Before I get much farther into discussing the protagonist of my current work in progress (WIP) I think I should clarify a few things. There are a few readers I know who are at least a little disappointed to hear I am putting my efforts into something like urban fantasy. That’s understandable. My first post was a highly carbonated affair that implied this would be an entertaining trip, full of twists and turns and self deprecating humor. By the second post it turns out Ben was not at all kidding about the narcissism, and he thinks you might actually want to read some kind of horror/mystery thing that sounds mostly like something you wouldn’t read. It’s kind of like finding out you’re going on a family vaction to Florida…for grandma’s funeral.
Rest assured, despite our discussion of genre last week, I am not looking to write a horror story. Or a mystery story. Or a fantasy or even an urban fantasy. I want to write a good story. Whether it falls into a specific genre is mostly a question for it’s earliest beginnings (like now) and it’s final stages when marketing and Amazon categories becomes an actual concern. In the meantime, let’s talk about that protagonist and see where this ends up.
As I said in the last post, I wanted to avoid a lot of the classic tropes of young adult fiction and urban fantasy. As such, I knew immediately that the classic “chosen one” story line had to go. This was the seed.
What if the villain had already succeeded? What if he killed the chosen one and derailed the prophecy?
From this sprang not only a protagonist, but a story, and shortly, a story world. Let’s start with the protagonist.
Meet Mike Sullivan. He’s fifty something, a little overweight, and he’s been a cop his entire life. More specifically, he’s been a heavy hitter in the St. Louis City Homicide Division. A legend in his own right, they say if Mike Sullivan can see a crime scene he can find you a suspect, every time. A married father of three, Mike’s gift for investigation has allowed him to lead a relatively idyllic life, especially in a career which eats healthy relationships for breakfast.
I should note here that like it or hate it, I make extensive use of the classic Jung/Campbell “Heroes Journey” form. It’s a good framework to start with and it fits well. Most people who claim to hate it are actually using it. It’s kind of magical like that.
In our heroes journey, this would be Mike’s “normal world”. He’s in a good place. It’s stable and safe. Like any good adventure however, there’s something lurking just beneath the surface which is threatening to break everything.
In our case the call to adventure came eight months ago when Mike picked up the biggest case of his career, a certified red ball. In police slang, a red ball is a high profile career making case. It’s a media feeding frenzy and the mayor calls your sergeant to check on your progress. It takes the highest priority and riddled gangstas and homeless beatings can wait. It flies in the face of “justice for all” but such is the way of the world.
In this case, the red ball is a bizarre multiple homicide featuring eleven carefully arranged corpses in a snow filled construction site near the river. How they got there or why is a mystery, as is their multi-national origin.
It’s stone cold “whodunit” and despite his reputation, the case appears to be unsolvable. Then, just as Mike appears to be on the cusp of a breakthrough he is found almost dead, run through with what appears to be a large sword. With no recollection of his attacker and the case taken from him by an FBI taskforce, Mike’s life starts to spin apart. Obsessed with the case & his own attack , Mike meets his failure with rage and confusion. Before long, his wife of thirty years is taking an extended visit with relatives in Chicago and his sergeant has relegated him to administrative purgatory.
And there is where I leave you today, fair reader. Our protagonist is born and with him, the tiniest kernel of a world. From this I have a thousand questions that need answered. Research projects are born and an entire cast now waits in the wings. More importantly I’ve poured storytelling gasoline on this otherwise boring pile of paper. Something is going to happen.