Book Done Yet? No, I’m Fighting With the Antagonist

villain_iconI 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.

80 thoughts on “Book Done Yet? No, I’m Fighting With the Antagonist

  1. Good luck finding your villian/ness!!

    I have all the faith in the world that you will, because you’re brilliant. And I love your work and your worlds and your teaching.

    But I’ll just hang out wishing you luck at the moment, because I don’t know why these people are doing these things either. (Except it seems to me all demon-based, not non-demons vs demons. But I’m not good at politics, so what do I know?) Even if I did know, that would only help if I was the one writing it!

    So…. Good luck! And yay for crochet and gardens!

  2. I’m madly trying to finish the first draft of the current WIP (which is at 88K and almost at the end, except someone keeps moving the end, dammit) so I got nothing either, except to say, GO JENNY GO.

    (Why do I feel like in this particular case telling you to go to hell would actually be a GOOD thing?)

  3. Good luck and I wish it could be easier for you. Hopefully you’ll have lovely weather to enjoy the blooming plants in your yard while you cogitate.

  4. Do not, under any circumstances, google “how to recognize a demon.”

    The interwebs are full of inter-wingnuts. Like the one who explained that an overweight woman was possessed by a sugar demon. Who knew?

    Or the Weekly World News on Nine Ways To Tell If You’re Possessed:
    1. Low energy levels

    2. Character shifts or mood swings

    3. Inner voice or voices speaking to you

    4. Impulsive behavior

    5. Memory problems

    6. Poor concentration

    7. Sudden onset of physical problems

    8. A sudden onset of anxiety or bouts of depression (especially after hospitalization or any other trauma)

    9. Weight gain with no obvious cause

    Clearly, I am possessed. But we knew that.

    The stuff out there is beyond bizarre. Yes, I know googling demons is going to get me bizarre, but I thought it would be mythology stuff. These are people who stepmothers have convinced them that a demon is following them.

    I’m not going to sleep tonight. ARGH.

    1. Maybe use Advanced Search and enter “.edu” where
      it asks you to specify a domain? Academics are wingnuts, too, but at least you’ll get learned wingnuts.

      1. Good idea Pam! Piggy-backing on Pam’s suggestion: redo your search at In this way, the results will be confined to actual, published books, which reduces (but by how much?) the kook factor.

        Back to the WIP for the Book-You-Are-Not-Writing…I feel your pain, but am somehow grateful that your fabulous mind does not automatically identify and create the bad guys and their hideous intentions easily!

        A pretty sketchy character I once knew said she figured out in kindergarden who took the teacher’s pen. It was one of the teacher’s pets. It had to be; she had the most to lose if found out.

        1. But Google.books would not tell me that only a Saint can expel a Major Demon. The wingnuts are frightening, but they seem to have some skills. The problem is, they think mainly in demon possession, which is not a thing in my book, although now it has to be dealt with since about 90% of the wingnut stuff I’m finding is about that. I think demons have been made scapegoats, especially since the original meaning of the word was a good entity.

          But yes, I will follow Pam’s and your advice. There are some very scary websites out there which are hopefully run by two wingnuts out of their basement because . . . brrrr.

          That “most to lose if found out” is a good benchmark for an antagonist. Not all of them, just the ones that are trying to hide what they’re doing, but it’s a nice yardstick just the same.

      2. Seeing as how I work at an edu library, I asked the Head of Ref. for resources. She suggested …

        ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials: Produced by the American Theological Library Association, ATLA Religion Database indexes periodical articles and book material in biblical studies, world religions, church history, and religious perspectives on social issues. Its coverage begins in 1949; there are over 1.3 million records for articles, citations to more than 200,000 essays, and over 400,000 book review cites. ATLASerials, part of our subscription, provides links to the full texts of 100,000 some articles from more than 50 journals.

        Rutgers has a license to it. ( and I’m guessing that as a resident within NJ, the librarians there would be happy to assist you in obtaining any articles you’d like from the database. If they won’t and you do wish a copy of something, my institution also has access to it.

        1. Thank you very much.
          I think I’ve had enough religion in my surfing. I thought demons would be more myth than current religions, but I was wrong.

