Bad Religion: The Shakeup

BadReligion-ebook600The mark of a good series is that it doesn’t leave the protagonist sitting in one place for too long. Sue Grafton uprooted Kinsey Milhonne both at her office and domestically (blowing up her apartment) and all within a matter of months. VI Warshawski has had to move her offices. Spenser, at least in his classic period, had a personal life in flux for years before settling into domestic bliss with Susan Silverman.

With the first two Nick Kepler stories, I had him in an apartment in North Olmsted (based on a real building on that corner that was torn down about six or seven years ago) and space in the offices of his former employers at TTG Insurance. In Northcoast Shakedown, I had to establish the character’s work routine and support network. It did not make sense to destroy all that in Second Hand Goods, since it was the second book in the series. In this story, his deal with TTG is threatened, Elaine’s marriage is disintegrating before she and Nick ever give in to any suppressed feelings, and Nick has already had to send a sidekick to prison for his own good.

If I do go ahead with Suicide Solution, the follow-up to Bad Religion, Nick’s office is going to be gone, his home will probably be at risk, and even his relationship – professional and personal – with Elaine will be on shaky ground.

No one wants to read about a character in his or her comfort zone. Why do you think Captain Kirk went on so many landing parties (to the fatal detriment of many red-shirted underlings)? Why does James Bond spend so little time on screen in London? Kirk is comfortable on the bridge, and unless he’s having to stare down an angry Klingon commander, he’s pretty satisfied with the give and take with the rest of the crew (who are also pretty comfortable with the deck of the Enterprise beneath their feet.) We don’t see James Bond in London much, despite having seen his office once in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, because no one wants to see Bond filling out forms, reading reports from other 00’s, or going to Tesco’s to pick up some beanies and weenies and a bottle of Coke. Boring.

Staying on the Bond theme for a moment, the whole reboot has been about keeping Bond in flux. In Casino Royale, he’s thrust into the role of “blunt instrument.” In Quantum of Solace, he has to learn on the fly how to wield that license to kill without overreaching. In Skyfall, he’s given a partner, gadgets, and a new boss, losing M in the process.

This is what Kepler needs. A character kept off balance is infinitely more interesting than one who does the same thing over and over again.