Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Darkening the Story

Yesterday, we looked at safety net characters and said that they lighten a story. It then stands to reason that to darken a story we need a glass ceiling character. This is a character that has the ability to thwart our protagonist’s attempts with impunity. Just as the safety net character is able to aid the protagonist without fear of the antagonist, the glass ceiling character is able to aid the antagonist and nothing the protagonist might like to do will harm this character in any way.

This is more than just an antagonist with the upper hand. We all know of scenes in which the protagonist begs the villain not to shoot someone, maybe even reveals a secret to prevent it and then the villain shoots the person anyway. That too darkens the story, but the villain will eventually get his due. A true glass ceiling character is more like these secret organizations that are supposed to be above the law. Our protagonist arrests someone and that person is out of jail in short order because the organization has some judge in their pocket. Go after the judge and he will be protected by someone higher up.

Of course, all such organizations are defeated eventually, since good must always triumph over evil, but it may require several novels before the hero is able bring them down. Their existence in the meantime, darkens the story, giving the impression that evil is in control.