    2. Obviously I’m possessed, too. At least I have various symptoms from that list. Good thing I follow your blog or else I’d never have found out about it.

      Weight gain with no obvious cause… Character shifts and mood swings… Finally I have an explanation which does not come back to menopause.

      Does that site also list 9 Things To Do When You Are Possessed? Because I have no idea. But that’s probably due to no. 1 and 6.

    3. Sur sounds like a checklist for depression to me. I guess we used to call them demons so we could blame some one/thing outside ourselves.

  5. Nothing useful or insightful to add, just a big ‘good luck’ (and a promise not to Google ‘demon spotting’).

    Plus, heartfelt gratitude to you for sharing your process. I’m trying to wrestle a proper book from a fun-but-broken DLD draft and it’s So. Hard. Makes me feel a million times better to know that you struggle, too. Argh. xx

  6. Nit-picker here. Don’t the twins have to be identical? (Maybe there’s another set you haven’t identified yet, which will make everything fall into place. Antagonist twins.)

    This makes me more hopeful that if I actually start writing a real story will eventually show up.

  7. I assumed someone in charge wanted Demon Island as a stepping stone to taking over the world, then the universe. Kind of an “island today, world tomorrow” followed by maniacal laughter or something.

    Or a way into the “Underverse” from Chronicles of Riddick. Might need to rewatch that again…

    Or just a way out of Hell and back to the fun of playing/messing around with living people.

    1. My problem with “take over the world” is “and then what?”
      I think it’s hard to make relatable. Somebody deciding they hate demons and they’re going to get rid of them all, we have people like that in real life (and one of them is running for our President, so be afraid). Or somebody deciding that it’s time there was a place for their kind and planning to take over a town, especially a town on an island, that’s possible I think (Wesen in Portland, zombies in Seattle, for example).
      I’m going down a rabbit hole of the “damage mothers do” right now, which makes me a little nervous (Hi, Mom), but I think the things we drill into our children become part of them, and then if that understanding is upended, if you suddenly understand that integral part of your personality in a new light, there’s a lot of rage. And if that sudden understanding (in the now of the story caused by an event in the now of the story) is followed by two more blows to that internalized Absolute Truth, then I think a person might go over the edge. I don’t want a megalomaniac as the Big Bad, they’re just ludicrous (again, I give you Trump), but a good person who always does the good and right thing suddenly seeing his or her whole life in a new way might pursue the Greater Good as a murderous zealot.
      I think. Still cogitating.

      1. Maybe the demons are coming to Earth (or this island) looking for some natural resource that’s plentiful there but running out in Hell? Not oil or coal, not even a resource that we’d even recognize as a resource. (just throwing random options out into the ether). Or maybe it’s iron deposits; useful thing for keeping other demons in check.

          1. Or fear. The idea is: hell can only exist if people are afraid of it. The more indifference, the less power. The demons’ job is to feed this fear. If they are doing their job poorly, they must be replaced.

          2. So preachers like Jonathan Edwards (Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, which is admittedly an amazing piece of writing) are demons?
            Everything I’ve found in the Real World so far is about possession not about fear, which in turn seems to me to be Blaming Something Else For My Screw-ups (As in, “The Demon made me do it.”).

      2. I like that.

        I know as I get older and replay some of the stuff my mother said, I realize (1) she lied to make her life easier and shut me up, and (2) she was just plain wrong much of the time (non-reader, mostly, high school education, anti-intellectual). There’s whole sounds that are actual words that mean something different from what I thought from context, but as a kid I learned the sound (“dingedmybumper”, “fenderbender” and many others) and only had the context to figure out what they’d meant.

        1. My mother was astounded that I wanted to go to college. She thought I’d work some job until I get married and then work part time and raise kids. I was a junior in high school when she said that. I said, “Have you met me?”
          But looking back, she was doing the best she could. She was preparing me to live in the world she lived in where looks and housekeeping were everything. This is the woman who washed window on a ladder wearing high heels. She knew how she’d raised herself from lower blue collar to middle blue collar and she was determined to keep me there safely. It never occurred to her that I could rise.
          So yeah, she gave me bad advice–she put me in a girdle in sixth grade–but it was advice to help me survive in the world she lived in. She didn’t really understand there were other choices.

