I was talking with Mollie today, trying to explain what was going on with the book and the reason I can never say when a book will be finished, if ever, and I explained why sitting out in the yard and crocheting today was actually working.
Because I’m having antagonist problems.
I never know who the antagonist is going to be when I start a story. It’s a miracle if I get the protagonist right. So then I write stuff, mostly dialogue (this will not be news to most of you by now) and stuff happens and I have no idea why. I knew Nita ate a poisoned doughnut, I didn’t know who gave it to her or why it was important. I knew somebody burgled Nita’s house, I didn’t know why. I knew somebody shot Joey, I didn’t know who hired the hit or why.
But sooner or later, I need to know these things because the antagonist shapes the story. As I explained to Mollie (who probably just wanted to hear “It’ll be done by September”) with no antagonist, the protagonist just makes a beeline for her goal. Of course, Nita didn’t have a goal, either, so that had to be solved by making her manic about finding out who killed Joey, but then who doesn’t want her to find out? And why is this person poisoning her with doughnuts, robbing her house, and sending mutant goats after her? The answers to these questions shape the whole story so I kinda need to know them about now.
This led me to crochet in the garden (if you can call a collection of weeds in bloom a garden, but I digress) where I stared into space as I worked on a jacket and tried to sort out my antagonists, minions, red herrings, and complications (because there can be only one antagonist, sort of like Highlanders). My original roughed-in antagonist was Mammon, but then I met him. Mammon is a pain in the ass, but he wouldn’t try to kill Nita, he’s a political animal. So maybe Moloch: Moloch would try to kill her, but he’s such a dickhead (he’s Mammon’s minion and betraying him anyway) that I think Nita can take care of him, no problem. He’s still in there being a dickhead, and he thinks he’s the antagonist, but there’s somebody using him.
Which gives me a matryoshka antagonist. You think it’s Mammon, but when you open him up, it’s Moloch. But then you open him up and it’s X, and then you open again, and what you have is a lot of people using each other to get different goals, until at the end, Nita comes face to face with the real power behind the conflict. I know who that is, I think. What I don’t know is EVERYTHING ELSE.
Like Lieutenant Chinamin; she’s hinky. (Did anybody notice I have a Chinaman, a secret passage/hellgate, and twins in here? Because that was not easy to pull off.) And then there’s Nita’s mother and grandmother who are both nuts but on opposite sides and Nita’s great grandmother, and what the hell are Brad and Thad Lemon doing, and who are the Guys in Suits (I may not have put that part up yet) and is Vinnie on the level and what’s Joey doing in Hell now that he’s in Paradise (spirit only, but still) and what does that mean, spirit only? Also how did Joyce get there and will she get along with Stripe? And who hired somebody to kill Daglas and torture Rabiel? (It’s okay, the bad guys end up much worse than Our Boys.) And where the hell is that hellgate?
I know there’s a strong, conservative Demon-Firster contingent in Hell that’s been making life miserable for Nick, and Mammon’s been using them without really buying into their belief. When they go too far for Mammon, Moloch’s still there and he does buy into it and used them to get what he wants. But what that has to do with the island is beyond me at the moment, mainly because I’m still not entirely clear on why Mammon and three other demons manipulated humans into populating the island. I’m thinking it was for political gain because it’s all politics for Mammon, but I’m not sure how that works exactly. “Support me and I’ll get you a vacation on Demon Island.” Doesn’t seem all that great.
Then the opposite would be a Never-Demon contingent on the island, except that very few people on the island know that demons exist. So maybe not that. And there’s a female demon who’s angling to be Devil, and I do NOT want her collated with Hilary Clinton (yeah, I’m With Her since Bernie turned out to be terrible under pressure) or any other female in power. I think I need two factions at war with each other and eventually with Nita and Nick since they’re trying to keep the island safe, but I don’t know what they are or why they’re on the island.
I know that somebody wanted Joey dead so he couldn’t tell Nick something important. Somebody wants stuff from Nita’s house, and in the next draft wants her dead. Somebody poisons doughnuts so islanders with a lot of demon blood will die. Somebody sics a very large mutant goat on Nita and then tries to kill her on a dark street. Demons are being killed–Furcas and the old Wainscotts, for example. I JUST DON’T KNOW WHY.
So I’m going to keep crocheting, staring into space, and moving things around in my mind and on graph paper until I get it. This may cut down on Argh Ink posts in the meanwhile, although I’m aiming for a rewrite for next Sunday’s secret link. I figure you’d rather have that than posts anyway, although the PoI post will appear as soon as the episodes appear in my inbox.
And now back to the WiP to write more direct attacks on Nita. Because “this time it’s personal” is really good for a protagonist/antagonist conflict. And maybe if she wrestles one of this assholes to the ground, she can find out why they’re trying to kill her. I’ll take all the help I can get.