and-dance man from the ’70s. There’s a few problems here, of course. A) Andy Kaufman died in 1984, and B) Thanks to a recent cancer diagnosis, Anthony doesn’t have much longer to live, either. However, new evidence has come to light that questions whether or not Kaufman is actually dead. Could he be in hiding, after all these years? Anthony is determined to discover the truth before his own clock runs out. During his travels, he will encounter shameless medicine men, grifters, Walmart shoppers, the ghosts of Elvis and Warhol, and the Devil himself.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Unleashing The Good Doctor Sullivan -- Writing Characters

“If you come with me, The Good Doctor Sullivan will see you. He has promised to take me to see elephants, and then he will put their eyes into his pocket. You must not follow. He will put your eyes in his jacket pocket too.”
--The Siren Lucinda by T. Fox Dunham.
Published by Scarlet Literary Magazine

The Good Doctor skulked his way into my narrative. I was oblivious to him at the time. He manifested as a happy accident, the way the creative soul throws in a new element, a frisson of inspiration like spotting the glimmer of a star on the night—or the death throes of a star sucked into a singularity vortex. Writers can’t plan for these moments. When it happens, run with it. It quakes worlds.

Doctors have been the great saviors and nemeses of my life. They’ve brought healing and suffering—burning, piercing, violating, cutting, injecting, mutilating my body. They were always kind. The Good Doctor Sullivan is kind. When my young life turned into a war with cancer, his birth was inevitable. From this, I draw much of my work. Its fire always finds fuel, and I channel much of the energy into my horror and dark fiction. The Good Doctor Sullivan is the vessel of this anguish, this desperation.

He first manifested in my short story, The Siren Lucinda, published by Scarlet Literary Magazine for their Siren issue. I thank you, Editor Janice Roberts. Link below. He never appears in the story, only spoken about in hushed whispers by his wife Lucinda, her eyes darting to make sure he is not near. With the manuscript closed, I thought him done. Then, he appeared again and again, spoken about, referred to by other names, sometimes just a quick mention. He seeded himself into my narrative, growing flesh with each new story, accumulating into this world.

His most recent conquest was the Dangers Untold Anthology, an Anthology with contributors from The Horror Society. He is the unseen hospital manager in my story, House of Decay. I was honored to be chosen from this collective of the best horror authors, artists and filmmakers. But I must warn you: He’s using us, building a body, carving himself into our consciousness. I cannot defy him. I do not wish to. He’s offered me peace if I serve all of you up to him. He is so very kind.
Authors do more than generate stories. We create worlds. It’s the prerequisite to good writing. Readers only see flashes, moments in the lives of characters who are born, live and die in our heads. Their entire continuum grows a landscape in our creative visions, and we return to these worlds to freeze quantum moments in narrative then stamp them out on metal sheets for readers to glimpse. We harbor these inchoate entities, sharing our perceptions, falling in love, running in terror. Character continuums stay with us.
Good characters don’t come directly from life. Indeed, people in common reality are the source for these animated vessels, but we never pluck a person and drop them into a narrative. Effective characters are composites, usually blended from the choir of persons who pass through our lives. The masses become our palettes. We grab his phrase, her dress, the old man’s anger, the ex-girlfriend’s fear of ants. Authors generate new souls this way, reworking stale reality into realized paradigm. That’s another vital point:

Stories are hyper realities, dramatized, and a good story is never a copy of boring, random reality sans a compelling plot.

Very seldom does life happen like a story. Humans love fiction to build, to follow a culturally developed order. Our fiction begins with a conflict, builds as our protagonist fights to resolve this conflict, then the story ends with its resolution. Life is out of order, random. That’s why biographical movies often reorder events. Don’t blame the screenwriters. It’s a movie.

Thus, The Good Doctor Sullivan manifests himself into my work. I don’t know what makes him or the Gods he worships. I’ve not yet found out or been let in on the joke. As I told Eric J. Guignard, I’m chasing something. You’ll be the first to know when I find out.

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Also please check out my new stories featured on Philly Flash Inferno. Acedia: In The World of Tommy Aquinas is about apathy, the son of a B-52 pilot who flew missions to the edge of the Soviet Union, prepared to kill millions of humans. He was a good man. And The Van Messiah, a drug addicted wretch kept alive by the soulless who demand a savior. Links below.

I thank you for reading my first blog entry. This sort of personal commentary doesn’t come easily. I let my stories speak for me, throwing them into the sky for sunshine or storm. I prefer tempests. Return here in future for writing wisdom, updates about my work, and observations on the writing industry. I will be of use to you. 

The Siren Lucinda by T. Fox Dunham -- Published in The Scarlet Literary Review:

Acedia & The Van Messiah by T. Fox Dunham -- Published in Philly Flash Inferno:


  1. My characters are also composites born from snippets of my life. Very good points, Fox :)

  2. So interesting to get a behind the scenes sort of look into how you see your characters and stories! I can tell reading your blog is going to be just as good as your stories.

  3. It's going to be fascinating to see where the Good Doc takes you and your writing. Stories with him in it always touch on something bigger but something that hidden just around the next corner.


    I nominate you as a Handsome Fox Blogger, Fox :)

    1. Aww.. Thank you Tara. I'll do this. =)


  5. Hi – It’s good to read such interesting stuff on the Internet as I have been able to discover here. I agree with much of what is written here and I’ll be coming back to this website again. Thanks again for posting such great reading material!!