          1. What an incredible insight, and so true for that time. As a teen during the early 70’s, I myself didn’t know until well after I earned a Master’s Degree that there had been any question about whether or not I should attend college! I’m really glad I didn’t know that at the time though.

            As you pointed out, mothers want what’s best for their children; what’s “best” certainy seems to change with time.

          2. I think it’s so important to see our mothers in context.

            My mom is in her late 60s and so was a young girl in the late 50s/early 60s and grew up wearing dresses and doing her hair and wearing makeup and all the time I was growing up she told me she hated being forced to do those things and swore that she would never make her daughters do them. Never Make turned into Never Let and once I was out of toddlerhood I never had any dresses until I bought them myself. It seemed that she spent so much time rebelling against what she grew up with that she didn’t seem to understand that I might want to do those things. I learned that girls who wore makeup were stupid (next to cruel that was probably the worst thing you could be in my family) and for my 13th Christmas bought me a bag of makeup.

            It was a good 25 years before I could explain to her how that made me feel.

            She never realized what I was learning from her. It took me a long time to realize that she really did do the best she could and that some of the things I learned were not what she wanted me to learn, she just wanted me and my sister to not be constrained by the roles of women that she grew up with (and maybe not to get pregnant at 20 and married at 21 even though she’d been with my dad 4 years at that point). My sister is a single journeyman millwright who only works long enough to save money to travel the world and I went to university and got married at 33 so I guess we learned something.

            This is also the woman whose menstruation talk consisted of giving me the M encyclopedia. Sometimes she smacked it outta the park, sometimes she didn’t.

    2. Huh. My read was that some demons went onto the island to make it their own private little play place/vacation spot and that kind of evolved, as things do, and now you have these half-demons, half-humans running around. It wasn’t really a problem until one of the original vacationers decided they needed to clean up that mess because they were getting involved in something else and couldn’t afford to have anybody find out about what they once did on the island. Did anyone ever watch Monk? The reason his wife died (spoilers?) was because the judge was cleaning up past indiscretions so that nothing stood in the way of becoming a judge. I know other stories have done this plot, too.

      Funny how people read things differently. This is also why the “what was the author trying to say here” question from school always bothered me.

      1. Yep, that was my first idea, but it didn’t work out as I spun it out. Too many “why would they do that?”s to make it workable. The Afterworld isn’t a bad place, so they’re not escaping anything. I could see it if they picked an island like Tahiti, but this piece of rock in New England? So I’m reconning that. I’m doing a Retcon Demon Island Bedjacket as we speak.

        1. Well when you put Tahiti and New England side by side…

          Re: escaping. I like my house, but I still like going somewhere new…of course I don’t try to colonize, so yeah…ok, I see that “why would they do that?” now.

          This is hard. Thanks for doing all that heavy lifting.

          It’s that “three attempts to colonize” bit. That’s some serious effort. You don’t expend that kind of effort unless you have a Goal.

          1. Excellent point.
            I think I have to shift the times so that they colonized the island to as soon as Satan passed over Mammon and put a dead human in as Devil. They’d want a place to meet to discuss the Overthrow. Impeachment? Which is actually in the news today. I can’t write the satire faster than the Republicans make it real.

          2. Would the timing work out with how fast stuff moves in Hell v. Earth? Three of our generations for one of their overthrow meetings?

          3. Well, I can move things around. Nick died just over 500 years ago (520, I think) but he spent time in there as Satan’s right hand man. So if I the settlement was in 1814 or so, he’d have been the assistant for about 300 earth years or fifteen hell years, which would have made him the Devil for the last 200 earth years or ten years in hell. I think. When I decided to write fiction, I was told there would be no math. So they’d have spend ten years their time laying the groundwork, gathering support, etc, which sounds about right, especially for a race of people who don’t have death knocking at the back door.
            But it does require further cogitation.

  8. Rule it absolutely. I don’t think that needs to be fleshed out too much. Besides, the heroine and/or hero will stop them, either before it gets to that point or shortly after the takeover.

    Or for fun, a Trump-type figure gets to banish the big bad by being so freaking obnoxious that even the big bad realizes the headache of ruling living humans isn’t worth the effort.

