That Thing You Don’t Do

This post contains spoilers of season two of The Following and Karina Halle’s Bold Tricks. On the off chance you might want to watch/read either, consider yourself warned.

I’m about halfway through the first draft of book two of the Game of Shadows trilogy, tentatively titled Blood and Shadows. I’ll probably have to stop soon, if I’m going to revise book one and have it ready to pitch at the Emerald City Writers’ Conference.

But my brain just doesn’t work that way. I’m already thinking ahead to book three, and how the story will play out.

One of my favorite shows is The Following. It is violent. I don’t like it because of the violence; despite the bloodiness, it happens to be one of the most intriguing stories on TV (well, network TV, anyway). Created by Kevin Williamson, the man behind Scream and Dawson’s Creek, he understands the value of silence to build suspense.

And he’s also not afraid to do the thing you’re not supposed to do.

One of the subplots for this past season involved a crazy lady by the name of Lily and Mike, Ryan Hardy’s do-gooder FBI sidekick. People die on The Following. Lots of people. I did say it was violent, didn’t I?

In this instance, Lily blames Ryan and Mike, especially Mike, for the loss of one of her kids. She vows to take something from Mike that will make him feel her pain. One evening at the task force headquarters, Mike’s in the main room with all the monitors and a bunch of analysts typing away when a feed comes through. It’s Lily, and she’s got a message for Mike. She then proceeds to slit Mike’s father’s throat. On camera. Mike declares revenge and no one can talk him out of it. Not Ryan. Not Max, the woman who’s making him feel all tingly in his man parts.

When they catch up with Lily, Mike has a choice: he can do what he always said he’d do – kill her – or he can turn her over to the authorities.

This would be the point where the hero would do the right thing and acknowledge that killing Lily will not make him feel better and slaps cuffs on her instead.

But this is The Following, and they don’t do the expected.

Mike acknowledges that killing Lily in cold blood, when she’s unable to defend herself, won’t make him feel better. Then he does it anyway.

Oh, and he still gets the girl at the end of the season.

Meanwhile, in Bold Tricks, the third book in Karina Halle’s The Artists Trilogy, Ellie is given a chance to put a bullet through Javier’s (her ex) brain. God knows he deserves it. The man manipulated, killed, and stole, among other things. He’s not a good guy. He’s the farthest thing from a good guy. And Ellie isn’t a saint, either. She’s run cons most of her life. She’s killed and maimed when she’s had to. She knows how to use a gun, and when. Killing Javier would give her a great deal of personal satisfaction and end his hold over her for good.

Instead, she walks away.

Had she, or Camden, her new boyfriend, chosen to end Javier’s life, it wouldn’t have been out of character for either of them. They were both supremely angry, and Ellie in particular had reason to not trust that the authorities would do their job properly. I’ll admit to being a bit disappointed in the choice Ellie made.

Bold Tricks was published by Grand Central Publishing, while the first book in the trilogy, Sins and Needles, was self published. It makes me wonder if that might have influenced the choices Halle made for the story.

See, there are certain inalienable truths when it comes to romance novels. The heroine killing the bad guy at the end of the book seems to be one of them, especially if she’s given a choice of taking revenge or letting the police do their job. But Halle’s pushed the envelope in the past (see Dirty Angels and Love, in English) and you can expect her to do the thing you’re not supposed to do.

New Adult authors are doing it all over the place, leaving us with cliff-hangers instead of an emotionally satisfying ending. Sarah Harian gave us a truly flawed (and guilty) heroine in Evalyn, of The Wicked We Have Done. Christa Desir left us with a sucker punch to the gut in her debut, Faultline. So did Averil Dean in Alice Close Your Eyes. Literary fiction authors do it all the time. And, of course, The Following.

This is all a very long winded way to come around to the choices I’ll have to make as far as Cass is concerned in book three.

Cass is an assassin, so I have a certain amount of leeway there. I have Thoughts on the end of book two that will shape the beginning of book three. What happens at the end will depend on what happens to Cass over the course of the story. She’s killed people without thought of whether they deserve to die. She just goes where the money is – you pay her enough, she’ll take the job. She’s turned down jobs before, though. She’s already got cracks in her armor. Parts of her are unraveling as she deals with the consequences of past actions, and they inform some of the choices she makes.

This is the key, letting the character decide what happens in their story. I may want Cass to do the thing you’re not supposed to do simply because I want it to be different. But that may not fit with who Cass turns out to be. I may have to content myself with the knowledge that I’ve already jumped over the line enough times with this trilogy without executing that final leap. I won’t know the choice Cass will make until I write it, but once it’s on the page, I’ll know it’s the right choice for Cass.

That doesn’t mean I won’t try to nudge her in one direct or the other 🙂

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