So about Button . . .
I really had her in there to begin with as a foil*/ficelle** for Nita, but then she shot that demon, and I thought, “Huh. Button has layers, and one of them is homicidal.”
So I went back and rewrote that scene in Nita’s house from Button’s PoV. SO much more interesting, especially since it’s a first look inside Button’s semi-deranged little brain. Which actually does make her the perfect foil for Nita, the calm, rational, control freak. And it also means I can do a Macbeth/Lady Macbeth cross-character arc*** between the two of them in their growing-to-be-real-partners subplot. And that gives me another layer to Nita’s arcing out of isolation. At the beginning of the story, Nita’s close to one person, her twin brother, and it’s pretty clear that if they hadn’t been twins, she wouldn’t let him get close, either. But as Mort says in a later scene, “Those nine months of playing Scrabble in the womb together–that creates a bond.” And now there’s Button, who’s going to become something Nita’s never had: a best friend.
So basically, I just love Button and I really love Button’s PoV. Ficelle, foil, minion, subplot protagonist, balance (I was getting a little worried about the predominance of demons in my cast), and if I decide to go with the demon lover I’m toying with for her, I can even get a foil romance subplot . . .
This is the part where I realize I’m being a wonk, put in asterisks, and go back to explain things.
*A foil is a character who shows off another character by reflection and contrast, the way diamonds are displayed on foil to reflect their sparkliness or on black velvet to intensify their light. My favorite foil example is Macbeth and Banquo in Macbeth: at the beginning of the play, they’re the same character, brave and noble warriors. Then they meet the witches and Macbeth accepts the prophecy while Banquo doesn’t trust them. Macbeth continues to fall, horrible, while Banquo remains good and true, which is why Macbeth has him killed halfway through the story: He can’t stand to see Banquo because he sees what he once was. Banquo is the bright foil that shows how dark he’s become. So Nita is dark to Button’s blonde, scary-looking to Button’s cuteness, controlled to Button’s impulsiveness, thirty-something to Button’s twenty-something, tall to Button’s short, etc. And because they’re standing next to each other, Nita looks taller and Button shorter . . .
But I think you can do that with plots, too. If Nita and Nick are people who are trying to build a relationship as their understandings of who they are change radically around them, Button and Max already know who they are. If Nita and Nick at the end are pretty much the same kind of people, Button and Max will always be opposites. And if Nita and Nick are committed at the end of the story, I don’t think Button and Max can be; the most they can get, I think, is a negotiated cease-fire (not a metaphor in Button’s case). I’m still not sure about the Max thing because for some reason I’m pairing the spares like crazy in this meditative discovery draft stage and I think that’s a bad idea. But Max and Button are so wrong for each other that it’s really tempting, so I’m thinking, yes, a romantic subplot as a foil here would be good.
**A ficelle is a character who exists to ask questions. I’m against ficelle-only characters because I think characters should have personalities and goals of their own, not just hang around the plot making convenient inquiries. But Button was already a foil and a relationship subplot with Nita, so making her new on the island so she can ask, “WTF?” when something happens is a no-brainer. A ficelle helps eliminate as-you-know dialogue (“As you know, Mort, our mother is nuts” as opposed to “Yes, that’s my mother, yes, she’s insane, yes, that’s a problem but we’ve learned to deal with it”).
Oh, and ***the character arc cross: I freaking love this character move, another one I stole from Macbeth. (Jenny’s Favorite Shakespeare play for 20, Alex?) A critic I once read and whose name I have now forgotten (I googled and got nothing) wrote that Macbeth’s tragedy is that he loses his moral imagination, and Lady Macbeth’s tragedy is that she gains hers. As a writer, that took my breath away in its brilliance. (As a critic, I think that’s too simplistic–I think Lady Macbeth always has a moral imagination and her great tragedy is that she uses the moral judgment of her women’s world to wreck the moral balance of Macbeth’s male world and then watches the recoil destroy everything she believes in–but it’s still a fantastic insight into the plot construction of this story.) So Macbeth moves from morally outraged at the thought of killing Duncan to accepting murder as a course of action outside the battlefield, and Lady Macbeth moves from not understanding that what she wants is a moral outrage to complete comprehension of the outrage she’s unleashed upon the world. Or if you want that simpler: Macbeth moves from understanding what’s moral to not caring until the end, and Lady Macbeth moves from not caring to understanding, which ends her.
So in Tell Me Lies, Maddie will never leave her small home town, while C.L. couldn’t wait to get out, but by the end, Maddie’s independent of the town and C.L. is ready to stay and put down roots. (They compromise, as I remember, on a place outside of town.) And Button will move from acting on instinct to a more controlled existence while Nita will move from controlling absolutely everything in her path including her own anger to kicking down the door to Hell and laying waste to everything in her path in her rage. Or if you want that simpler: Nita will move from controlling Button’s impulses to accepting Button as an establisher of boundaries once she cuts loose. And Button will move from acting on impulse to understanding and implementing the need for control as Nita goes nuts.
But mostly, I just love Button. She’s a little whacked, but so is everybody in this story, so go, Button, that’s what I say.