    My parents didn’t do a ton of damage to me, at least that I’m aware of . But yeah, they did program some stuff into me. The stuff I’m aware of, I’m ok with or it’s not a core part of me. Modesty and being Catholic are the personal examples I’m thinking of for me. I am Catholic. It’s bone deep in me and Yes, changing that would require multiple hard hits, probably simultaneously, authoritatively and because I do understand me, ongoing for the next 20 years to make it permanent. Modesty, meh, that’s been slipping since my 20s. There’s a few scraps left. It’s not a big deal to me. I hope this makes sense!

    1. They do a good job with the Catholic identity in Spotlight. They don’t demonize the Church, but they show how the knowledge of the abuse hits Mark Ruffalo’s character so hard because of that.

      For me, it was my belief in government, the idea that America could do no wrong. I was nineteen and a sophomore in college when Kent State happened, and it shattered my entire worldview. I thought my dad knew everything, and he was adamant that Rhodes had done nothing wrong, but they shot students, they shot people like me who were going to class, my own government . . . I pretty much became a radical liberal Democrat in about a second and a half. It took me a long while to get past that to some kind of equilibrium. I’ve had other things happen that changed irrevocably the way I viewed the world, but nothing like that.

      So I think if a person’s worldview is firmly set in a belief that is then destroyed, as mine was, that person becomes untethered and has to gather up the pieces to build a new worldview, and some bad things can get in at the broken places. Or at least some zealotry.

      1. So I watched a video clip today that had a person asking college students at a Portland State University if they would support the group “American Friends for Hamas” a fictional group to “wipe Israel off the map.” He explicitly asks for donations to bomb “soft targets such as hospitals, schools, and cafes”. The students were supportive and he raised hundreds of dollars from various students according to the adjoining article. The person who did this was Ami Horowitz, a filmmaker who produces satirical videos.

        I mention this not to get political, but you became a radical liberal Democrat because our government shot students. We’re now teaching our students that it is right to kill other students, the sick, and the ‘innocent’. It makes me very, very sad.

        1. Wow.
          I don’t think that’s true of all students, but I do think late teens/early twenties is a time of such passion and turmoil that it’s easy to get caught up in things. Much of Bernie’s support is students who want to change the world, not bomb it, although the idiots in Nevada did him no favors.
          But I also think that we’re desensitized to violence in this country, that most people don’t know what a bomb really is outside of the movies. I read somewhere that more toddlers have died from gunshot wounds in this country in the past couple of years than police officers. That doesn’t mean I think cops should get shot, but it does mean that it’s more dangerous to be a toddler in America than a cop. Which is insane. I don’t believe in hell, but if there is one, I hope everybody in the NRA goes because they stop even sane gun control practices.

          I’m still stunned by that Portland survey though. You’d think Portland would be laid back. University of Texas, not so much, but Portland?

          1. “more toddlers have died from gunshot wounds in this country in the past couple of years than police officers. […] it’s more dangerous to be a toddler in America than a cop. Which is insane.”

            Just incomplete math: there are a *lot* more toddlers than cops, so each individual cop can be less safe even if fewer cops get shot.

          2. Yes, but that’s incomplete without context: There are a lot more guns around cops than there are (or at least should be) around toddlers.

          3. I know. I expect college age students to not be paying attention or striving for saving people, especially in a place like Portland. I kind of want to stand on my own campus and ask people a similar set of questions to see what responses I get. I want 100% saying “You’re nuts. Go away.” Maybe in the fall when non-international students return.

  9. Why I read fiction, reason 129- you can vanquish antagonists. I wish I could vanquish the real life ones.

  10. Are your demon families fighting each other over “rightful” ownership/ control of demon island or is something else going on?

    I ask because I’ve been binge-watching Game of Thrones. It seems to me most of the wars/ regicide is due to each family believing their “man” is the rightful, one true king. “This is our land by birthright and we must take it back!”

    1. They don’t really do families. Since demons are immortal or close to it, they don’t reproduce. They’re fallen angels and not that many fall. But like any group of mammals, they form communities and they want their community to be in power, which is how you get the Demon Firsters.

