Saturday, March 28, 2015

Respect Your Minions

I'm close to priming the BSP pump and start spraying news about my forthcoming Felix Gomez detective-vampire book, Rescue From Planet Pleasure. Early in that story I had a battle between the good vampires and the enemy bloodsuckers. My heroes were cutting down the bad guys by the dozens. Then during the writing of that manuscript I saw the James Bond thriller, Skyfall, and that made me reconsider the body count. Near the climax of the movie, a horde of bad guys close upon Bond and company trapped in the mansion. Our intrepid champions cut through the ranks of the evil doers who kept attacking and attacking like mindless zombies. Then it hit me.

Why are minions so willingly expendable? Why are the bad guy pawns so relentless in their attack despite being slaughtered? These guys are criminals, which means they have only two possible motives. Either they are cultish slaves or they're in the business of murder and mayhem for profit. Even if they are devoted slaves to the master criminal, wouldn't they--as they're being mowed down--ask the boss to reconsider their strategy? What's the point of them dying like vermin? And if they're in it for the money, I think that after one or two bite the dust, the rest would pull back and regroup. Money is only good if you can spend it, something that's hard to do from the grave.

In Skyfall the bad guys arrive in a gigantic helicopter, worth tens of millions of dollars. Flying that machine ain't easy, so it would have to be piloted by an experienced and rather level-headed crew, and despite their competency, the copter is easily destroyed. At what point would the crew hit "minion-override" and decide to quit acting stupid? A band of murderous criminals is like a pack of wolves, and like wolves, once the alpha threatens the pack, then they turn on him.

That realization made me reconsider the slaughter of the minions in my story, and I cut back on the body count. I even had some of the minions rebel against the villain because of their useless loss. As we writers like to say, everyone is the hero of their own story, so it would make sense for the minions to act in their own self-interest. Which actually makes for a more layered and deeper story. Lesson learned.

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