What is the Antagonist Doing? What am I Doing? Argh.

The antagonist often gets short shrift, especially in a romance where the lovers are united against him (she gets the main plot, he gets the subplot, the antagonist is the same for both). In that kind of book, the juice is in the lovers and the antagonist shows up to create pain which creates stress which creates adrenalin which spurs attraction which creates lust . . . . Yeah, the antagonist really should not be there as a sex toy, he or she should have a complete plot all to him or herself.

In Nita’s story, the antagonist is deliberately trying to kill, not to mention maim, poison, and put out of their jobs, Nita and Nick, but it’s to get them out of the damn way so he can achieve his ends. If they’d go someplace else and stop thwarting him, he’d leave them alone. Of course, during the discovery draft, I didn’t think much about his plan; bad stuff just happened to N&N whenever I needed bad stuff to happen. The antagonist–let’s call him Cthulhu since Nita does even though he is actually not an alien monster of the deep–has a very clear plan which he’s been pursuing over a fairly long time, and getting rid of Nick is part of it, but not the goal. Nick’s just in the way and refusing to die (again), so there’s a kind of Rasputin plot going on where Nick gets shot, stabbed, and poisoned, and still perks right along, making life hell for Cthulhu. And then there’s Nita, who’s the only one who says, “You know all this random stuff that’s going on? I think it’s one person.” Yeah, she has to go, too.

So I’m trying to look at the story from Cthulhu’s point of view. To him, Nita and Nick are gnats, they have to be brushed away so he can get what he wants. They’re annoying but unimportant. That’s why the assaults against N&N are so random. They get in his way and he swats them, but he’s always heading for the big payoff. Which is the plot I don’t have. I have the swatting stuff, but I finally took a step back and thought, “How the hell is he going to get what he wants? It’s impossible.” Of course, he’s nuts, so that’s a help, but still . . .

So that’s where I’ve been, trying to figure out Cthulhu’s plot. Still don’t have it. At this point, my brains are dribbling out of my ears. Talk amongst yourselves while go out to the backyard to scream.

ETA: So responding here has helped IMMENSELY and I can see Cthulhu’s plan now. You are all wonderful people and I will mention you in the acknowledgements if this book ever gets published.

62 thoughts on “What is the Antagonist Doing? What am I Doing? Argh.

  1. So you have to find something possible for him to achieve as a goal? Is that the issue? (I read the original draft but it was a couple of months ago, and I don’t remember things I read yesterday. Or wrote yesterday.)

    What is the goal currently?

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    1. He wants to be Devil. Nick’s standing in his way, but if he gets rid of Nick, he still doesn’t get to be Devil. He has motivation for getting rid of Nick and Nita, but they’re just gnats to him. He needs a plan for his main goal, which would have to be that Nick evaporates in some way and Satan has to appoint someone else as his successor and appoints him, which is not going to happen. So he must be working to get one of his minions appointed? And then get the minion to appoint him as his successor? I’m cogitating.

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      1. Thinking of real-world parallels, couldn’t his plan be more radical? Since he’s obviously meant to be supreme ruler, he needs to refashion the system so he not only gains power, but then holds onto it in perpetuity. I’ve just copy-edited a book about the crisis in liberal democracy, and Putin’s rise to power, in particular, might be an inspiration. If your guy wants power and knows he should have it, he’ll twist everything to serve that goal. He might keep stuff as window-dressing (cf. elections in Russia), but change them drastically so they now exist only to serve him. The outward form might look like it always used to, but the essence is radically twisted. And he’s supported because he’s supremely successful in making people think there’s no viable alternative; that the old ways/leaders are bad for them.

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        1. Oh, I like that. And it strengthens the minion as Devil first plot. He puts a minion in, makes the minion name him as his successor, offs the minion, and then declares he’s Devil-for-Live. That’s a plan.

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          1. In D&D terms, the Devil is Lawful Evil. Cthulhu’s Chaotic Evil. His motivation and actions don’t need to be rational, Or even consistent. Is there a D&D player in the story who can point that out?