      Of course that begs the question of how demon are impregnating humans, but I’ll get to that. One damn thing after another.

      1. In the Book of Genesis, the angels were procreating with humans, so fallen angels could definitely have children with humans.

        Also, about your garden, no worries – you don’t have weeds, you have prairie/meadow recreation.

        1. With amazing wildlife value. In fact, it’s very self-sacrificing of you to put the natural ecology first like this.

          1. It’s over half an acre (which is a lot smaller than the last place), but the vast majority of it is behind the house on that hill down to the lake and I never touch that. So the wildlife around here is covered. But yep, when I finally get a landscaper to come in an clear out the mess that is my front yard, it’s going to all bird/bee/butterfly native plants. The side yard I’ll still have to mow because dogs, but that’s do-able.

        2. That’s what I keep telling the neighbors. The guy across the street has a lawn like a carpet. He’s not buying it.

  11. My mind doesn’t work on that higher creative level like yours does. I have no skills at building fantasy worlds and stick as close to reality as possible. Boring yes, but that’s all I can do, otherwise I have severe headaches in trying to juggle so many facts, characters, settings, etc. It’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it. That said, whenever I get stuck I pull out my copy of Story by Robert McKee and read what he has to say on the matter. Somehow, I always seem to find my answer. 🙂
    Good luck as you crochet and cogitate.

    1. I don’t think of it as building a fantasy world, I think of it as daydreaming with intent.
      And reality isn’t boring, it’s terrifying. (You’ve been away. Catch up on American news.) Fantasy is the comfort zone.

  12. Thank-you for this post. I thought it was just me! Only I’m not crocheting, I’m trying to tighten up the prose and reprogram a website at work right now. You’ve given me hope and an excuse to walk the dogs twice tonight, if it just isn’t “coming” yet. 😀

  13. I’m not sure I have all the details straight, so I could be off on some tangent that doesn’t connect to the world that’s emerging….

    And I keep circling in my head around the ideas that:
    1.) Demons are fallen angels.
    2.) The road to hell is paved with good intentions
    3.) Nina is supernatural somehow, but not a demon, or descendant from a demon (this what I can’t remember) so presumably not in heaven but not banished to hell….

    These three ideas may or may not lend themselves to an antagonist who has been banished for doing what (s)he perceived as a good act and is frustrated, disgusted, tormented by the fact that others who participated in the same acts aren’t punished like (s)he was — so a being with a good heart, who feels betrayed by the inequality around them, becomes a tormented soul intent on restoring their own sense of justice and fairness in the world?

    1. The big problem I have to get around for readers is that I’m redefining hell. It’s the Afterworld. It’s not a place of punishment, everybody on earth goes there when they die. Different cultures/religions/belief systems have different interpretations of what that is, so there are different parts of hell that take in their own believers, but there’s no burning pit. Parts of it are excellent: The Elysian Fields and the Fortunate Isles, for example. Other parts, well, you do the crime, you do your time. So what you had is a bunch of unintegrated hell-states ruled over by the Devil who, depending on who held the office, did actually govern or just let everything go to, well, hell. That’s why Satan hired Nick. Nick came in and organized the states, codified the rules, created an advisory body, and basically cleaned up the chaos that was the afterlife. Most of his job consisted of record-keeping and working with the different parties to form a semi-unified whole. So nobody’s trying to get out of there; it’s a perfectly fine world. But it’s main reason for being is to deal with the spirits of humans and animals and everything else living (maybe not plants) that have died, so it’s a growth industry.

      So the road to hell for humans is pretty much paved with death; that’s how they get there. The demons are demoted angels if you will, they’re not suffering and some of them are happier down a class level anyway. Heaven runs the universe; it’s a complex job. Hell is just there to help the dead from Earth. There must be other Hells in other galaxies, but I’m not going there, any more than the characters in Bet Me went to Pittsburg: their problems were in Cincinnati and that’s where they stayed.

      So that’s a helluva lotta backstory that needs to go in there without being back story or infodump. This is why complex back stories are BAD.

      As for Nita, that one I know. Heh, heh, heh.

