Sunday, July 5, 2009

Good at Bad or Bad at Good?

Gabriella Herkert, Catnapped and Doggone

Do I think like the heroine or the villain? Neither. They think like me. How terrifying is that? The three of us sharing a brain full time. A felonious Sybil if you will. Here’s how it goes. I wake up in the morning and my good angel says walk the dog. As a heroine, I am an animal lover without agenda. So I leash my favorite companion, let’s call her Koko, packs some doggy bags and set out for a stroll through the neighborhood. Heroine on the job.

That’s when my villain takes over. Now, my villain is pro-puppy, too, but always with a secondary purpose. My brain can’t help but whir with story ideas as I perform my seemingly innocuous heroine task. What do you notice when someone walks a tail-wagging friend past your house? The dog. A perfect accomplice to a casing the joint. Breaking and entering, burglary, heck, even a contract killing all made easier by an up close and personal view of the crime scene. What about kidnapping? Ever see a child screech in delight and run straight at a stranger with a fluffy lure on a leash? Happens every day. One second you’re background, the next second you’re a wrong ‘un. And every witness description starts and ends with a flea collar. I don’t know about you but if that’s the case, I walk from the line up.

The intrinsic dichotomy in the human brain, to create threat and conceive response, is what makes memorable characters. Would I, could I, enjoy Raymond Chandler as much if Sam Spade was just a misogynist and not also after the truth? Isn’t Donald Westlake’s Dortmunder perfect because he’s a burglar who’ll twist himself into knots making sure no one gets hurt? And what about Hamish MacBeth? He’ll arrest a guy for poaching in his favorite poaching spot. Ironic. Hilarious. And irresistible. The mystery world is made up of these multiple personality disorders. Maybe they can get a group rate at the psychiatric hospital. And I will be there every visiting day.



Jen Forbus said...

Ha! I never thought about it like that. All these days that I haven't been making full use of my dog walks! But yes, I love the characters that have seemingly contradictory characteristics. I think that's what makes them so dimensional!

Gabi said...

Dog ownership has limitless possibilities.