Chester was back at the Lander’s, in the dark. He had already stopped at the row that was home to the baseball-card box, knelt down, and for the dozenth—or was it hundredth—time (he had stopped counting), he grabbed a pack from the middle of the box and stuffed it into the back pocket of his black jeans. Next he straightened up, and like a dancer who had practiced a move across a stage until she could do it with her eyes closed, he made his way silently, mindlessly, toward the safe.
Standing before it, he mentally congratulated himself on how good he was getting at opening the little box full of cash. He wondered how much more quickly he could do it or if the Landers, or someone else for the matter, had a bigger, different safe. How long it would take him to open that one. Maybe it was because he allowed himself this brief moment of contemplation, or maybe it was because he had traced and retraced these steps so many times before that the nerve endings had dulled and the heightened sense of awareness had dipped to an all-time low. Regardless of the reason, he never heard Emmett Lander approach, and thus figuratively jumped out of his skin when the thirty-three-inch, thirty-two-ounce Louisville Slugger baseball bat the old man was wielding came to rest on his right shoulder.
He wanted to scream or run or piss his pants, but he did none of that. Lander had done nothing more than silently and effectively announce his presence. Why hasn’t he hit me? Chester wondered, and then the man who currently held Chester’s life in his hands, along with a wooden baseball bat, spoke.
He sounds almost friendly, Chester thought, trying like mad to read the situation.
“Watcha doin?” Lander spoke again, this time sounding more like the cat that caught the canary.
“Getting ready to open your safe,” the canary replied. Chester figured, Why lie? He was caught red-handed, breaking and entering probably the least of his problems—a Louisville Slugger to the knee, ribs, or temple more than likely the worst. What good would adding some mealy-mouthed lie to the current predicament do? Seconds that seemed like ticks on a forever clock passed, but no part of Chester’s body was forced to play the part of a Rawlings baseball. Finally, or at least it seemed like finally, Lander spoke again.
“Again?” was all he said.
“Sir?” was the question to the question Chester asked.
“You gonna pretend to rob me again?” Now Chester said nothing, but Lander was far from finished. “You are gonna open that safe in about ten seconds”—Seven, Chester thought, but didn’t interrupt by saying—“pull out all the cash, take it across the street, and set a spell looking at the baseball cards you also swiped”—he tapped the barrel of the bat on Chester’s right butt cheek—“and then you are gonna bring it all back, every dollar, and put it back in the safe just to do it all again in a couple of days or a week.”
Chester felt the weight of the bat on his shoulder again and wondered if the time for his beating had finally come.
“Turn around.” Chester noticed the order carried no anger. He turned and faced his captor.
“You’re good,” Lander said, looking squarely into Chester David’s eyes.
“All this time?”
“Not all this time, but for a long time.”
Chester looked at his shoes, toes pointed toward each other, then let out a soft whistle, and shook his head. He looked up at Lander, who now rested the bat on his own shoulder.
“You think I’m good?” It came out childlike, hopeful.
“I think you’re better than good.” Lander smiled and added, “And I can make you great.”
Creating the Right Elements in Thrillers by Keith Hirshland
Big Flies is my first novel so going in, throughout the process, and as I reviewed the work, I did my very best to humanize the characters because those human qualities are the ones that make the characters relatable to readers.
I think you can have an interesting plot or a well-paced narrative but if you don’t have characters that are believable or relatable then your story suffers. Creating the right elements starts with the right characters.
While something might be possible, in my opinion, it has to be plausible. So it would be inauthentic for me to create suspense by using experiences or mechanisms that are inherently unfamiliar to me. Since I am not afraid of monsters it would come off as disingenuous for me to write a character who is afraid of monsters.
Another element I utilized in Big Flies was to incorporate actual, historical events. Again, I feel that goes to the heart of the matter of being relatable to a reader. Fiction based on fact is a time tested method and, as a reader, it is something that always draws me into a story and makes the reading experience, for me, that much more enjoyable. So it made sense to me to use that same technique in Big Flies. Four, notorious, unsolved robberies within a 15-year time span serve as building blocks for the book. It made sense to me that if this method is something I enjoy when employed by other authors it stood to reason that it would make writing the book more pleasurable for me and in turn more interesting for others to read.
Characters and circumstances go hand in hand. I want the reader to be able to give in to the story. To be able to relate to the character (that person is like me or I know someone like him or her) and then place that character in a place and time that is familiar as well. That, in my mind, gets the reader invested and then creates a comfortable place for them to completely immerse in the story.