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          2. Yes, but this isn’t D&D. Fiction has to make sense; when the reader gets to the end and says, “But I don’t understand WHY?” I can’t say, “Oh, he’s chaotic evil, he doesn’t need a reason.” Yes, yes he does.

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      2. Huh. That’s what I thought. When I read, I didn’t get the impression it was an impossible goal. I think it just needs tweaking (maybe Satan has some reason why he will have to default to–ahem–the devil he knows) rather than a complete overhaul.

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        1. It’s impossible in that nobody in Hell would give the job to him. So he’s going to have to take it. How?
          I’m leaning toward minion and then killing the minion.

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          1. King Lear: Snaky Edmund sets up his brother’s disgrace in order to take his brother’s place in their father’s affection; then, he rats on his father in order to become Lord of Gloucester; then, he plays Goneril and Regan against each other as he seduces each, leading to Goneril’s husband’s death. He even orders that Lear and Cordelia be killed in prison. While the apparent goal is to become king — which fits chachal’s instinctive tie to Nick & Nita’s antagonist — Edmund mostly is a personified destructive urge, I think.

            By the way, Geoffrey of Monmouth made up the King Lear story. Geoffrey also added the plot pieces to the King Arthur story. In line with this antagonist discussion, Vortigern (a British lord) took over as king of Britain by using Constans as a patsy (Constans was the oldest surviving son of the last king and was also a dumb monk). Once Vortigern grabbed all the power, he had Constans killed.

            It occurs to me that Antagonist swats at Nick & Nita because he doesn’t have the imagination to plot the details of the take over of Devilhood. He carries out one or two step plans until he is forced to think bigger.

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          2. Well, taking out Nick is key. Taking out Nita would just makes things easier, but Nick has to go.

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  2. Wouldn’t it be the case that whatever N&N had done just (0r shortly) before being poisoned, maimed, etc. is a clue to what isn’t going right for Ct? They got in the way, so that thing they keep persevering at is either undoing Thing X or doing Thing Y that’s the opposite of what Ct. wants.

    Or maybe wherever in the town/island they start getting involved has some kind of function or potential function that animates ol’ Ct? I know you like mysteries — I’d start cogitating on it all in that way.

    5+
    1. In Nick’s case, it’s just that he’s in line to be Devil, so Cthulhu has to get rid of him so there’s an opening, and that’s tougher than usual because Nick’s already dead. (I have no idea how I came up with this plot by the way. It just happened.) So basically, anything that happens to Nick is just part of the first step of the plan: create an opening on the way to Devil.

      Nita keeps getting in people’s way because she trying to fix things on the island, which is where Cthulhu is basing his plan, hidden away from Hell. She’s stopping sources of income, arresting minions, and collaborating with Nick to find out who’s behind everything. He just needs them both to go away, so I think the escalation against her is tied more to how close she and Nick become and how they work together.

      but you’re absolutely right that there has to be cause and effect there. Something has to have happened right before he sends minions to attack or the plot won’t make sense.

      7+
  3. Revenge maybe? For his own motive to get rid of Nick? For something current or even something that happened long ago? Even Miss Congeniality had a kind of revenge angle re firing). But thinking also of stories where the baddie is still seething over some perceived wrong perpetrated by someone years ago (not even necessarily the current target but maybe their ancestor). Often the perceived wrong is ego-based, like something they saw as an achievement was undervalued by powers that be at the time.

    Of course, I’ve been purposely not reading much of this story to save for when it’s out so this may not fit but just putting it out there:)

    5+
    1. Oh, that’s absolutely part of it, righting a wrong. I think most antagonists think “I have a right to do this, what I’m doing just makes things fair.”

