Saturday, July 30, 2016

When You Put Characters in Charge...


Two weeks ago I plunged full force into writing my new book.  I let it go in whatever direction the characters wanted to take it. Obviously I’m a pantser rather than a plotter…and I’m a little late this year in putting on my shorts.

Living as I do in Greece, there are a lot of potential topics to touch upon, but the refugee situation seems to strike my fictional friends as hard to ignore, even though most of the real world—as represented by its media—seems to have successfully done that.

Here’s a bit I let my characters write a little over two weeks ago—but please be kind to them, for after all, it’s a first draft:

These days there wasn’t much refugee trafficking business to lose, but his boss saw it as a cyclical business.

Sooner or later there’d be a falling out between the EU and Turkey, or Turkey would find a reason for ratcheting up the pressure on Greece; either scenario inevitably triggering a resumed flood of refugees.  That’s when money would again flow into his pockets, but only if the [victim’s] plans never came to pass. 

He hoped his boss was right, because he’d gotten used to the money.  But his boss had been wrong before.  He’d predicted the flow would resume after the EU cut its agreed upon daily per refugee payment to Turkey in half, but nothing happened.  His boss attributed that to Turkey not wanting to stir up a quarrel with the EU while in negotiations to join it as a member state.  “Be patient,” he’d said.

Full stop. 

They’re developing characters here, so please don’t judge this as an expression of political leanings on the part of their shepherd.

However on July 15th, a day after those words appeared on my laptop, a failed coup attempt took place in Turkey, and Greece’s insistence on following international law rather than giving in to Turkey’s demand for the immediate return of Turkish military personnel seeking asylum in Greece, seriously irked Turkish President Erdogan.

Coincidently, also on July 14th, the Financial Times wrote,

Migrant arrivals in Greece have fallen since the [March 2016] EU-Turkey deal, which called for mass returns of migrants in return for visa-free travel for Turks in the EU’s Schengen zone, provided that Ankara reformed its terrorism laws to meet the bloc’s conditions.

As recently reported in the Greek newspaper Iefimerida, within a week following the attempted coup, the flow of refugees from Turkey into Greece’s northern Aegean islands of Lesbos and Chios (which bore the brunt of the pre-agreement flood of refugees) had become “particularly intense.”  Nowhere near the volume of the year before, but sufficient to remind governments how easily Turkey could once again plunge the EU and Greece back into that political nightmare of human suffering. 

But rather than openly rattling that saber, President Erdogan couched his nation’s threat of potentially abandoning its refugee agreement upon the EU purportedly failing to live up to its financial obligations under the agreement, a charge the EU denies.

Today 57,000 refugee/migrants are said to sit in camps in Greece and another 250,000 in 26 camps in Turkey.  Estimates of how many undocumented refugees are elsewhere in those countries vary greatly, but of the more than 4.8 million Syrian refugees thus far registered as fleeing Syria (with 6.6 million additional listed as “displaced” within Syria), 2.7 million are registered as arrivals in Turkey—of which many undoubtedly were included within the one million who entered Greece in 2015.

With no end in sight to the conflict in Syria, and tens of millions of refugees in play in the region, this is not a crisis that will just go away, despite the EU’s fervent wish that it would—facing as it does Brexit, rising nationalistic anti-immigrant sentiment, a Turkish government obsessed with consolidating power in the aftermath of a failed coup, Turkey’s warming relations with Putin’s Russia…and yesterday’s bombshell from the IMF’s Independent Evaluation Office that incensed its board of executive directors "at the way European Union insiders used the fund to rescue their own rich currency union and banking system." [Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, The Telegraph].

In case you missed it, as reported by The Telegraph, “The International Monetary Fund’s top staff misled its own board, made a series of calamitous misjudgments in Greece [immolating the country in the process], became euphoric cheerleaders for the euro project, ignored warning signs of impending crisis, and collectively failed to grasp an elemental concept of currency theory. ”

Head of the IMF

Oh yes, and then there’s the US Presidential election drawing the world’s dominant power in who knows what direction.

My God, what have I done trusting my characters to write this story!

Perhaps I should write a cozy.



  1. Jeff, you *do* have a way with words, always brightening up our Saturdays...

    (And I'm not surprised that your muse is drawing you to the refugee crisis!)

  2. Thank you EvKa, it's just what I needed to hear to get those characters back to work on their musings.

  3. Jeff, this prescience thing is becoming a habit. Maybe you should go into the fortune telling business so you can make lots of money so you can live on a Greek island and spend your time writing books...

    1. Honestly, Michael, it's a bit disquieting. After writing this post I saw another news story announcing a new special report from the EU focusing on the huge economic impact of the counterfeit booze trade. That's the core element of "Devil of Delphi"--written three years ago!

  4. Bro, I suggest you IMMEDIATELY take up writing love songs and anthems about the brotherhood of man. If you have the capacity to make what you imagine come true, we need you to get into a more positive business.

    The thought occurs to me, that your imagination may be completely responsible for the mess the world is in. But that would make you a god. And if you are my brother, what would that make me?

    I can't stand the pressure of such a possibility.

    1. Me, write love songs? Neal Diamond would never forgive me.

      As for my transcendent possibilities, sis, let's just put it this way, no matter my celestial plane, you will always be a star.

      Please excuse me as I exit now for the inevitable entrance of EvKa.

    2. I'm actually sitting here with duct tape over my mouth... er... around my fingers. I *was* going to comment on the typical behavior seen between brothers and sisters in the Greek pantheon, but nope, unh-uh, not going there. Duct tape to the rescue.

    3. I always liked duct tape. And it comes in colors now too, so you can accessorize.