I woke up this morning with one of those She/He blurbs in my brain. I have no idea, it’s not dreamwork, the last thing I did before I fell asleep was work a crossword. What was interesting about it, as I fought my way awake (very slow waker-upper here), was how it pointed out the weaknesses in the story. It’s not a good blurb, but evidently the Girls weren’t interested in good blurb, they were shrieking at me to fix my protagonist.
Here’s the bad blurb:
She’s a detective of indeterminate origin.
He’s the Devil’s apprentice.
Her partner is a trigger-happy cop
His nemesis is an Evil Henchman.
The Devil in Nita Dodd
They’re gonna save the world if they don’t kill each other first.
Again, terrible blurb, but hugely helpful in pinpointing the basic problems of the dynamic of the story.
1. Nita’s only interesting because of her ancestors.
That is, Nick and Max have interesting, active jobs and Button is pro-active with a gun. But the way Nita is described is just Geneology.com stuff.
2. There’s no tension in Nita’s relationships.
Nick and Max are opposite sides in Hell, so there’s tension there. Nita and Button are just partners, no tension or real relationship there. The women are both cops, the men are both (technically) infernal, so there’s implied tension between female and male, except that Button’s the onlyl one with agency in the blurb, Nita just exists as an end product, so she’s a blank again.
3. They’re not gonna save the world.
That part just sounds snappy. They’re not even going to save the island. Just defeat some awful people and change the island. Hmmm. “Change” sounds good. But not the world. We’re not global here. Maybe something more along the lines of “fight the good fight”? No.
It’s 7:30 AM and this is in my head. Rats. Back to work.
So I looked at this from the point of view of goals:
Nick wants to close the gate and find his agents.
Button wants to further her career.
Max wants to protect his boss and not die.
Nita . . .
Nita wants to solve Joey’s murder. Why does that seem so . . . wimpy? Because it’s so cliche? Because it’s too close to vengeance which is a godawful motivator? Argh. IT’S TOO EARLY TO THINK.
So after some still half-asleep cogitation, I have realized that I have ONCE AGAIN given my heroine a negative goal. That “wants to solve Joey’s murder” was just papering over the underlying goal which is:
To deny the existence of the supernatural.
I know this because the turning point at the end of the act is not when she solves Joey’s murder or gets a big clue that moves her forward, it’s when she accepts that the supernatural is real.
WHY DO I ALWAYS DO THIS???????
I mean, every damn time.
Okay, so regrouping. A lot of this is because I’m still fuzzy about what the antagonist is doing; not why the antagonist is doing it, but exactly what the plan is.
And after I said this weekend that the goal is absolutely not to save the island, I think it’s to save the island, politically. This sucker is turning into me venting about what’s happening to my country, which is not good because I don’t do political screeds. Rats. And apologies to whomever I disagreed with about the whole island thing: you were right.
Argh. Must have breakfast. Protein is good for the brain.
Okay, still haven’t had breakfast, but answering Jane, I got this stream of consciousness:
I think she wants to keep the island safe because it’s her home; it’s the whole hero’s journey thing except she’s not leaving the island so it’s more of a discovery plot (well, detective) than a road trip. Her family is really woven into the history of the island, too, so there’s that. Tradition, roots, belonging, the whole thing, plus she really loves the place itself. One of the things I loved about having nine acres in Ohio was that I could leave eight acres completely alone for wildlife to own. I loved the idea of protecting that land. I can see Nita just wanting to protect the land and the people she’s grown up with, the traditions, even the amusement park. I think as an adult, Nita would have an excellent grasp of the symbiotic nature of the place being an island, the amusement park being the main form of income, and the isolation in the winter giving the community its core identity. I think she’s like the cycle of the seasons, the privacy of the winter and then the big party in the summer. I think she’d like knowing so much of the people, saying hi to them on the street, knowing how the island worked.
I think part of the problem of America in general is that we’re so damn big that we don’t have a national identity, aside from the stuff that Trump is dismantling. But in smaller groups, in small towns for example, we are fiercely connected by an identity, a common understanding of who we are. It’s what gives us a sense of belonging. It’s why I left my small town at seventeen; I did not belong there. But Nita belongs to the island and beyond that, in her mind, the island belongs to her. She’s there to protect it.
So I think the big picture of protecting the island would be the lens through which she’d view everything else. That is, she’d be upset by Joey’s death, but the thing that would chill her is that it’s another piece of evidence that the island is in trouble. Another portent, so I have to set up that there have been previous portents. Blood on the sun, a lion whelping in the streets . . . . And now Joey’s execution is another sign that’s something really wrong with her island.