      1. So Sheol…If every dead spirit has gone to the afterworld, how does it deal with population control?

        1. Well, Sheol for Hebrews. Hel for the Norse. Ereshkigal for Mesopotamians. Just depends on what you believe.
          Keeping in mind that I have not given this a lot of detailed thought, they’re spirits down there, not bodies, and they get a choice once they’ve served their purgatory time, whatever that might be. They can either be reincarnated and do the whole dance over again with no memory of before, or they can move into dream sleep and rest. I think most new souls would choose to go back and dance again, and old souls might choose to become one with the universe from whence they came. Plus spirits don’t take up that much room, it’s really mostly the record-keeping that’s tricky.
          As I remember–and it’s been awhile since I read about Sheol–that was a pretty grim place. I think the purgatory section would be all fog and mist and sleep, but after that, there are a lot of beautiful, colorful afterlifes; no reason why Hell can’t be beautiful overall, depending on the belief system. I wouldn’t want to wander in Jonathan Edward’s Hell, but I could spend some serious time in the Elysian Fields.

        2. And keeping in mind the speed of time difference, they have people streaming in constantly. Hordes of them. This place is a bureaucrat’s dream or nightmare. I can’t decide which.

      2. I suggest that you start with a DiscWorld-style description of the Afterworld for people like me who are slow to latch on to what you’re doing.

        So Nick is happy with his afterlife because he gets to continue doing the job he loved, and he is not being punished. Took me a long time to get that through my noggin.

        And Nick has been watching everything going on in the world through the lens of everyone dying. Would that mean that he is accustomed to conversations with the dead and finds talking with the living more, perhaps, frustrating? Does he have to allow free will when he’s working with the dead (the way he does with the living)? Do people change after death? Is Nick unchanged except for the knowledge he has gained?

        I know that the demons aren’t pleased that a dead human has the top job. What do demons think of humans generally? From what you’ve posted so far, it seems to me that demons are somewhat disdainful of humans. Do I have it wrong?

        I agree with the comments that suggest that earth and earthlings must have a special allure for demons, or at least had when the demon firsters came. (Your idea that the move was in response to Nick’s ascendency in rank makes sense.) Hmm. They knew that they were doing something intentionally that had serious consequences for Heaven, God, the Devil, et cetera. Did they keep their human families in ignorance of their demonhood because (1) they didn’t want the news to get to the Devil who would close up their hellhole, (2) they agreed between themselves that no humans were capable of believing them, (3) they liked certain aspects of being demons among humans (power? control?), (4) they liked noncompliance as a continuing state of affairs (power? Republicans?). What consequences would they face if their hellhole were discovered?

        Umm. You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to.

        1. Discworld is told in omniscient. My stuff is almost always third limited and never omniscient. So no authorial explanation of anything.

          I think “happy” is not the word you want. He’s dead, so emotion isn’t really a big thing for him. Emotion lives in the body and he doesn’t have one. But he likes organizing things and running things and he’s good at it, and we generally do tend to keep doing things we’re good at.

          He doesn’t have a lot of conversations with the dead because the dead don’t converse much. But he’d have to be aware of what was happening on earth so he knows the languages without knowing pop culture or details. The dead don’t have free will because they’re dead; they’re not making decisions any more. Think of Sheol, only not that dreary. A big part of the process is Niflheim which has become a kind of way station/purgatory/dream state, the first stop in hell. Nick’s not in a dream state because Satan pulled him out of Niflheim and made him his assistant. He’s changed in that he doesn’t have a body so he doesn’t have emotions, which also separates him from the other Devils and demons because they do, so that makes him a little creepy to them, that he’s always calm. Nita thinks he has an uncanny valley vibe, and that’s as good a description as I can think of. The dead that still have emotions are the ones that are trapped on earth as spirits. Demons really hate them because they have to be fetched and they fight back. But that’s another book.

          Demons are like humans: they’re all different. So some are just fine with Nick as Devil because he’s doing a good job. Others don’t like it because they see humans when life is gone so they’re not exactly firecrackers as companions let alone leaders. Others are just complaining about him being a dead human because they want his job. Kind of like American politics.

          “Disdainful of humans” is the same. Some humans are disdainful of demons, too (trust me, I’ve seen the websites).

