Explosions and FEELINGS (and More Explosions) (Guest Post by T. Eric Bakutis)
While I enjoy mindless action as much as the next person, stories where I can genuinely empathize with the folks currently shooting at each other have always been the most memorable for me. James Bond is entertaining, but every lost ally and vanquished foe is a footnote or wisecrack. Bond doesn’t suffer.
Jason Bourne suffers, even after he’s singlehandedly pummeled eight thugs into unconsciousness with a tea cozy or something. But he feels bad about it afterward, right? You see the toll the violence takes on him, and his victories are not so much victories as survival and often, the loss of those he holds dear. That resonates with me. I come for the action and explosions, but stay for the aftermath and regret.
My desire to evoke sympathy for my characters before and after the action was foremost in my mind when I wrote Supremacy’s Shadow. My goal was to write a fast-paced, twisty scifi thriller with morally gray characters, grounded conflict, copious amounts of snark, and, of course, explosions. But while those can make a book fun, unless my readers actually like and feel for my characters, it’s not enough.
I love carefully crafted worldbuilding as much as I love making that carefully crafted world’s buildings explode, but in my work, characters are key. I find characters most interesting when they’re out of their depth, and find the best drama occurs when they are forced into situations where there are no good choices, just bad ones. As an author, I want to write explosions that made people feel.
Okay, actually, maybe I want you to feel stuff between explosions. Like, there’s a bunch of explosions, and then feelings, and then more explosions. Either way, you’re doing some feeling in there, because characters! You like them. And oh man, that character just exploded, and this character misses them.
Big battles are fun, but it’s always what happens between the battles that stays with me. Whether it’s seeing a cyborg Alex Murphy stare longingly at the wife and child he can never visit again, the way Sarah Conner grits her teeth as she realizes she can only stop Judgment Day by murdering an innocent man in front of his family, or the raw fear in Ripley’s eyes as she goes back into an alien hive to save a lost little girl, the vulnerability those characters display before and after the action makes it meaty and memorable.
So yes. I write books to evoke feelings. And while I always want you to root for my protagonists, it’s just as important to me that you understand the desires, hopes, and motivations of my antagonists as well. My favorite bit of writing advice is “every villain is the hero of their own story” and I hope that, once all my cards are on the table, I’ve created antagonists who readers can sympathize with and understand.
Am I being vague here? Absolutely. Wouldn’t want to spoil the big twist. Oh look! More explosions!
If you just read my books for the snarky action, that’s terrific. But I hope after the last thrilling battle scene is over, and the last twisty plot point unraveled, you’ll actually remain attached to my characters because you empathize with the pain they feel due to the horrible choices I forced them to make along the way. Because without relatable characters, all the explosions in the world don’t really matter.
Unless, say, I wrote a character who was actually an explosion. A sentient, sympathetic explosion with feelings. EXPLODING FEELINGS. That should be the title of my next book. But until then, here’s this one!
“Half Han Solo, half Deadpool, Hayden Cross tries to stop an interplanetary war while relentlessly mocking everything involved.”
For Hayden Cross, a military investigator in the far future, whether his wife faked her death is the question that is probably going to get him killed. Having lost the only job that kept him sane, he has few resources and fewer leads. Oh, and a sadistic crime lord really wants to kill him.
As he fights through an underworld of fanatical rebels, callous bounty hunters, and corrupt cops, each step takes him closer to the truth about his wife’s fate and the oppressive government he once loyally served. On the way he may even liberate a planet and stop a war … but only if he betrays everyone he loves.
Praise? For Supremacy’s Shadow
“Poor choices, bad jokes, and mouthing off to the very worst people at the wrong time, this book has it all.” – Cameron Johnson, author of The Traitor God
“The snark of Deadpool and the sci-fi realism of The Expanse, left on your door step and set aflame.” – A.Z. Anthony, author of Servant of Rage
“A refreshing break from all those moody, thinky, burdensome award-winners, this book shoots first and asks questions later.” – David Chang, editor at Space Squid
“Suspiciously reminiscent of Firefly, except with more dysfunctional characters.” – T. C. Weber, author of Sleep State Interrupt
“If you liked that scene where Han Solo talks to the Imperial guy in the detention center, that’s basically this book.” – Mike Kern, author of Dark Winter