      7+
  4. If Cthulu’s trying to oust the current Devil, would Nick be a problem if he keeps fixing the Devil’s problems and making his boss look good? Just thinking about the way current politics are being played, and also some of the ongoing issues my father was dealing with at work before he retired. It’s hard to convince people that the powers that be need to be replaced if they seem to be getting stuff right, but if they look like incompetent jackasses then it’s easier to get everyone to reach for their pitchforks. Just a thought, not sure if it’s at all relevant to Cthulu’s situation.

    5+
    1. The current Devil is only going to be in power until Saturday night (book starts on a Tuesday AM), so there’s no point in ousting the current Devil, he’s almost gone. It’s the succession that’s the struggle.

      5+
  5. It sounds to me like Cthuli is playing a human game with human rules – like human politics or the kind of jockeying you see amongst corporate C-level executives. But this is a world where you created the world rules. So, you could consider changing the rules instead of trying to find a cerebral way for Cthuli to achieve his ambition within the current framework of rules. A rule change would look something like: anyone who eats the successor becomes the successor. Etc. Another option: In England they changed the rules of succession so first-born girls could inherit dukedoms etc. So perhaps C do something to change the rules of succession so only C can become successor. And I like it if C has to give something up to get all this, to maintain balance e.g. eternally awake instead of slumbering. C gives up sleep? Sacrifices his spawn? His watery domain? Why do I think Cthuli is male? Would rock as a female entity. Regardless, I’m so looking forward to reading this.

    8+
    1. I’m not sure Cthulhu has a gender in the Lovecraft mythos. This guy is male; Hell’s still a patriarchy. So’s Earth, of course.
      The rules change would be no end to a Devil’s reign so he wouldn’t give up the power after 5000 years, but first he has to get it . . .

      5+
      1. From a world-building perspective, why do demons have patriarchy?

        And really, I know that question is off-topic so it’s okay to ignore. But I have wondered before when it was mentioned.

        4+
          1. What I’ve always wondered is how did patriarchy happen? There’s good evidence for matriarchies in the past; why are they always overrun by patriarchies? I understand the Europeans overrunning the natives of the countries they invaded, they had superior weapons. How the hell did men get power away from women? Especially since it makes no sense for a lot of reasons.

            7+
        1. Because they’re a shadow form of Earth. They’re the company town that takes care of Earth. Their mythology–Lucifer, Beelzebub, Satan–is all male. Their female demons like Lilith are sex objects, sirens and succubi. The only female of power is God, and She’s busy with the universe–Earth and its Hell are only one of millions of planets, so She’s not watching sparrows fall. Hell has its feminists–they’re part of the plot–but they’re still fighting the battle that we’re fighting here, especially not in America. Until 51% of Congress, 51% of CEOs, 51% of the Supreme Court, and 51% of all other positions of power are held by women, we’re still a patriarchy, and that’s before we get to 0 female presidents.

          12+
  6. I assumed he’d try to kill Satan and force take over, or make Satan look so incompetent that with no good alternative with Nick dead, he would be the best option and take and keep power. I agree with above comments – either he trashes the current system and seizes power (and he’d have to be the biggest baddie to take and keep power), or manipulates to be the chosen one and then stay in power. The above comment of making Satan look incompetant by ditching the competent Nick makes sense. Really, how does he take out Satan and take power, woo Satan as the best choice, or subvert Satan choosing at all? That would be my train of thought, but perhaps that’s too limited and I’m not thinking outside my political box?

    7+
    1. Satan’s on his way out so no point in getting rid of him. Cthulhu needs to get rid of Nick to make the job open again.

      4+
      1. Heck, kill Satan frame Nick and be the power structure that puts in a “temporary” Satan who owes their allegence to Cthulhu.

        If Cthulhu takes out Nick, then Satan can choose someone else not of Cthulhu’s liking and Cthulhu’s in the same boat.

        Why does Satan chose an outsider without any type of power base? And for that matter, Nick was a human aristocrat, who died and climbed the ladder in hell, why doesn’t he have a power base after all this time?

