Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Case of the Broken Ties: Finally addressing interaction between Hamilton and Paul

I’m still working on my Perry mystery with a supernatural twist, The Case of the Broken Ties. So far it stands at eleven chapters. I believe I’m coming close to the climax now; tentatively I think the plot might wrap up at fourteen chapters. But I’ve made wrong estimates before and I could be making another. It might end up longer.

For those who don’t remember or did not see the previous entries where I mentioned this venture, the basic plot involves a couple of Perry and company’s enemies teaming up to unleash a cruel plan that will get them out of trouble and put the good guys at a serious disadvantage. Through the usage of long-lost magic, they have tried to make everyone except them forget their true memories and lives. Some, such as Della, have been completely displaced. Della is now a schoolteacher. Andy works as the principal of her school. Steve is a private eye.

Others, such as Perry, keep their jobs but lose key memories. He doesn’t remember Della or Andy. And though he knows Hamilton, he has no idea that they have become friends. His memories extend only to more season 1-type events, and even then, what he thinks he remembers has been badly warped.

Both the femme fatale Vivalene and the crooked Judge Heyes are bitter against Hamilton for prosecuting them, but Vivalene wants to take it further. Among her manipulations, she crafts false memories for almost everyone that puts them on the warpath against Hamilton. Mignon remembers that she and Hamilton had a falling out that has never been repaired. Clay thinks that Hamilton is trying to shut down his restaurant. Paul is informed by Tragg that Hamilton is recommending that his license be revoked—for something that Paul knows he didn’t even do.

What the villains were not counting on is that both Hamilton and Paul remember the truth. They meet, and after Hamilton assures Paul that he is not trying to have his license taken away, they opt to form an uneasy alliance while they try to get the world back to normal. This proves very difficult, as they meet with copious amounts of resistance from most everyone. Vivalene, though irritated that they remember, also finds it darkly amusing. It makes her torment of Hamilton all the more poignant, when he remembers the truth but can’t get anyone to fully accept it.

I always try to re-read past chapters repeatedly to make sure I don’t forget things I meant to bring out later. As I’ve been doing that, I’ve noticed how increasingly disconsolate and wearied Hamilton has become by the current point in the story. It’s such a contrast to his confidence and pleasure at the beginning. That was not done intentionally. Instead, it seems to have just happened in the natural order of things as the existence he’s known has spiraled downhill. From what he’s had to deal with, it’s not surprising at all.

It’s been interesting trying to determine how everyone acts. I don’t want anyone to be harsh or cold just for the sake of the story, using the fact that they don’t remember as an excuse. I’ve tried to make them aloof enough to be realistic with the situation while writing their reactions as much in keeping with the characters from the show as I can. Perry, for instance, instead of being out-and-out stubborn and refusing to listen at all, is deeply troubled by the things Hamilton tells him. And when Paul starts saying the same things, Perry wonders even more if there’s something to it. He and some of the others are having a particularly rough time fully accepting that everything they currently remember is false, but they are at least trying to consider the idea.

As previously discussed, it’s hard to know exactly how Paul feels about Hamilton. The great majority of the few times he’s mentioned Hamilton at all in the series, he has said something that sounds derogatory. Later on, I do get the impression that Paul has mellowed at least somewhat, but I don’t know if he actually considers Hamilton a friend. I don’t know how Hamilton feels about him, either, but Hamilton’s agony over having to prosecute Paul in Paul Drake’s Dilemma says quite a lot.

I’ve always tried to give the impression in my stories that Paul recognizes Hamilton and Perry are friends, and respects that, but he does not share the sentiments. In my first mystery, The Persecuted Prosecutor, Paul has to deliver the news to Perry that a body found badly mutilated has been identified as Hamilton. (It’s later shown to be a lie perpetrated by the medical examiner.) He tells Perry he’s sorry. It’s subtle, perhaps, but my intention with the line was to show that Paul knows how terrible Perry will feel, while not taking Hamilton’s death as hard himself. However, during the time they believe Hamilton is dead, Paul and Della talk and Paul finally, resignedly admits that it won’t be the same without Hamilton and of course he’ll miss him.

Save for one main scene, Hamilton and Paul do not interact much after Hamilton returns and discovers everyone thinks he’s dead. Nor does Paul tell him any of the things he told Della. They also do not interact with any great significance in The Memento Mori Murderer, although towards the climax they have to more or less team up to keep a horrified Della from running into a deathtrap after Perry.

