Only A River Of Changing Faces Looking For An Ocean

“I couldn’t tell you because your reaction had to be genuine.”

One of my least favorite “bits” in fiction–usually espionage or police procedural, but it can crop up anywhere the protagonist is a member of some sort of structured organization. There’s a big dramatic scene where the protagonist’s boss is revealed to be working for the bad guys and betrays the protagonist.

Then people are beaten up and things explode.

Then there is a second big reveal where the protagonist’s boss turns out not to be working for the bad guys, but was just pretending because clever scheme.

And then everything’s okay! 

The most heinous examples come from ongoing series, either television or novels.  In book/episode four the protagonist is completely cut loose from her or his support system, believes that everyone else is turned. At the end of the book/episode it is revealed that it was all part of The Great Game.

In book/episode five there might be a heartfelt scene between the protagonist and the boss, but by the sixth thrilling installment everyone has forgotten all about it.

It’s the bureaucratic equivalent of  “…and then she woke up and it had all been a dream.”  It’s a sloppy writer’s trick for building tension by making the audience think that the stakes are higher than they really are.

It makes me want to write a scene where this betrayal happens and the protagonist shoots the treacherous boss in the head.  Then later on someone says, “But it was all just a ruse.”

The protagonist would reply, quite rightly, that one should not play head games with a trained killer. I mean, seriously.

In a similar vein I want to write a scene where the protagonist gets taken off the case and put on suspension and, instead of doing a secret investigation, takes a plane to Orange County airport and spends two weeks drinking hurricanes on the Huntington Pier.


About MishaBurnett

I am the author of "Catskinner's Book", a science fiction novel available on Amazon Kindle.
This entry was posted in Artists That I Admire, On Writing and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Only A River Of Changing Faces Looking For An Ocean

  1. Dave Higgins says:

    I am occasionally tempted by writing a book where the male lead acts like a typical paranormal romance hero, so the female lead has him arrested for stalking in chapter 3 and makes a success of her restaurant/clothes store/intergalactic survey without using centuries of inherited wealth backed up by magical powers.

  2. Lucy Goacher says:

    Not gonna lie, I’d really love to see a protagonist shoot one of these side-swapping attention seekers in the head! It’s definitely an overused cliché, and a frustrating one. Change it up a little, writers! I thought Agents of SHIELD’s first season twist with Ward was great because it defied this convention – and our expectations – entirely. It was a welcome change – although my inner fangirl was very, very upset.

    I only found your blog this morning, but I’m really loving it so far. Looking forward to delving into the archives and reading any new posts! 🙂

  3. Really liking the idea of the spurned member of an association just shooting the “traitor.” Especially if the traitor isn’t actually one. Just contemplating the issues of the fallout from such an event makes my imagination’s tastebuds water.

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