        5+
        1. Huh. I don’t even know if Satan can be killed. Never got that far with him because he’s retiring. Satan’s never going to choose Cthulhu, that’s not part of the plan. From a writer’s standpoint, doing the whole framing thing in Hell is a lot more plot, and I’m already cutting 120 pages from what I’ve got.

          Satan doesn’t choose an outsider. He chooses his right hand man for fifty Hell years/five hundred Earth years, a guy who’s level-headed, unemotional (he’s dead), hardworking, smart, and incorruptible (he doesn’t want anything, he’s dead). Hell’s in the great shape it’s in because Nick’s been kicking ass for decades up there. He’s the obvious choice. Even the demons who don’t want Nick as Devil accept that; if the next Devil wanted Nick as a right hand man they’d be all for it. They just don’t want one of THEM (humans) as Devil.

          4+
  7. Is there any chance Cthulhu is trying to off Nick, because he’s literally trying to replace him, as in assuming his form, fooling both Satan and Nick’s Scooby Gang long enough to be appointed Devil, and then remaking Hell (and by extension Earth) the way Cthulhu thinks they should be? Based on the partial drafts I’ve read, your demons don’t seem any more omniscient or infallible than the rest of us. After all, Satan kinda lost his own spawn thirty-something years ago and never noticed. This scenario would have the added virtue of making Nita an active threat to the plan. She’s gotten close enough to Nick to know the real deal and must be destroyed before she gives the game away.

    7+
    1. I haven’t written shape-shifting in as a power, and believe me, this guy couldn’t pull off being Nick for a second. But it’s a nice out-of-the-box solution, even so.

      5+
  8. This is going to reflect my own prejudices and lack of information: a) I’ve only read Act I, and you’ve hinted that after Act I the story expands massively; b) my favorite Crusie novel, Bet Me, has a small-potatoes antagonist, just trying to win a bet. Even using a name like Cthulhu suggests a supervillain, so I’m imagining a huge base inside a volcano, with hundreds of jack-booted minions, dotted here and there with piranha pools, and with air ducts big enough to walk in without crouching. Not my favorite kind of story.

    After reading only Act I, I was imagining a small scale scam (Demon Island), by some clearly not very smart demons, with an attempt at a coverup once the investigation starts, and then a mushrooming attempt to cover up the coverup. These people are green supremacists, so they have an inflated sense of their own ability; they’re in over their heads, and their only solution is to dig deeper.

    If you need something more, make them think that at the unstable moment of transition they will call on the down-trodden green masses to rise up and throw off their oppressors, and in the chaos, I, myself will end up on top! Bwa-ha-ha-ha!

    As far as I care, Nick’s growing humanity could just be a virus he picked up accidentally.

    5+
  9. Lurker. I read some of the initial sections but that was a long time ago. Here’s where my mind immediately goes. Typing as I think, so grain of salt.

    As I recall the end-goal for Nita was to save her island and her community. If your big bad is after power, to ultimately become Satan after playing 9-dimensional chess, what does that have to do with the island? How does anything with the island further that goal, especially when the lovers are gnats?

    And if he’s been playing at this game so long then why hasn’t he been able to undermine Nick already. Hell, have his minions kill him centuries ago.

    Yes, Satan is the ultimate power but there are already multiple power bases at work within Satan’s community so to speak. And outsiders like you said Nick was don’t get designated “heir apparent” unless Satan is playing a game of his own. In which his actions should also move the plot unless he’s a clueless wonder at this point. Is Satan naming Nick as his successor, one of his pawn moves?

    6+
    1. And if Nick is really an outsider and an heir apparent then more factions than your Cthulhu will be trying to take him out. Or currying favor. He’d have all kinds of “noise” going on around him in one form or the other.

      Why would Satan even let his heir apparent go back to Earth? … unless he was playing another game.

      Heck, wouldn’t making Nick a full-fledged human again be enough to take him out of contention for Satan’s role?

      5+
      1. Okay, last post before bed.