The Macabre Mansion begins to address the problem of their interaction. Hamilton needs to hire Paul to help him with a case Mignon has presented to him. Paul agrees but is clearly reluctant to work for Hamilton. In exasperation, Hamilton tries to tell some of his side of things and says that even though he sometimes loses his patience over Perry’s winning streak, he would never want an innocent person to be convicted. He also says he has nothing personal against Perry or Paul and that he can’t just look the other way if the law is being bent or broken. Paul is grateful for the conversation, but doubts that he and Hamilton will ever be friends. They interact throughout the story, with Hamilton even admitting at one point that he went to look for Paul in a tunnel through which Paul vanished because he was concerned for Paul’s safety.

In The Broken Ties they are forced to work together out of necessity. But even though they are generally congenial and I’ve tried to give the impression that they could be friends, all along I’ve also tried to write their interaction with a tense undercurrent. Naturally at some point it will burst open. I didn’t stop to seriously think about the possibility of them having a bad argument, however, until I was almost at the point where there was an opening for it. I still hesitated, wondering if it should happen later or not at all or if I would be able to write it without making Paul look like the bad guy. I didn’t want either of them to come across that way; I wanted the feeling to be that two good people on rocky terms with each other had finally just lost their tempers.

In the end I felt I had a good place for the argument and that it should happen, so I wrote it. I think and hope it turned out close to what I intended. I think they really did need to get those feelings out in the open. When they calm down, they opt for an official truce and are able to go back to being congenial with each other. In the most recent chapter Paul curiously asks Hamilton how long he’s known the Germaines. That question, and the relaxed conversation that ensues, is meant to show that things are not always as they first seem. Perhaps, though neither is altogether aware of it, they have already been friends for some time.

Steve Drumm has appeared in both this story and The Macabre Mansion, but I have been a bit unsure of how to write him so he won’t sound like an Andy clone. He always reminds me of a hardboiled cop from the forties, however, so if I keep that idea in mind I think I’ll get a better handle on his character. He appears again at the end of the most recent chapter, and though his scene is short, I’m proud of it. I also include a brief reference to Vern St. Cloud, a character from The Rockford Files whom I have wanted to bring in for a cameo appearance. I haven’t found a good opening for that yet, but the reference slipped in fine.

Many subplots are woven throughout the twists and turns of the chapters. Each character, both those who remember and those who don’t, must go through their own uniquely difficult decisions. Sometimes they make the wrong choices. Sometimes they choose right.

One thing Judge Heyes is particularly concerned about is that the effects of the spell could not fully eradicate all memories Perry and Della have of each other. Although they do not recall anything specific, they are drawn to each other. Despite the villains’ attempts to keep them apart, they are reunited and begin to go out and talk. Della, who ends up being the most receptive to the ideas Hamilton and Paul have been presenting, has been softening Perry’s concerns against the seemingly impossible concepts. For it to feel so right for them to be together, Della says, perhaps everything else is true too.

I still honestly don’t want to actually put Perry and Della together as a romantic couple, which causes consternation from some of the large number of Perry/Della fans. But I feel it’s better to keep it closer to the TV show, going deeper where I can yet still leaving a lot up to the shipper fans’ imaginations. Besides, most people who write Perry fanfiction stories write some level of Perry/Della romance. I like to focus on more platonic relations instead, since that is my favorite and not often explored in others’ stories.

I’ve also been exploring more about Tragg. Someone is pretending to be his wife and he has no memory that his wife is really dead. With this cruel backdoor entrance into the group, the devilish woman has been draining an unknowing Tragg of his life energy to fuel the spell. As long as Tragg lives, the spell is not permanent.

A niece of Tragg’s is mentioned, someone who came to stay with him in the real world after his wife’s death. She hasn’t appeared in the story, although she’s been mentioned a couple more subsequent times. She is a character I’ve had in mind since before the post where I mused on possibly exploring Tragg’s family life if I did a Christmas story. While I didn’t get to the Christmas story I’d planned, this story does take place in December. But it’s more of a backdrop rather than an important plot point.

I have a very distinct image of what Tragg’s niece looks like and acts like. She reminds me of some actress or character from around the 1950s, but for the life of me I haven’t been able to think who. She will probably appear in some future story.

The climax of this story has been in my mind from the beginning. It will proceed in large part similar to the climax of the role-play story between Crystal Rose and I that inspired this fanfiction. There will be some necessary changes, however, and some others that I think will tighten the plot and make it better. I am very anxious to get to it and share it, but I do not want to reveal any of the details for it or any other upcoming chapters. I think perhaps some elements of this story have been unintentionally hinting at some of what may happen, but I don’t know if any of my readers feel the same.

I really love and value comments I receive from my readers on how I’m doing, how they like the stories and specific elements, and so forth. I don’t always get a lot of those compared to the numbers of comments I’ve received for stories written about other shows, but I do know people are interested in these Perry stories. I’m able to see how many people are reading each chapter (something only visible to a story’s author on and I’m honored and thrilled! I hope the rest of the story will continue to interest!

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