Consider Johnny Barnes, One of My Original Characters
Who is Johnny Barnes? What connection does he have to the Real Hub Universe?
Every story needs some sort of a villain. Johnny fills the bill a little too well.
Where Did Johnny Barnes Come From?
I wanted to create a character who would be hard to redeem. He would be uncultured, uncouth, and selfish. Complicating matters, he would be one of the sons of the richest man in Ballyvaughan.
The Past is Prologue — Backstory for Johnny Barnes
So, the Barnes family has five sons: Christopher, Paul, Alfred, Johnny, and Arthur.
Christopher, the heir, marries the respectable Harriet, who he meets in Scotland. They have a daughter, Darragh. Paul goes into the church, and is ordained earlier than he is supposed to be. But money talks, so no one questions that.
Alfred is one of Ryan O’Malley’s star pupils, the other being Ceilidh herself. Alfred is probably gay, and goes to the university at Galway. Arthur, something of a wastrel, ends up in the army. He even fights a native uprising in Malaya.
And then there’s Johnny.
He does not have the inheritance or the calling. And he’s not bright enough to rival Alfred. Not even close. And while he’s just as much of a ne’er do well as Arthur, he isn’t even perceptive enough to go into the military.
So, he drifts. Starting off in rough carpentry, Johnny has no talent for it. Jack (the patriarch) and Christopher eventually give Johnny his own patch of land to work. The bottom line is, he’s not much better in status than the cottiers in Ballyvaughan.
Rough, dark, and unkempt, I think of Oliver Reed in the movie, Oliver! Reed was a difficult person all around, and died relatively young. He wasted his life and his talent.
So, in a lot of ways, he and Johnny are like two peas in a pod.
Because they have no other use for Johnny, and Mary O’Malley needs to stay in the village, Jack and Mary come up with a plan. They’ll marry Maeve to Johnny. So, this should have worked out. In particular, he and Maeve actually like each other.
But the reason it doesn’t at first is because of one person — Nora Barnes.
Dying of cancer, Nora wants another grandchild. Harriet is forbidden from having another child, due to her health. Although Ceilidh doesn’t necessarily believe this. But either way, Harriet and Christopher are out of the picture. The other sons are unavailable for some reason or another.
Maeve is still very young and scrawny and has not yet gone through menarche.
As a result, Jack, Mary, and Nora turn to Ceilidh.
Quotes (in the Prequel, Johnny and Ceilidh are Left Alone for the First Time)
Johnny got up and came closer. “Now, Ceilidh, ya can do this in a way that’s at least kinda pleasant—although I don’t think girls like this stuff much, not even Maeve—or it can be rough an’ unpleasant. So, ya should tell me, Ceilidh, what’s it gonna be?”
She bit her lower lip and stared at him, looking into his eyes, a dark brown that was almost black. I see naught but coldness and cruelty there. I don’t know what you see in Maeve, or she sees in you, but at least you’re suited for one another.
She shut her eyes for a second. I curse every day of hunger, every moment that made it harder for Maeve to get taller and stronger. She sniffled a little. I should have given her more of my portion. I should have worked harder. Ceilidh trembled. I should have sold the last of the books. I should have—
“Well?” Johnny came closer and breathed on her neck, making the hairs stand up. “Like I said, this could be kinda pleasant, at least for me. An’ if I like it, I’ll be more agreeable ta ya an’ your Mam an’ Maeve, too.” With a rough, paw-like hand, he clumsily caressed her cheek. “Harriet’s a good girl, come from a fine family. An’ ya’re not neither o’ those things. But dress ya up in good things, like silk an’ lace an’ all that, an ya could pretend ta be. No one would ever need ta know ya came from dirt.”
Johnny is a brute at the best of times. His relationships often reflect this.
He has fun with Maeve, who is smitten with him. I have toyed with the idea of him being developmentally disabled. But I think Maeve (who is smarter than she behaves) would not be so taken with him if he was. In the main books, he is abusive to her. But he is also a decent father, particularly for the time.
Scared of him and disgusted by him, Ceilidh is appalled when the topic of switching the bride is brought up. But in a small way, she can thank him, for he got her to leave Ballyvaughan.
Since Nora rules with an iron fist, Johnny is no exception. She disdains him and often treats him the same way she treats many of the cottiers — like something to wipe off her shoes.
Her only interest in him, at the end of her life, is as a means to an end. But that’s her interest in virtually everyone else as well.
Johnny and the Rest of the Barnes Family
Apart from his BFF Arthur, no one in the Barnes family is terribly impressed with Johnny. Harriet is clearly uncomfortable with him. Jack is disappointed. Christopher and Paul essentially order him around. But to be fair, they order just about everyone out.
Conflict and Turning Point
Johnny’s real turning point is twofold. One piece is the initial turning point where Ceilidh leaves Ballyvaughan—and him. He tells everyone in the village that she’s died, lost at sea. But she sends money, and he has no problem intercepting it or spending it.
His second turning point is when she returns to Ballyvaughan a few years later, with Jake Radford and Devon Grace. Her return makes his story of her death fall like a house of cards. Much like money changes Ceilidh’s circumstances, it also changes his. But at least he can be honest about things.
Johnny Barnes doesn’t really have any continuity, and there are no connections or Easter Eggs when it comes to him.
I have no real future plans for him. He’s an unpleasant character, meant for really just one purpose.
Johnny Barnes: Takeaways
Like Ceilidh’s hard early life, Johnny is a symbol of how harsh the world really was, particularly for poor women. As such, he has nearly nothing to recommend him.Character Review — Johnny Barnes #amwriting Click To Tweet