Jilly: One and One Makes Three

One and One Makes ThreeOne of the most interesting and enjoyable workshops I attended at RWA was called “Villains, Deviants and Serial Killers: Inside the Criminal Mind.”

I don’t have any plans to write romantic suspense. I don’t intend to turn my antagonist into a deviant or a serial killer, but I thought a round-table discussion featuring a cop, a corrections officer, a psychotherapist, a probation officer and a New York Times bestselling author would give me some great insights into writing a credible, fully developed bad guy.

I was right about that – the subject matter was fascinating, and the grim was leavened with plenty of dark humor – but I got lots of other good stuff too. For example, I hadn’t really thought about the effect a hero or heroine’s dangerous lifestyle would have on their family and community. Those are people who know what could happen to their loved ones and who steel themselves every day in case it turns out to be the day the worst finally happens. In my story, that could be my hero’s mother.

Among all the great notes I got from the workshop, a comment by author Karen Rose stuck in my mind and has been taking root there for the last couple of weeks. To paraphrase, she said that a really good story has an antagonist who’s far smarter, stronger and more powerful than the hero and heroine; individually they could never defeat him – it is the combination of the two of them together that brings him down and saves the day.

Sounds obvious, maybe, but I’d never really thought of it in those terms. I think of Alexis and Kierce’s romantic relationship and the qualities they need to complete one another personally. I imagine them combining forces to solve the problem/beat the bad guy, and I see that the way they work together helps me to envisage their successful and happy future together, but I hadn’t thought about the combination of their skills creating the secret weapon needed to win the day.

I really like the idea. Now I have to figure out how to do it.

My bad guy is infinitely stronger and more powerful than they are, so that’s a good start.

I think I’m going to begin by making a list of strengths and weaknesses for Kierce and Alexis to see which ones can be amplified and how they can be combined.

I’m also going to spend an hour or two flipping through the titles on my Kindle to see if I can find some inspiration, especially in sub-genres other than romantic suspense.

Do you enjoy this trope? If your keeper shelf includes any stellar examples, please share!

3 thoughts on “Jilly: One and One Makes Three

  1. I didn’t attend that session, but that’s a dandy take-away. I’m going to employ that same strategy with Taylor and Jake and see what happens.

  2. In Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse novels, Sookie is a telepath; she gets bits and pieces of people’s thoughts. This capacity means that she can tell when somebody is hiding in the woods, for example, but she can’t see them—she still knows they’re there because she can get a signature on their brain. And she can tell from the thought patterns who’s human and who’s vampire or shifter. When she’s caught or engineered into a battle, for example, she can tell her side how many creatures are waiting behind the door so they can plan better. The whole series is planned around this capacity of hers; it’s what makes her valuable, not “food,” to the vampire community.

  3. Oh, I like that a lot! I wonder if I can make it work for the current WIP. My antagonist is bent on revenge (I think) and repossession of her rightful hoard of goodies. I think where I’m heading is to give her back her gold (somehow; I think it’s been made into a ring, and the ring feels like it might be necessary for the next book), and also make things right by giving her the love she craves (just not in the biddable form she wants it to come in). I see a team of three acting upon her to change her path.

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