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The Life and Death of Deputy Lang

August 05, 2008  Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Characterization, The Craft   0 Comments

In reference to this post I bring you a little blurt:

Lang was driving uncomfortably fast with one hand while the other was fumbling with the patrol-rifle lock in the other. The setup was new—rifles moved to the center rack while the shotguns moved to the trunk in 2007. He did not have a lot of experience with it and not being able to look at the thing while he was driving was giving him fits.

He growled and smacked it in frustration. This seated the rifle all the way in its cradle with an audible snap, and this time when he turned the key the rifle guard swung out of the way.

“HA!” he yelled.

He did not know if it was the Abusers, Pereira, Phelps, the shotgun-wielding neighbor or a combination of all four who fired the shots. He held certification with his M4 since 2003; he was not going to bring just a Glock to a gunfight. Not a gun enthusiast as some of his buddies were, he was knowledgeable of the fact that in the shotgun vs. M4 match-up, the shotgun was going to lose, especially in his desire to stay as far away as possible from any unfortunate incident involving firearms.

“Militarization of the police, Baby!” he yelled, slapping the dash.

Then he remembered that he was running code so the in-dash recording system was recording everything he said and did.


Deputy Lang is a minor character in a near-future novel. Here, he is on his way to back up the other Deputy on a domestic disturbance call that went the wrong way. He does not use his M4 on this call nor does he meets an untimely end, or become harmed in any way.

Later, however, he could run into difficulties and perish, despite the fact that I envisioned him as a normal sort of fella, a life filled with less conflict, despite being a peace officer, then most of the other characters in the book. I have envisioned him with a young wife, a small child, normal parents and a bother who likes drag racing and monster trucks. He is an independent sort, as a deputy to a large rural county is likely to be. He is a man of the woods, and of the ocean. The bigger city police life would not appeal to him in the slightest. His vices are a fondness for fried foods that contributes to his cholesterol and purchasing unnecessary power tools.

Here is my “on the other hand…” moment.  I do not want Deputy Lang to be the sacrificial lamb simply because he is a minor player. It is not that he is wearing a red shirt; he is a good person, and putting the good person up for the plot sacrifice ranks right up there with the “serial killer threatening the homicide detective’s family”. It is predictable and in the conflict I am envisioning, predictability is not very likely.

On the other hand, creating a new character simply because I want to cheat death, even if it is a literary cheat, is the worst. I might as well call the new character ‘Dead Meat‘. In addition, Dead Meat adds to the bulk of the already bulky. Last night I deleted a sex scene because I was dishonest to the story when putting it in. I realized I was trying to break up a boring section of the story, rather then actually doing work to tighten up the plot. Just like this deleted scene, Dead Meat would not tighten up the story, and just piss off the reader who recognizes filler when she reads it.

Thus, the 5.6 readers of my blog, I present to you my naiveté. Here I thought word smiting was going to be one of my most difficult parts of writing. Sure, I edit a section and briefly consider going back to, oh, I do not know, elementary school. However, that is usually a late nighter and my pianist fingers conflicting with my typing fingers. No, the most difficult part of writing seems to be critical thinking, and that just bugs me to no end. I receive a paycheck for critical thinking. It is what I do for a living.

I may be over-analyzing the issue, which is further irony because I sometimes tell people in my line of work to knock that off. My conclusion is I might be, but it is doubtful. No, I believe my five readers of my novel are highly intelligent and want it all: entertainment, reflection, asking the questions not normally asked, everything they demand and desire in a story worthy of reading.

Literary Deputy Lang, I must stay true to my demanding readers. If you are to die, I promise to that your death will be meaningful and your life not forgotten, even if those that remember you only live in a novel.


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