story process #2

Incidentally, once this story is finished, vetted by my crit group, and out on submission, then if someone wants an email version to read, I'm happy to send it. My personal deadline is to submit in about a month.

Wyrd brought up a good point yesterday that my one-liner isn't really all that compelling. She's right. It's not. It's just a concise statement that works for my head. You should know, at this point I'm not even sure this is a viable story or plot. But of course God is in the details.

So today I'm focusing on stakes and putting the screws to Kaelin. Poor boy.

First, some names of characters:

Kaelin Trevet--protagonist. Assassin and sometime traitor to Sentinel, currently loyal.
Ryanne Oman--captured girl in question and love interest to Kaelin.
Warrick Oman--Ryanne's grandfather and a top officer in Sentinel.
Lorcan-- demon who turned Kaelin against Sentinel
Potentially Jack Heath, a dead Sentinel ranger--if a motivation appears beyond deus ex machina.

Ryanne Oman was captured by demons who will torture her into becoming an assassin for them. By the time Kaelin hears about it, she's 3 weeks gone. As a last resort, her grandfather Warrick Oman has called Kaelin in to kill Ryanne in order to save her from a life of evil. If turned, Ryanne also would become a formidable enemy to Sentinel, their organization that fights the demons, because she's an insider and knows so much.

Why Kaelin?

He's the best demon-hunter in Sentinel. Killing other rangers is against Sentinel law; Kaelin has shown a willingness to put law aside. Kaelin also has been undercover with the demons so he knows how to infiltrate them. Failing all that, Kaelin has a reputation as a heartless assassin who follows orders to the letter, and Warrick outranks him in Sentinel. Refusing orders is a death sentence in Sentinel.

Ordinarily, Kaelin would just load his gun and go. But this all sucks for Kaelin because:

Kaelin and Ryanne love each other. Events beyond their control, including diverging missions and an old fued between their families, have kept them apart.

Backstory: When Kaelin infiltrated the demons before, they turned him into an assassin. He now constantly walks the edge between murder and normalcy. On the surface, Kaelin is extremely disciplined--he relies on that discipline to keep him from slipping back into evil. (this back story gets one line of dialogue and one line of narrative so far, but it will infiltrate Kaelin's every decision and reaction).

Stakes: Ryanne's own grandfather has ordered a hit on her. Still, there's no love lost between Kaelin and Warrick. In fact, wouldn't it be cool if Kaelin calls in for back up at some point and realizes Warrick doesn't intend on Kaelin coming out of this alive? (Scuttling to notepad to scribble)

Taking orders from Warrick is a dig, but his failing to gloat twists Kaelin's emotions. Kaelin's accustomed to pure hate. Feeling sorry for someone he's hated all these years...? Kaelin is too tightly controlled to allow for grey areas. That makes him sketchy. You take a brick from the wall and a whole river of emotion can burst through.

So, I've tried to raise stakes: I've put Kaelin in conflict with a superior who'd like him dead, with old enemies, with the woman he loves, and most importantly, with himself. Probably enough for a short story. I achieved this by asking myself: what does Kaelin most fear?

He fears turning back into the evil killer he once was. Killing demons for Sentinel is one thing. But how will he kill the woman he loves, even to put her out of her misery and protect Sentinel, without tapping into the evil inside himself that drove him to commit prior horrible acts?

I have to do my best to make Kaelin larger than life because that raises the stakes, too. He is no pansy. He is a capable killer walking a tightrope between good and evil. He's physically able to pull the trigger. In fact, he's probably more able to pull the trigger than to not pull it.

But in the end, he isn't going to kill her. In fact, I'd like to keep violence out of it as much as possible. The threat of it is so much more scary. That is his challenge, and mine.

As always, your thoughts are welcome.

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