[This is another response to a writing challenge on RocNaNo. This challenge is to interview one of your Bad Guys for the position of Main Antagonist in your novel, the idea being that through the “interview” you learn more about the character, which should lead to more nuance and a better story. I don’t know how the others are doing, but it’s sure been an eye opener for me!]
“Martin Caldwell? Come on in Mr. Caldwell. Have a seat.” The evil wizard settled himself into the offered chair. He looked like an ordinary guy, mid-thirties, a little paler than usual, but otherwise pretty normal dressed in an interview suit that looked like it came from Men’s Warehouse. Caldwell glanced around the office as the author went back to the command side of the desk, and the author noticed a bald patch just beginning to make its appearance in the yarmulke zone.
“So tell me a little bit about yourself, Mr. Caldwell.”
“And Mr. Meadows is …?”
“Oh, uh, he’s the Prince of Detroit. You know, the head of the wizard Mafia there. The magical Mob.”
“Oh, yes. Please continue.”
Caldwell leaned forward in his chair. “Well, he wants me to set up an office in Rochester, and I figured as long as I was in the neighborhood I might as well do your job at the same time. No rule says I can’t have a little business on the side. The boss, in fact, encourages it. Says it shows initiative, as long as it doesn’t conflict with one a his jobs.”
“And what happens if it does conflict?”
“Depends. If he likes you he might just give you a warning. Or he might whack ya — send a message to the rest of the organization.”
“I see. Tell me, where do you see yourself in five years?”
Caldwell settled himself back in his chair. This was clearly something he’d been thinking about, a lot. “We get this office set up and I expect I’ll be runnin’ it. Rochester isn’t very big, but if things go according to plan we’ll probably be importing some magical muscle and I’ll wind up runnin’ this city. A couple decades experience controlling an up-n-comin’ berg like this, and I figure I’ll be ready for the next Urban Prince spot that opens up!”
“This job calls for a lot of tormenting. Should you get the job you would need to make life truly miserable for the main character and his allies. What sort of experience do you have ruining the lives of others?”
“Well,” he chuckled, “if you ask my boss he’ll tell you what a real pain in the ass I can be!”
The author gave him a dirty look. “Your job is not to make my life miserable, but that of the other characters. Give me any grief and you may encounter the Traveling Shovel of Death.”
At the mention of NaNoWriMo’s most feared assassin, Caldwell got serious. “Well, prior to moving into management I was Mr. Meadows’ Chief Enforcer. The job description is basically ‘Use any means necessary, including pain and the threat of death, to persuade others.’”
“What percentage of that job involved psychological torture? You know, the suspenseful fear of anticipated pain and impending doom?”
“Oh, uh, not really all that much. The boss wasn’t all that big on leavin’ ‘em hanging. He’s is a very direct kind of guy.” Caldwell is beginning to sense that the interview isn’t going all that well. Maybe he isn’t as qualified for this job as he thought.
The author looked down at his plot outline. “Hm. We’re going to have to work on that. I have nearly two hundred pages of conflict escalation that this position needs to drive. Perhaps we can work at it another way.” He looks back up at the fidgeting mobster. “How about your coworkers? I assume you’ll be bringing a crew to the job with you. Tell me about your team.”
“Well, there’s Jimmy, Jimmy Fuentes. He’s taken over the enforcer responsibilities from me, and I hesitate to admit that he’s really pretty good. In fact, a big part of my current job is holdin’ him back. He likes goin’ all animal on people.
“Then there’s Randy Nieves. He’s a bit of a geek, if you ask me, but he has some special magical talents that really come out when we’re doin’ surveillance or settin’ up security. He’s also pretty good in a fight. That leaves me time to do all the managerial stuff, and figurin’ out our next moves and stuff.” He puffed himself up a bit for the last statement.
“So tell me, what would the person who likes you the least say about you?”
He laughed. “Mostly they’d say they were dead! I try to follow that old sayin’, ‘Keep your friends close, ’n your enemies pushin’ up the daisies.’”
“But surely you have some enemies who aren’t dead yet? Can you think of anyone who might be plotting to knife you in the back?”
