If you are a beta reader for The Closeout Kings, and you have not completed the survey, you may not want to read beyond this point because I will address a particular element pointed out by some of those that have completed the survey. As always, I don’t want to influence your opinions, so if you haven’t taken the survey stop reading… now.
Okay, I think we’re alone now. There doesn’t seem to be anyone around. We can talk freely. First, let me thank you for filling out the survey. Your participation and comments have been extremely constructive. The first thing I’ve addressed based on your feedback is the character of Kenny. A number of you pointed out that he lacked a background story, and that prevented you from really connecting with him. I gave extensive background information on Step and Dani, and as a result, they received higher overall ratings than poor ol’ Kenny. I like Kenny, and I want you to like him too. So I inserted some back story for the slower closeout king. It’s not as detailed as Step and Dani’s, but it does give you an idea how he ended up doing what he does for a living. I added it to the chapter where he visits Suzanna Campbell’s trailer. Here is the actual passage:
Kenny opened the door and stepped up on the landing. Peeking his head inside, he saw the lumpish figure of Suzanna almost melted into the frayed fabric of her couch. Her eyelids hid away half the pained look that had anchored into her battered soul. She was the deadest woman that ever drew a breath.
The chubby closeout king’s mind flipped to memories of his own mother. A saintly woman she was not. Her most tolerable moments were spent passed out on a similar couch in Kenny’s childhood home. She guzzled homemade skunk wine from the time she kicked out of bed until the time she planted herself face first onto the drool stained fabric of that rat chewed sofa. In between rising in the late afternoons and drinking herself into oblivion by early evening, she took a hand to Kenny’s fat cheeks every time he dared to place himself in her field of vision. She could not stand how stupid and unkempt he was. “The devil himself could not make something so offensive,” she’d say. “And don’t God want a thing to do with you neither.”
The dank, confined space of the trailer reminded him of his childhood even more. He spent his youth imagining the walls of his house closing in on him. Every day, he would compulsively check to see if he could fit through the bathroom window in case he ever had to escape his shrinking home. He knew it wasn’t really shrinking. He wasn’t that stupid. But that didn’t mean it didn’t feel real and crushing all the same.
His mother was the first person he closed out. He didn’t do anything to actively bring about her demise. He just watched as she choked on a bone while eating a cold extra crispy piece of fried chicken over the kitchen sink. She reached for him and mouthed a blue-lipped help. Even motioned for him to get on the phone and call someone. Eleven-year-old Kenny ripped the phone out of the wall instead. When her heart put out its last thump, he finished off her chicken and breathed a little easier.
He didn’t go without beatings after her death. His old man knocked him around for this and that. His old man’s girlfriends slapped him around. His grandparents, his teachers, even the kids at school lit into him more frequently than not. Kenny was pretty much beaten by nearly everyone who ever came into contact with him until he started punching back. As it turned out, he was pretty good beating the snot out of anyone that had it coming, including his old man. Throwing punches led to a stint in prison for involuntary manslaughter which led to meeting a cousin of Boss Perry’s which led to a career as a closeout king which led to meeting the only and best friend he ever had Step Crawford. And if you asked Kenny, he’d tell you he had a pretty good life because of it.
Feel free to let me know if this does or doesn’t help you connect with Kenny a little bit more. I hope this illustrates to you how important this beta read phase is to me. Thanks again for your help.