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The Contestants in Harmony House
Let's cheat, shall we?
Not sure what “Harmony House” is? Haven’t yet moved into the reading experience that will make your life incrementally better every Tuesday? Get all the details here in the introduction or just start reading/listening to episode 1.
Convincing people to read a novel with a large cast of characters is a challenge. Convincing them to read it as a serial is possibly deranged. I’m aware I’m stepping way over the line of what any sane writer should expect from readers with my novel “Harmony House.”
So why not just keep going? Why not break all the traditional rules of literature? If it makes the experience of reading easier and more engaging, I say hell yes.
Why not use all the tools at my disposal to bring the story to life for you? It’s why I’ve chosen to spend so much time each week performing, recording, and editing the audio narration. To that end, this post is a cheat sheet for you to reference as you listen or read along. Who the hell is Jayden again and what was her deal!? Think of this like the map of Middle Earth that Tolkien graciously provided at the front of his Lord of the Rings trilogy.
The portraits you see of these characters were all generated by me using an A.I. tool called MidJourney. I supplied the tool with some highly specific description “prompts.” From there it was a process of trial and error:
generate the image
tweak the prompt
rinse and repeat
Until the characters matched what was in my mind’s eye. You can think of it like working with a wildly talented, incredibly fast, and mostly demented criminal sketch artist who thinks largely in tropes and never needs a break to go to the bathroom.
(The Narcissist) Deepu is a 28-year-old second-generation Indian-American whose parents were killed when he was just thirteen. He earns his living as a salesperson for a software company which suits his confident, charismatic personality. He’s obsessed with his wardrobe and places a premium on appearance which is why he has a burgeoning influencer presence on social media. He is terrified of the dark.
His reason for competing in Houze is purely to expand the reach of his personal brand. He would have preferred a spot on Love Island or something sexier.
(The Giver) Taking care of other people’s kids is something Jayden’s done her entire life. She’s a 42-year-old African-American woman who is straight, has never been married, and never traveled beyond the Burroughs of New York City. She’s warm, empathetic, intuitive, and terribly self-conscious about the space she takes up in the world. She is quiet, loves to read, and prefers others to take the lead.
Reality shows have always been a guilty pleasure for her and she auditioned for Houze on a whim, not thinking she would ever be selected. When she was, she took it as a sign to make a clean break from her life as a nanny.
(The Agitator) At 56, Jessie is the oldest among the contestants. He’s a straight white American man uncomfortable with the privilege that affords him. He’s a software programmer by trade and a passionate environmentalist who has spent a lot of time in the woods because he prefers trees to people. His contrary anarchist leanings make him appear gruff and even scary to others. In truth, he is deeply sad and will never recover from the death of his child, Micky.
Jessie is competing in Houze because he’s aligned with the sustainable mission of FutureAbode, but mainly, he’s hoping for an exit strategy. He wants to retire and live off the grid.
(The Believer) Fran is the 39-year-old daughter of a Mexican mother and a white American father who died early days of the Iraq war. She’s an evangelical Christian who was married but divorced a couple of years back by an estranged husband. Fran is beautiful and flirty, but highly judgmental so she struggles to navigate her need to be liked with her need to inflict her worldview on others. She’s worked in marketing for the same company that hired her out of college.
Fran is an avid consumer of reality show competitions and thrives on their dramatic, cut-throat format. Of all the other contestants, she is the one who has practiced for this her entire life.
(The Talent) Cameron is an artist. The 36-year-old gay, black man moved to L.A. from his home in South Carolina right out of high school to pursue a music career with his best friend. He is dynamic, friendly, open, and easily bored. When music didn’t work out, he learned graphic design eventually going to work for the design firm owned by the man who would become his husband.
The modern, minimalist aesthetic of Houze instantly captivated him but more importantly, he auditioned because was homeless. After cheating on his husband he was fired and kicked out of his home with only the clothes on his back.
(The Scientist) Riley, aged 26 was kicked out of his childhood home in rural Tennessee as a teenager when he came out to his parents as transgender. He has had to overcome a lot as a poor, queer, white kid alone in the world. His brilliant, analytical mind earned him scholarships to MIT where he’s currently pursuing a PhD in Bioengineering. Even with the aid, he is drowning in college debt and scared about the future. Money has always been an obstacle. It has prevented him from doing the thing he wants most which is to completely transition into his true gender.
More than anyone else in the competition, Riley is enthralled by everything Houze is and everything it represents. He wants to understand how it works. He doesn’t expect to win, but if he did, it would be a bonus, a way to dig out of his debt.
I Need More Than Once a Week!
If you are reading along and loving the story, but frustrated about the long wait between episodes, I have something for you. My second speculative fiction novel “The Memory of My Shadow” is all online and waiting for you to rabidly consume. Like “Harmony House,” it has high-quality audio narration so you can binge-listen to the entire thing during your upcoming Thanksgiving travel while stranded at the airport shamefully devouring a Cinnabon the size of a throw pillow.
Catch & Release is begrudgingly supported by Ben Wakeman’s Day Job. You could change that by becoming a paid subscriber ;-)