          The big differences are that demons are virtually immortal but they don’t reproduce. Humans reproduce but they die. Those two differences have a huge impact on how each race views life, and unless they’re open-minded, they tend to look down on the other race. This is usually not a problem because they’re in different spheres of existence in different timelines. But then there’s Demon Island.

          Travel to earth is regulated for obvious reasons and pretty much restricted to problem-solving and soul-retrieving. The interesting thing to me is what happens on Demon Island to the demons who stay because they change. They become semi-human in that they can have children and they age and die on earth, never to return. They end up back in Hell as demons, but they’re old, they’ve spent a big chunk of their life-so-long-they’re-almost-immortal on earth–two thousand years for every hundred on earth–and they don’t get it back. And they can never go back to earth because they’re dead there. So the demons who choose to stay have to really want that life badly because they’re going to sacrifice a lot for it. And that’s also why most demons kind of dash in and out without staying long term; it takes a toll. If you’re there for a day, you’ve only lost three weeks of your life; that’s not a bad exchange. Vacation for the summer and you’re looking at years lost.
          I think at least their spouses know; there are too many things that would crop up, like the heat from keeping up the human facade, although that’s basically picking a human skin color instead of pale green. It’s not like Nick, who’s maintaining the illusion of a body; demons have bodies just like humans. They’re just a different race.

          I really have thought about this. I just need to keep thinking.

          1. Hey, I never doubted that you’d thought about this. I’m simply slow on the up take. Also, I ask too many questions. Always feel free to ignore my posts.

            So Nick chose the same hulk bod look he’d had when he was alive, but he feels no emotion toward Nita or anyone else. But he is discovering that he experiences hunger and likes onion rings. And the conflict box for Nick included, “… then somebody is trying to kill Nita so that has to stop.” Is that conflict merely because Nita has partnered with Nick, like Vinny?

          2. No, no, I didn’t mean that. The more of a rumination to myself. Ask any question you want. Answering them helps me think this stuff through.

            Nick’s on an arc.
            Demons go to earth and begin to assimilate.
            But Nick’s from earth, he’s going home. So he begins to revert. There’s nothing in hell to remind him of who he was, but when he gets to the island again, he’s surrounded by humans. They’re very different from the people he knew, the food’s different, the clothing is different, the sun’s a lot hotter because we’re missing an ozone layer, but at the end of the day, people are people, eggs are eggs, cotton is cotton, and the sun’s still a big yellow ball in the sky.
            Did you ever go back home to your parent’s place and begin to revert to being a kid again, falling into old patterns? That’s Nick.
            And then something happens that kicks that into overdrive, but that’s a spoiler. Basically he’s assimilating as naturally as he can, considering he’s a 15th century dead Italian, but he’s still come home.
            As for what he looks like, that’s developed from the first drafts because I’ve got a better understanding of what’s happening to him. He looks like he did then because that’s what he remembers, but if you tried to reconstruct what you looked like, you’d probably rely a lot more on photos than from memories of what you saw in mirrors, especially 15th century mirrors and paintings instead of photos. So he’s got the basics of what he looks like down–he really was a good-looking guy–but he’s missing things like pores in his skin and crinkles at the sides of his eyes when he smiles. Nita says something about him looking photo-shopped, the uncanny valley thing. He does the best he can, but it’s a supporting detail for him. He just has to not look like the skeleton he is so he doesn’t terrify people.

            I think even before he starts to revert, he has a strong sense of justice and moral right, so he’s going to be determined to find Joey’s killer and to protect Nita because he’s positive that what’s happening is because he came to the island to close the hellgate. It’s his responsibility. So it’s not necessarily an emotional response in the context of “I love these people” as it is part of his duty. And then that changes. Because reasons.

          3. You’re never a pain.
            If you let demons go to earth and meddle in human lives, there will be problems. Then add to that the idea that visiting Earth is bad for demons because they lose time and grow older, and there’s a protectionist aspect, too. But mostly I think it’s just the idea of separate spheres. Demons at the local bar explaining the Afterlife is just not a good idea.

          4. I am so weird, but the phrase “15th century dead Italian” in this context just turns me on so hard . . . . I’m picturing Rudolph Valentino with a codpiece. (Probably wrong era, but god, I don’t care. Mmmmmmm, mmmmmm.)