        I think the real “problem” with the story is that it’s not a single novel story. It’s a series where each book is self-contained (or not). But they all build toward the ultimate big bad and the real game being played.

        4+
        1. Okay, this is a good exercise for me.

          This book is about Nita who’s trying to save her island and in the process falls in love with the Devil, who joins her in the fight. It begins when she meets the Devil and it ends when she harrows Hell and defeats Cthulhu and saves the Devil, after which they live happily ever after. Trust me, the ending works. At this point it may be the only thing that works, but I’ve nailed the ending.

          So I don’t need the Cthulhu plot on the page, it just has to be there in the background so that everything Cthulhu does makes sense.

          7+
      2. Yes. The Demon Firsters (Hell’s Nationalists) are trying to take him out, Demonistas (Hell’s Feminists) are trying to take him out, his rivals for the position are trying to take him out, and Cthulhu is trying to take him out. They all have the same problem: He’s dead. What are they going to do to him?

        Nick’s job is trouble-shooting on Earth, but he didn’t go back. As he tells Vinnie in the first scene, he sent an agent down to handle the problem and the agent disappeared. He send another agent down to find her and solve the problem and that agent disappeared. He sent his best agent team down to find them and solve the problem and they couldn’t find the agents or solve the problem so he came down to help them and got shot, which was annoying because he’s dead. Satan tells him to come back and Nick says, “Not until I’ve figured this out,” and then he meets Nita . . .

        Yes, making Nick human again would be enough to create huge problems with the succession. The problem is, the plot to make him human isn’t working. They shoot him and stab him and he just gets more annoyed.

        5+
    2. I see Hell as an analogue to Earth, a kind of company town, so the vast majority of demons are just trying to make rent and have a nice time with the spouse on the weekends. And then every five thousand years, power is transferred, and things goes pear-shaped until the transfer is over, and then everybody goes back to whatever they were doing, unless the guy who got the power is a narcissistic moron, which is what everybody is trying to prevent. There are several narcissictic morons vying for power which is why Satan chose Nick as his successor. Satan’s done with the whole deal, Nick’s been the virtual Devil for years since Satan dumps everything on him, nobody’s expecting anybody but Nick to be Devil. That’s why Nick has to go; as long as he’s around, there’s no path to power.

      The island is being taken over by Cthulhu now but it was originally created as a place to plot to get rid of Nick; Nita only sees the surface of what’s going on, the bad things that are happening to the people on the island that she’s trying to help. But trying to help them screws with Cthulhu’s plans, so she has to go since she will not stop interfering and saving people. That’s how she meets Nick and how they enter into a partnership and that’s a big threat to Cthulhu. When she defeats him at the end, it’s not to stop the transfer of power in Hell, it’s to keep him from interfering with her island. Nick defeats him in the Hell power struggle, or is in the process of doing that when Nita takes him out.

      So really, the struggle with Nita is a subplot in Cthulhu’s plot, but it’s main struggle in her plot. In Cthulhu’s plot (that is, if he were the protagonist of this story) Nick is his antagonist. Hmmmm.

      6+
  10. On another track entirely, my beta reader (sister) has requested/suggested a story in which the love interest is the antagonist and things don’t end well. This would be a first for me, so thank goodness I have the Crusie archives in which to examine the science of antagonists whilst marinating the notion.

    5+
    1. There are tons of those, usually suspense novels. The seventies were full of Gothics–the Somebody Is Trying To Kill Me and I Think It’s My Husband books–plus there’s real life where the majority of female homicides are committed by lovers.

      6+
  11. Since Hell has a government,what are the rules of succession? I know Satan is retiring, but if Satan and Nick die and go to heaven; who become the devil? Could Cuhtlhu be the hellacious speaker of the house.

    3+
    1. Every five thousand years, the Devil chooses a successor and retires, mostly because it’s a horrible job and he can’t wait to get out the door.

      Also they wouldn’t go to Heaven, Heaven is the corporate office. Nobody wants to go there, it’s full of angels in suits.

