Last night, after I had spent a long day with a stubborn geriatric convalescent, I opened my work in progress and began to get back into the story. I hadn’t written anything new all day and I was in some major withdrawal. My fingers itched to tap out more riveting plot. As I sat down and opened my Mac, it smacked me right between the eyes. I still hadn’t decided who my villain was and the obvious choice had literally been right at my fingertips all along. I should have sighed with relief, but I had a big problem. I had written this character too nice. Yeah, that’s right. The villain had too many redeeming character traits. So what’s a writer to do? Of course, I had to go back and scan my manuscript looking for places where I needed to nasty him up. After that, the plot began to shine with the sparkle of suspense that had been lacking.
Don’t get me wrong. I often let my characters get by with murder. Literally. A lot of them have killed at least one person, maybe more. But I like to add a little depth to my villains. I love to give them just one redeeming quality so they aren’t so one dimensional. To make them a little more, you know, human. But this guy? He was just way too nice and understanding and helpful. Something had to give. So you know what I did? I gave him a gun. Yep. That changed him into a detestable SOB pretty fast. Once he had the weapon in his hand, he didn’t hesitate to draw it on my heroine. Ah, did the universe just realign into proper balance? I think it did.
I’m a pantser. I decide where my story begins and where it ends when I start a manuscript. But after that? I fly by the seat of my pants. Or rather sit at my makeshift desk, which is really just my coffee table pushed up close to my sofa. My “office”. Since I quit that horrid day job the living room has become my favorite place to play…um…I mean work. Anyway, I digress.
Here’s my long-winded point… In between the beginning and the end, I allow my characters to develop their own personalities and character as the story progresses. I allow the action of the plot to proceed according to what my characters would do next based on their personalities. The story feeds my characterization. My characterization feeds my story. They feed each other. A symbiotic relationship. So I let my characters get by with a lot, even murder.
Can you can imagine how a story could get all janked up if one of the characters isn’t fulfilling his or her proper role? Heroes should be heroes, albeit sometimes a wee tad flawed. Heroines should be heroines, even if they have one or two character flaws they need to work on. I love letting my characters decide how they want to act and who they want to be, but sometimes I have to smack one around and make him (or her) play nasty.
In my book, Crisis of Identity, there is a smorgasbord of villains. For some reason, these guys chose to villain up all on their own with me roughing them up. Here’s my favorite Padget-being-a-villain scene…
“I said leave.” I snarled and narrowed my eyes. He smiled at me, an appreciative, why-haven’t-I-noticed-you-sooner leer. My stomach roiled. “Let’s get something straight, mister. I don’t care if your libido just kicked in and for some strange reason you think you have the hots for me. I’m not interested in helping you take care of your sexual problem.” The smile dropped from his face, but it was clear he didn’t intend to honor my impolite refusal of his unwanted advances. Well, I had news for him. He didn’t have a choice.
“You won’t hit me.” He smirked with all the condescension of a man who thought of women as possessions and playthings. He probably thought of his first wife as the little woman. His second wife—the prize.
He advanced toward me. Closer than I wanted him to come. He dared to mock me without uttering a single word. He reached for the fireplace poker as if he believed I’d give it up without a fight. I stepped back from him. He lunged and missed the poker by a mile. His grin stretched his face into a grotesque caricature. I’d seen that particular cruel sneer on a man only once in my life. Luke captured the look when he was dying.
You know, actually, I love this scene because of the way Tess handles him. Here’s the blurb for Crisis of Identity…
Tess Copeland is an operator. Her motto? Necessity is the mother of a good a con. When Hurricane Irving slams into the Texas Gulf coast, Tess seizes the opportunity to escape her past by hijacking a dead woman’s life, but Shelby Coleman’s was the wrong identity to steal. And the cop that trails her? He’s a U.S. Marshall with the Fugitive Task Force for the northern district of Illinois. Tess left Chicago because the criminal justice system gave her no choice. Now she’s on the run from ghosts of misdeeds past—both hers and Shelby’s.
Enter Trevor Smith, a pseudo-cowboy from Houston, Texas, with good looks, a quick tongue, and testosterone poisoning. Will Tess succumb to his questionable charms and become his damsel in distress? She doesn’t have to faint at his feet—she’s capable of handling just about anything. But will she choose to let Trevor be the man? When Tess kidnaps her niece, her life changes. She must make some hard decisions. Does she trust the lawman that promises her redemption, or does she trust the cowboy that promises her nothing but himself?
Want to read more? Crisis of Identity is available for purchase at the following sites…