  14. I keep thinking of Jamestown and multiple attempts at colonization. They were fleeing to get to do things their way. Maybe Nick’s world is fine but not to them? Maybe they can’t stand organization? (I live with people like that.) or they like it but can’t do it?

    Also for some reason mutant goats might be scapegoats.

    1. I think they were angry, the first four, and they found a place where Nick wasn’t in charge.
      And then I think one of them decided the island needed people to build things and serve them unaware, and probably found the rebels on the shore who wanted to start something new.
      That’s part of what I’m working through Mammon. He’d be angry and hurt and he’d want a private place with his friends to vent, but he wouldn’t have dragged humans into it.

      1. So … the demon-firsters on the island wanted people to “serve them unaware,” yet “Demons go to earth and begin to assimilate.” Sounds like demons are as much into denial as humans. Wow, and they have so much to lose. . .

        I keep thinking that you’ve already started a litany that Nick goes through every time he encounters a new human group. After saying he is the Devil, he must answer, (1) What did you do wrong to be sent to Hell? (2) What do you mean about “Afterlife” in the context of MY idea of the post death experience? (3) What are you in relation to me? (Actually, his conversations stop before he gets to question #3.)

        Nick fascinates me, especially in comparison to North Archer who looked wraith-like, was locked into a relentless legal non-life, and had lost so much time.

        1. Oh, good comparison to North.

          Demon-firsters are not all demons. The demons who assimilate are not all demons. Demons are as varied as humans. Which makes them a lot of fun to write.

          And the conversation after “I’m the Devil” is usually disbelief and scoffing.

  15. I love how these comments are weaving a tapestry portraying the power of Satan, mothers and weeds.

      1. Well, writers can connect anything…but yeah, all can be seen as forces for good or not-so-good.

  16. If you’re researching demons, I checked out a book from the library recently that I can recommend: THE DICTIONARY OF DEMONS by Michelle Belanger. Useful reference.

  17. (Did anybody notice I have a Chinaman, a secret passage/hellgate, and twins in here? Because that was not easy to pull off.)

    I recognize this! You are rebelling against the rules of writing golden age mysteries or something, LOL. Have you got opium dens or the equivalent? Where was that post? Ah, found it! LOL, no opium dens forbidden, except by implication. I wonder what other rules you are planning to break?

  18. I’m veering back to the idea of fighting with the antagonist in your books, which I came to via your post about tone and mood. First, I loved your differentiation of the two terms, so I reread Faking It. I think both Bet Me and Faking It have perfect matches of tone and mood, and I agree with you that Faking It is emotionally deeper. But is the antagonist in Faking It a person or is it each character’s need to stop faking, acknowledge who he or she is, then decide what to do with that admission? Or is it both? Is Mason a Malvolio — the one character who has no sense of humor about himself and is selfish and callow to an extent (murder in Mason’s case) that’s inconceivable to the others and their world? Or, do I have it all wrong?

    1. First there are two kinds of conflict, internal and external. (That link gives you a short explanation.)

      The characters’ need to stop faking it is internal conflict. The fight with Clea to get control of her paintings is Tilda’s external conflict. Mason is Gwen’s antagonist. And then there’s the romance plot which is Tilda vs. Davy, both conning and negotiating with each other, trying to find that middle ground. I think Faking It is a romance novel with a caper subplot, but romance novels without an antagonist that’s external to the couple are hard to pull off, so Clea figures in there nicely since Davy’s after her, too, because Rabbit gave her all his money (the Charade Plot).

  19. Thanks very much for the response and the links. I see what you mean, and, further, this story works especially well for me because I didn’t see those flags (this antagonist, that antagonist) waving at me, except for Tilda vs. Davy. Part of that success occurs because I have different favorite characters each time I reread the story: Tilda, Gwen, Clea, Davy, and Nadine. It’s interesting that your description of writing the book on this website says that you began with Eve/Louise. The Eve-Andrew-Tilda-Jeff-Simon part is good, but, for me, Andrew, Jeff, and Simon are kinda flat. I hope Eve gets her own “right match” soon after the events of Faking It.


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