      5+
  12. So responding here has helped IMMENSELY and I can see Cthulhu’s plan now. You are all wonderful people and I will mention you in the acknowledgements if this book ever gets published.

    11+
  13. Totally not helpful…but as a snarky Argher, I hope you will also consider acknowledging Morte Dodd who made the ultimate sacrifice in service of his twin and this book. Not only as an easter egg to us arghers, but also so that you will get your twin trope in the book somewhere…even if only as a technicality

    =)

    7+
  14. It sounds like you found the answer. 🙂

    So this is most likely not helpful,
    but if Satan doesn’t want this job, because it’s awful, why does Nick want it? Why would Nick even say yes to it?

    Satan wants to pick Nick because he’s been doing a bang up job of it for years, making him look good, but if it’s a crap job, why does Nick want/do it?
    If he’s altruistic, he’d be bored with it. If he’s an outsider, is Satan his good friend? The only one who saw the real him? Or gave him a chance or believed in him?
    Or is it because of the power? What power does Nick get out of this seat? And how does that power have to do with the island?

    And how come only morons want this position/power?
    The morons want the seat because they’re narcissists. Because they crave external power. Got that from above. But what does losing the seat to Nick really take away from them? Change for them? The power to keep the status quote?
    What are they hoping to use this power for?

    Has someone (Satan) changed part of the power structure from the way it’s always been? Maybe this most recent Satan did somehow, in the first part of his reign. (in hopes of making this job a little less awful, but for him it wasn’t enough, didn’t work, so he’s throwing in the towel and choosing Nick)
    And they (Morons) want structure changed back? So they have to kill Nick?
    And get him out of the way before their own old power structure falls soon?
    Or maybe this about to retire Satan changed something recently, so now they’re all scrambling to take over the seat knowing Nick would never bring the old structure back? And why? Why does Nick want this job/power? What’s he want to do with it? Who will he protect? Or punish? Or save? Who does he care about in hell? And why?
    😊

    2+
    1. I’ve always thought you had to be a moron to want to be President of the US (or any other country). HUGE headache plus half of the people in the country at any one time will loathe you.

      Nick doesn’t want anything; he’s dead. Satan makes him his heir because he knows he doesn’t want anything. He’s basically a robot administrator. He knows what to do to keep Hell running smoothly and he’ll do it. It’s all very matter of fact and logical. Until Nick goes to Earth and gets poisoned and meets Nita . . .

      4+
        1. So Ct has to figure out how to kill a robot…

          This is silly, but it reminds me of the Incredibles where he tricks the robot into killing itself.

          But Nick’s smarter since he’s becoming human…

          1+
  15. A lot of this doesn’t matter if it’s Nita’s story. Things happen fast and furious then it’s like the movie Speed and one is just along for the ride.

    If this is Nick’s story, the whole thing is problematic because people and power don’t work the way the plot requires it to work. Since demons and humans mimic each other with patriarchy then the power pieces are similar

    And if it’s Nick’s story given the most chaotic period of Hell aka transitioning to a new devil then the only thing Nick and Nick’s Nick are concerned with at all is frankly Hell and the transition. A transition which could take years even though Nick is part of the power structure now since this is a 5,000 year reign.

    This piddly little Earth problem with an antag who thinks about Nick and Nita as gnats–which actually can’t be accurate with what’s been laid out here–isn’t on the radar unless the equivalent of the White Walkers for Hell are at the gateway or Satan ordered Nick to Earth for reasons of his own.

    Keep in mind that just because Nick is highly competent as Satan’s “Hand of the King.” Doesn’t mean that Nick would make a good King. Those are completely separate roles, even if Nick has taken the brunt of Satan’s responsibilities.

    And a man who wants nothing, who has no emotions or empathy is a very dangerous sociopath. I never read Nick that way on the pages I did read.

    So I think there’s this disconnect between what the story organically wants to be and what the cleverness of the ideas says it must be.

