Next on Fox: When Good Characters Go Bad!

As you know, I’ve been gradually locating the flaws of Fathom Five and (hopefully) eliminating them. I’ve already realized that Peter needs more to do at the end of the story in order to complete his journey. And yesterday I realized that one of the other flaws was Merius.

Merius, a mer-man, started out as a strong character. A vision of Neptune, he rescues Rosemary from the wild lands of his world, and sets to work as a strong ally of Rosemary in her attempt to rescue Peter. At least, it started out that way. Erin made me realize that his motivation wasn’t there, and I decided that, rather than helping Rosemary out of the goodness of his heart, he was doing so as part of a powerplay against Fiona (the siren/mermaid who kidnapped Peter). This not-so-worthy motivation made him more interesting, and that gave his character (and the story) a boost through another couple of chapters. Then he fizzled out again.

The scene that I included in yesterday’s post was roughly where Merius’ character really fizzled out. In it, Rosemary has learnt of his questionable motives for helping her, and Merius has discovered that Rosemary isn’t nearly as powerless as she seems.

Despite all this, he arranges for her escape, helping her to rescue Peter out of the goodness of her heart.

And so I’m back to square one.

I talked through my problem with Erin:

ERIN: So, Merius, whose motives are political, who fears for his position when Rosemary proves too disruptive for his liking, discovers that Rosemary can see through the “glamour” of this world.
ME: Yes.
ERIN: Glamour is extremely important to Merius’ civilization.
ME: Vital! As Merius says, it’s at the foundation of his society.
ERIN: And despite all this, he arranges for her escape and just lets her go?
ME: That’s the problem. That part doesn’t follow naturally from what we know about Merius.
ERIN: Then make it flow naturally. You have a character who has questionable motives, discovering that Rosemary is powerful enough to end his civilization, and he’s responsible for bringing her there. What does he do instead?
ME: My God, he’s going to kill her.

The scene posted yesterday has now been tossed out the window. This has been put in its place:

“You can see through me,” Merius breathed. “You can break my song. The mark on your hand must be the mark of a thought breaker!”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re not susceptible to our glamour. Your mind is rational and open, an unusual combination.” He looked at her with a hint of fear.”

“Well,” said Rosemary, “I’ve had my mind opened by a few experiences a year ago. But what does this have to do about anything?” She stepped forward menacingly. “You tell me or I’ll break more of your thoughts! You know I can!”

“Yes, you can.” Fear faded from his eyes, replaced with resignation. “Indeed, you could disassemble the very bonds that hold this civilization together.” He picked up his trident. “You cannot stay here, and the council must never find out that I brought you here or my life would be forfeit. You are too dangerous to let live.”

He lunged with his trident aimed directly at her stomach. Rosemary barely managed to scramble away as it imbedded itself in stone.

She ran to the cell door, screaming for help. But the door was locked, and no help came. Instinct made her duck and the points of the trident sailed over her head and smashed the door.

She rolled up and tried to grab the trident, but Merius held on and pulled it free. He threw her against the wall.

She bounced away, but she fought back, kicking, punching and scratching, though her shoulders burned. One of her kicks landed solidly between his legs, but he barely flinched. She reached for his eyes, but her arms weren’t long enough.

He trust her against the wall and pressed the shaft of the trident to her throat.

“Merius!” she gasped, tears running down her cheeks. “Please! I just want to bring Peter home!”

“I’m sorry,” he said, stonefaced. He pressed down on the shaft, and Rosemary could only gurgle. Her feet kicked uselessly. Her vision went fuzzy.

Then the wall behind her gave way like the icy crust of a snow-drift. She was a split-second in darkness, and then falling through open air, landing heavily on the ground.

Much stronger than the previous version, isn’t it? Of course, this means that Merius can’t help her in the later chapters, but I have an idea of who can. The end is coming more clearly to me.

This is the first time my character has gone of its own free will from ally to attempted murderer. And while it’s good for one’s characters to force their own path in the story (that’s when they’re really alive), I still can’t help but shiver at this good character gone bad.

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