I haven’t written about writing or my novel-in-progress for a while, for good reason. I was starting to think things were a bit too … straightforward. This meant stopping to re-examine what I’m doing.
To refresh, my main male character is not exactly who he seems, and my main female character sort of stumbles on to this fact. In addition, there is a shadowy figure – whose identity is not revealed until late in the game – that is on the tail of the main male character. I’d been working with two suspects, the sheriff and a local pastor. But I decided that isn’t quite enough. I needed a third.
But who? This is supposed to be a small town. I have a main street with a few businesses, a grain processing plant, the grade, middle and high school, a couple of churches, a golf course, a mechanic … and that’s about it. Pretty limiting. Plus, this is a student who is somewhat new to the area, so that’s going to limit the places she goes, the people she bumps into on a regular basis even more. Not only that, she has plenty of relatives in town. I didn’t think a relation would work as a straw man/potential threat in this instance, so that limited the pool of potential new suspects even more.
I ended up going with a guidance counselor. My female lead, being new to the area and probably considered at-risk (father died at an early age, living with her grandparents a state away from her mother, etc.), would likely be a regular in the guidance office early in the school year, out of legitimate concern she’d adjust and thrive. Plus, a guidance counselor is going to be privy to private, personal information and be able to ask questions that most people couldn’t ask a teenage girl, without seeming like creepy stalker pervs.
I’m also making Marcia Miller (it’s a good, eastern Indiana name) a woman. The sheriff and pastor are both men, so their interaction will be different with my female lead than will Marcia’s. Again, because she’s a woman, it’s should be easier for the female lead to divulge certain personal information, the kind of things someone collecting information can use to her advantage. It’s a bond my FL is going to lack elsewhere in her new hometown and school. With her mom at a distance, both physically and emotionally, this gives the counselor an in, as well.
I’m going to make Ms. Miller consistently behind the game. As is obvious on this blog, my political leaning is to the left. However, sometimes I have just a little patience with the people I share common ground with as those that I don’t. Ms. Miller will by a symbol of those people, who often don’t seem to see the right’s attacks coming, a step slow despite possessing great intelligence. She’ll react, not act. My hope is that this won’t be taken as an attack on her gender, especially because the pastor is a bit of a nervous nelly and the sheriff is on the wrong track for a considerable portion of the novel. Nobody gets to be a super-genius evil villain. They all have blind spots.
On a more personal note, my high school counselor was a bit like this, slow to react. There were certain things she did well, but often seemed surprised at the behavior and reactions of teenagers and unsure of how to proceed once encountering said behavior. Maybe it’s just me, but those seem like the kind of things one should be prepared for as a high school counselor. But I guess it’s working out in the end. She gave me a model to work with. This ever sells, I may owe her a beer.