    If I were to try to encapsulate this into a pop culture reference, I’d go with:

    A middle-aged potential slayer with no knowledge of her slayerness (Buffy) enters into an mystery with Season 1 mopey detective Angel but at the end rescues Season 5 political games Angel with the bureaucracy of Heaven and Hell found in the Winchester Brothers’ saga. I know that’s not really accurate.

    Females: Kill them. Take their property. Write laws to get them in their place. Write more laws once they do things unexpected which cause problems. Write the winners history so the written records make it seem like it’s always been this way. Instill benefits on the men to help keep women in their place. Give certain women power over other women to ensure that they follow the rules. Enforce said rules with an iron fist. Infuse the religion with this mythos so that it becomes going against god. And then create a further bureacracy between the power structure and the riff raff.

    In modern culture infuse it into everything including the books children read in school, their tv shows, the romances (how many romances requires that the female have no power or agency at the beginning of the story) in order to homogenize everything. Whispers everywhere. Subconscious advertising messages we consume.

    When one thinks on it, it is a truly magnificent self-perpetuating vicious vicious machine.

    Who wants a job? Say there are 50 million USians who could be president by virtue of technical requirements to run for office. 1% dreams of being president that’s 5 million people. 10% of that decide that maybe they might like to considering toe dipping. That’s 500,000. Whittle down until maybe there are 500 people or if you want just 5 factions.

    What / who does your Cthulhu really want to be?

    Using US references: Does he/she want to be Trump/Obama? Bezos/Dimon? One of the politically visible Koch brothers or someone unknown to the general populace who attends the annual Davos conference?

    And now since I’ve avoided my own work for much too long. Must paint or my first solo exhibit in July will be utter crap. Yep, I’m freaking out so this was my attempt to redirect my mind from said freak out.

    1+
    1. I’m not following a lot of this (it’s that kind of day).
      Cthulhu wants to be Devil because he feels it’s his due, so not Trump who never wanted to be President. I’m trying to think of a parallel and the only one I can think of is Hilary, if she were vindictive and sociopathic; that is, if she was scheming to get the Presidency since she feels she was cheated of it/deserves it.

      Nick, for all practical purposes, has been Devil for decades. He’s the Mussolini of Hell: he makes the trains run on time. He’s not a king, he’s an administrator, a bean counter, a manager. When the story opens, he’s already been poisoned so he’s started to change but it’s very small things. I wouldn’t call him a sociopath: He doesn’t lie or manipulate, he’s not charming, he doesn’t have a grandiose sense of self (I’m not sure he has a sense of self at all in the beginning), he’s not impulsive or irresponsible, and he’s completely in control of himself. Lack of emotion on its own does not make a sociopath.

      Part of the problem may be trying to think of the Devil as an analog to the President, which it’s not. God would probably be the analog to the President; the Devil is one of many Devils (one per planet) and is job is to keep Earth ticking along with minimal interference from outside. I think of Hell as a company town, and the main business is the processing of souls to keep them from piling up in afterlife landfills; to do that you need a huge workforce, and that workforce needs homes and groceries and bars and schools, and somebody has to run all of that for God. Satan found Nick who’d been ruthless when alive and was emotionless now dead and said, “This place is kind of a mess, see what you can do,” and Nick cleared out a lot of corruption and redundancy and established logical rules and was not popular in the beginning, but Hell’s been ticking along nicely for 500 years now and the vast majority of demons are pleased because everything works in their society, which is all most beings want. They may not be enthusiastic about a dead human as Devil, but they’re happy with the status quo. Which is about to get shot all to Hell because Nick’s becoming not as dead as he used to be.

      I think all of that makes sense.

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    2. Ooooo! Would love to get to see your exhibit, send a link or pictures when it’s up?

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  16. I think the presidential stuff is fun and timely- power is power, even if it’s at the lowest rank. (More politics happens in everyday offices than it does in Washington.) And Nick’s the only human that’s dead, so the other 5 factions, like she mentioned above, still want him out so they can gain the power.