“Well, when you put it that way, I guess the enemy of my boss is my enemy, too. There’s the Prince of New York, who’s a crafty bastard, and all his guys. I generally try to keep a low profile, but seein’ as I was Chief Enforcer and got promoted to Executive Assistant, I guess they probably heard of me, just like I heard of them. We mostly keep to our own cities, however, so I don’t figure they think about me too much.” Caldwell became pensive. “Hm. When they find out I’m operatin’ in Rochester that’ll change, though. What they think of me then will depend a lot on how well we do here.”
“Let me try a different question: What irritates you most? What might an enemy or a coworker do, perhaps without realizing it, that would really piss you off?”
“Hey! I don’t need you givin’ away my secrets!”
“I’m not looking to give away your secrets, but since you don’t really have much experience tormenting people, perhaps it’s because you haven’t been suitably motivated. Don’t worry, I won’t tell them what they did to piss you off. After all, if they knew they might take measures to fix things, which would only serve to reduce the dramatic tension, when I’m trying to bring it to a boil.”
“Well, lemme think. I guess you’d say I’m a bit of a neat freak, which means anytime I have to share a hotel room with Jimmy it’s all I can do to keep from killin’ him, he’s such a slob. And Randy’s too damn cheerful first thin’ inna mornin’ — it’s not human! Me, I need coffee before I can deal with him. But probably the biggest thin’ is bein’ disloyal. If’n you say you’re gonna do somethin’, then do it! At least make the effort! An’ don’t ever lie to me. I hate liars and cheats!”
The author steepled his hands in front of his face and looked at the mobster intently, so long that Caldwell started getting nervous. Finally he broke his hands apart and said, “I think you need a raise. Maybe a better suit, nicer haircut, and shinier teeth. And more muscles — bulk up a bit. Yes, we don’t want to hide the Enforcer part of you, but rather dress it up. You’re obviously an up-and-comer, but still close enough to your roots to be scary.” Caldwell was confused, but also pleased. He liked the idea of being less of a nobody and more of a big-shot.
“You ever use a baseball bat?” the author continued.
“Hey, all the time!”
“Let’s see it,” demanded the author, standing.
“I don’t understand.”
The author leaned forward over his desk and shouted at Caldwell. “Show me the bat, you turd!”
Caldwell stood up and a baseball bat appeared in his hands, nicked and covered with suspicious dark streaks. “I’ll show you my damn bat!” he yelled back, then looked at his hands in surprise. “Where’d this come from?”
The author straightened up behind his desk, calm once again. “An enforcer needs tools, and a magical enforcer needs magical tools. Even after moving out of the job, you get to keep your tools. From now on, whenever anyone pushes your buttons you’ll have that available to you. Think you can use that?”
“Sure!” He looked it over. “I did say I’m a bit of a neat freak. Why’s it so disgusting looking?”
“Because you’ve used it. A lot. And it’s more intimidating that way, don’t you think?”
Caldwell twirled it around, then pretended like he was swinging at a pitch. “Nice heft, balance. I like it! Thanks!”
“You can put it away now.” He was confused for a moment, then the bat disappeared. As it did his appearance changed. He became a little taller, more muscular, and definitely upscale. There was a touch of menace to go with his razor cut and whitened smile. He straightened his tie.
“Thanks for the facelift! Makes me feel like I could rule this town!”
“Yeah, well don’t get too uppity. Remember, you still work for Meadows, and he can put you away with a snap of his fingers.”
Caldwell’s demeanor became more serious, and dangerous. “True. How can I repay you? I’m sure you made these changes for a reason.”
“When the time is right you’ll offer a job to the protagonist. Then we’ll let nature take its course.” The author smiled faintly as the plot outline developed in his head.
“Yeah, well, thanks again.” The confused gangster let himself out as the author sat back down and opened up his laptop.
- Stumbling Over the Bad Guys (fictionrules.wordpress.com)
- Make Your Antagonist More (sonjahutchinson.wordpress.com)
- Antagonistic Forces – May the force be against you… (writingwranglersandwarriors.wordpress.com)