Gotta give the guy some credit. He seems like such a simple character: classic Boy-Next-Door, the one who’s perfect for the heroine but she just doesn’t see it. (In Saeli’s defense, I’m not sure Brendan’s actually “better” for her, in terms of compatibility. I do think they could have made it work, and work well, if she’d been willing to give him that chance.) But there’s a lot going on with him on the inside. He’s actually a bit darker than most boy-next-doors; he has some anger management and depression problems, though they’re buried pretty deep. Throughout this story he’s going to be dealing with feelings he’s never had to face before, and it’s going to dredge some of that up. (Seriously. Making Brendan angry is like pissing off a volcano. Bad idea. Unless you’re Raphel. He seems to enjoy watching people blow up emotionally.)
Brendan acted on his own once before, when he kissed Saeli and I wasn’t expecting it.
I just (re)tackled the scene where Brendan reveals his true feelings for Saeli. And found that I needed to completely rearrange the conversation, because about 90% of the things they talked about the first time around have happened differently (Cowl broke onto campus and killed someone, as opposed to Cowl simply broke onto campus and disappeared) or have not happened at all (Raphel hasn’t taken Saeli on their little midnight philosophical walk yet, Saeli hasn’t claimed to have met “some guy” downtown yet).
So my problem was, how do I lead up to Brendan’s confession this time around? My inclination was to do something really simple, like have him say something like, “See, you almost died last night, and that made me realize something…blah blah blah.” You know, when I actually write it out like that, I see that it kind of makes Brendan look like a sissy. Good thing he had other things on his mind.
After a bit of back and forth between Saeli and Brendan, where he both wants to speak his mind and simultaneously doesn’t, and Saeli is getting more and more confused and annoyed…Brendan finally blurted out something that changed the whole timbre of the scene. “What did that Cowl do to you last night?”
And I remember that White Mantles believe Cowls have neither morals nor inhibitions, and that male Cowl raiders are known to (supposedly) steal women and rape them.
And I realize what Saeli’s story up to this point (“The Cowl was going to kill the Priestess, I talked to him, he decided to let us live if I let him go”) would look like to a White Mantle whose feelings are not entirely neutral. Brendan has jumped to the conclusion that this Cowl raped Saeli, and the reason she hasn’t admitted it is because she let it happen so that she and the HP would live. It’s a logical assumption, given what Brendan knows about Cowls (they’re promiscuous), about Raphel in particular (he’s never left a victim alive before), and about the circumstances (Saeli was alone with Raphel, they cut some kind of deal). And Brendan, dear, protective soul that he is, has got to have the truth of the matter…and thus we have this completely spontaneous scene where Brendan basically accuses Saeli of selling her body to save the HP’s life.
And of course Saeli’s first reaction is something along the lines of “Why the hell could he even imagine such a thing?”, which forces him to admit that it’s not the morality of the situation that bothers him…it’s the idea of her being hurt by a Cowl like that. So Brendan gets to admit how he feels without ever having to say the words, which is good. It reinforces him as a strong male and also as a White Mantle (Mantles don’t talk about feelings much).
It also puts Raphel and sex together in Saeli’s head for the first time, and even though she finds the very idea revolting at first, the seed is planted. Plus, right after this scene concludes, Saeli is going to go back to her room and find Raphel waiting for her.
It really is great when my characters know themselves better than I do, and get themselves into deeper messes than I would have come up with for them.