    (The only demons that are tolerating Nick as devil are the company demons who don’t want to be president. That leaves you with the 5 factions, of which CT is the real threat.)

    But this makes sense:
    ‘Hell as a company town, and the main business is the processing of souls to keep them from piling up in afterlife landfills; to do that you need a huge workforce, and that workforce needs homes and groceries and bars and schools, and somebody has to run all of that for God.’

    Yes! So why does Ct want to take over just a small company business on a small planet? What’s in it for him that’s bigger?
    He doesn’t want to go to Heaven, you said why above.
    Did he have bigger aspirations than being the devil and this is a stepping stone? Can he merge more planets together under his power if he is the devil here and works with/controls other devils?
    Feels like CT wants something bigger and badder, than just being the devil of a company town. What does ruling the company town get him? Why Be the mayor when you can be governor? Or even president?

    Have you seen the movie Vice? Fascinating human motivation. He didn’t want to be president, or even Vp, until…

    Forgive this politicalness in advance, it’s meant as just an example, not a belief—
    In Vice, they show Dick Cheney. People have said he only wanted to be the VP so he could make money off the war. In the movie it shows that he didn’t care about the position, so he let Bush be the big star, on the condition that Bush gift him more than the usual VP responsibilities. Cheney ended up with the only power that really counted for what he actually wanted….
    This want stemmed from positions he held earlier in his life. Cheney saw an opening and took it for all it was worth, and no one saw it coming until it was over.

    First plan, kill Nick, isn’t working for CT.
    So what next? How do you kill someone who can’t die? I kind of like the idea that Ct underestimates Nick, he thinks he’s dead and a robot, CT could even scheme up a way of trying to get the robot to off itself, not realizing that turning Nick human has now screwed his own plan. So now he’s accidentally made it harder for himself, because now Nick’s unkillable like an AI, but has heart like a human. All thanks to Nita.

    ‘If she was scheming to get the Presidency since she feels she was cheated of it/deserves it.’

    Once she gets it, what does she want to do with it? What does it mean to her? What was her motivation for starting this whole running for the seat (before she was cheated)in the first place if hell was running smoother than ever? Was some kind of power, no matter how small, taken away from her that needed to be fixed? (Loved the female analogy stated above- just brilliant.) What’s her initial motivation even if it was years ago? What started her ball rolling?

    Because all Ct’s set-ups feel like more trouble than the they’re worth if it’s just for a smalltime company seat. A lot of work/risk to go through, swatting at gnats, if there isn’t something bigger. And if it’s only a company seat he’s after, I’m not sure N&N would only be gnats to him… wouldn’t they be more?

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    1. Think a company as big as a planet. It’s Facebook, it’s Microsoft, it’s Amazon. There’s a good argument to be made that those guys have more power than the President, certainly an argument that they have more freedom. Cthulhu doesn’t want to be God; that’s work. But Devil, running both Hell and Earth, unlimited power, he can do whatever he wants, get whatever he wants and nobody can stop him? That appeals. Plus he has old scores to pay off, and being Devil will give him that power. Basically, he’s a narcissistic nightmare with enough cunning and chutzpah to get the office if everything goes according to plan (in that way, yep, Trump, too much of a narcissist to see he’s going to go down in history as the biggest disaster to hit the US since . . . ever).

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  17. ‘Think Facebook or Amazon….There’s a good argument to be made that those guys have more power than the President, certainly an argument that they have more freedom.’

    I agree, absolutely appeals 🙂

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  18. This post really interests me. I’m trying to create an antagonist whose plan to achieve his big objective requires that many different big and little machinations — including the downfalls of the heroine and the hero — be achieved.

    I don’t know if I will have the problem that the ultimate fall of the antagonist will skew the story — the hero and heroine are small fry in the far bigger objective of the antagonist.

    I will ponder this as the story progresses. I hope to start writing it some day. 😉

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