I just wrote a critical scene in my WIP. It’s the big reveal—when the bad guy gets outed as the bad guy, after everyone has believed him to be someone else. I mulled when to insert the reveal. I tried it in a few spots: Too soon. Too late. Yes, here.
My Editor Keeps a Close Eye
Writing the scene took me into the zone. My pulse quickened. Breathing fast, shallow. On the keyboard, my fingers took flight. I felt the suspense build in my nervous system. This is what I want my readers to experience, too, and it’s odd but wonderful when, as I writer, I experience what I hope I’m conveying on the page.
I’ve grown tired of one-dimensional villains: characters that aren’t well developed. Mystery writers will do this when they view the antagonist as a plot construction. That can work, too---if the reader doesn’t connect with the bad guy, it’s an easier read: Good vs evil. We root for the hero and ultimately, he or she wins.
As a writer, I find that less satisfying. I’ve lived in my bad guy’s head for weeks now. I know what he drives, what he wears, how he voted. I know his deepest regret and most hidden fear. I know what and whom he loves. I get him. He isn’t pure evil, but someone who got trapped and made the wrong decisions. He kept digging himself deeper and now the only way out is doing something deadly. He’s a survivor and will do what he perceives he must do, but who will suffer as a result?
I haven’t decided what should happen to him at the end. Should he die? I find myself not wanting him dead. He needs consequence—prison, or worse—but something in me wants to keep him going. I’d like to revisit him later, perhaps in a sequel.
How might the events of this novel change him? Can I let him get away? We don’t let bad guys get away, do we?
Some writers do, though. At times that bothers me, but at other times I accept that it’s realistic. After all, plenty of bad guys walk our streets, get away with serious crimes. Some hold positions of authority—even win elections. I’ll stop there.
Will the reader connect with him as I have? Will that make the novel more difficult to read? The subject—human trafficking—is difficult enough. While I want to entertain, I also like to challenge my readers. Maybe this limits my audience. Or maybe it can expand it. Maybe people who don’t normally gravitate to mystery/suspense will be willing to give this a try.
Or maybe it’ll be too weird for my agent to place.
I plan to finish this revision in the next two weeks. We’ll see what happens then!
Have you ever found yourself connecting with a bad guy? How did it affect your reading experience?