I have another grim topic ready, but want to lighten things up a bit before I post it. Today, I’m going to show you what I do with news items like the ones in my Crossing the Blue Line article. I’m going to show you how I plan to use those shocking reports in my next book.
As I pointed out in my previous article, opposition to the police and specifically violence which targets the duly authorized agents of the law, provoke an uneasy feeling in most people. This is not so good in real life, but excellent for fiction.
Creating a situation where the police are prevented from protecting the general public does two things.
- It puts the reader off balance. Readers will feel uneasy about the idea of the police being somehow removed from the streets they are meant to protect. The brave men and women in blue are the safety buffer between us the dark elements of society.
- It leaves the characters vulnerable to violence and chaos. At least, to the extent that the citizens no longer have a reasonable expectation of help from the defenders who are traditional put into place by society. This puts readers off-balance because society itself is not working the way it is meant to function.
In fiction, dread is good. It makes the readers worry about what will happen to the characters in the story. The more any threat to the hero seems reasonable and likely, the more tension the reader is going to feel. And the scenario I described in my previous article is as reasonable and as likely as it gets.
Which makes it perfect for one of my storylines. Sierra is in California, dealing with the aftermath of the occupation of Los Angeles by the Chinese army. Her romantic interest, Robert, is making the dangerous trek across the country, intent on marrying her.
But I want my readers to worry. I want to force them to turn the page at the end of each of her chapter and continue to turn pages until they finish the book. I want them to write me and complain about the amount of sleep they missed because they couldn’t put my book down at 2:00 in the morning.
How do I do that?
Image courtesy of NBC News
Each of Sierra’s chapters will leave her in a continually worse situation. If past experience is any indication, readers will clench their fists in anticipation, cursing every delay that I purposely impose upon Robert. Hurry Robert, hurry. Sierra is alone and needs your help.
Shame on me. What wicked things I inflict on my readers. Bwaa-ha-ha.
Crossing the Blue Line is a problem Sarah is going to have to deal with as well. I want to showcase the same situation we are seeing in our cities right now. Sarah’s chapters are my chance to put my readers in the streets, surrounded by crowds of angry and unreasonable protestors. I plan to put her in the path of mobs attacking the police, leaving the streets virtually defenseless. These attacks will build tension and when the rioters finally are pointed in Sarah’s direction, the readers will know what to expect. They will understand the serious danger she faces.
Sarah and a new character will find themselves facing hateful mobs without any chance of help from the police. What will they do? The situation seems hopeless. Surely, I wouldn’t kill off one of my main characters . . . would I?
Trust me. It’s going to be scary for them and for the reader. Why would I do that? A small part of it is the entertainment value a situation like that provides. Readers enjoy the threat of danger as long as they can safely view it through the lens of fiction. But the real reason is that I want readers to put themselves into the story. To feel the situation. And if they do . . . then maybe they’ll pay a little more attention to what is happening around us. I want people to be prepared for the day when this is no longer fiction.