I must first provide a bit more background on the book before I describe the scene.
JR and I made the decision early on that he would write the protagonist portion of the book and I would write the antagonist. In my case, the main antagonist is a fellow named Felonious Fenduke Filtcher the Fourth. At first glance, Felonious appears to be the traditional hand-wringing nut job that often appear in cartoons.
I wanted to add some depth to his character and have fun doing it (this book IS meant to be funny, after all).
The opportunity came up when two of Felonious’ minions (Lenny and Squiggy – two hulking brutes) have to report a failure. Felonious is in his lab.
Here is the scene:
Felonious counted to ten before he answered his large minion. “I want you to take the carriage down to the dock and blend in with the crowd. Place the case which you just filled with explosives near the ship.”
“Yes, Boss, but you said the press conference is at 10:00 a.m.,” Lenny said.
“It’s not even 6:00 a.m. yet, Boss. Wouldn’t it look suspicious if we were down at the dock this early?”
Felonious stared at the man for several moments, tapping his bottom lip, before he answered. “You raise a very good point, minion. It is too early to go.” He began pacing again, talking aloud for his own benefit. “What should I have my faithful minions do for the next few hours?”
“You could let us have forty winks,” Squiggy said in a pleading tone. “We’ve been up all night and I’m beat!”
“Hmm? Beat you say? What a novel idea,” Felonious said.
“Squiggy just meant he’s tired, Boss,” Lenny said quickly. “We both are. I could use a little shut-eye.”
“Well, why didn’t you say so,” Felonious said with a wicked smile. “I have just the thing for that!” He wandered over to a steel cabinet and pulled a key from the breast pocket of his lab coat. With great care, he unfastened the lock on the cabinet and opened the steel door. It opened without any sound.
Both henchmen leaned forward to catch a glimpse of the contents of the cabinet. Inside, gleaming like a new penny was a brass colored ray gun. A globe of dazzling light shone from the back of the weapon and polished brass and wood decorated the entire surface. Felonious gently pulled the gun from its padded stand and cradled it like a newborn baby.
“What is it boss,” Lenny asked, awe coloring his voice.
“I call it my rejuvenation ray,” Felonious said.
“What does it do?” Squiggy asked, his voice cracking as he spoke.
Felonious patted the barrel of the gun. “One shot from this and you will be filled with new energy to get things done. You won’t feel tired at all.”
“Gee boss, look at the time,” Squiggy said, holding up a bare, watchless wrist. “Me and Lenny here got to run out and do an errand for the boss.”
“Minion, you don’t have a watch and I am the boss. I don’t recall giving you anything to do for me.”
“Relax, Minion. It won’t harm you at all. I’ve tested it thoroughly on rats and they hardly ever explode.” Felonious watched the two men for a moment. “Ha, ha,” he said with little mirth. “That was a joke, gentlemen, in case you missed it.”
“Oh! Ha ha,” Lenny said, looking distinctly like crying.
“Oh for heavens, sake,” Felonious said. He looked at Squiggy. “You, minion, go get me one of those hamster cages from over there.” He pointed at a shelf covered with animal cages.
Squiggy dutifully went over to the wall and fetched a cage containing one sluggish, fat hamster. The little animal was walking halfheartedly on a wire wheel.
“Place the cage on that table,” Felonious ordered.
Squiggy put the cage down on the indicated table and stood back. As the two henchmen watched, Felonious lifted the weapon and aimed it at the cage. He pulled the trigger and the weapon began to hum ominously. The glowing ball of energy in the weapon brightened and a wavy beam of violet light flowed through the air and struck the cage. The sluggish hamster stopped moving on the wheel for a moment.
Then all hell broke loose.
The hamster went from still to running in mere moments. The creaky wire wheel was suddenly moving so fast that it was almost invisible. The axle of the wheel started glowing a cherry red in seconds. The glow stretched from the axle to the rest of the wheel. The hamster let out a startled squeak and burst into flame. As fast as it had started, the whole thing ended with a well cooked hamster stuck to the slowing, melted wire wheel.
“If it’s all the same to you, boss, I think Lenny and I will just go out and grab a cuppa joe,” Lennyy said, backing away from Felonious, case and explosives clutched tightly in his arms.
“Yeah, what Lenny said.” Squiggy followed his comrade.
But Felonious wasn’t listening. He was busy examining the gun. “That shouldn’t have happened. I wonder if it would do the same thing to a bigger animal?”
What I love about this scene is it gave me the chance to show the wicked sense of humour Felonious has as well as the fact that he is situationally aware. His self-commentary (out loud) gives Lenny and Squiggy the hint that they might just want to go try again without actually giving the order. It also allows him to warn them of their potential punishment should they fail again.
Talk about a motivational speaker!
I also love how visual this scene is. As much as a hamster that spontaneously combusts is a bit dark (no animals were harmed in the writing of this scene), it has enough of a humorous component that it also shows that Felonious is a nut…brilliant, but still crazy. And he is someone to be feared.
I wrote this scene fairly late one night. I had been writing for the better part of an hour when I got to this point. I was completely in Felonious’ head and the writing was coming pretty easily. I think I wrote the entire scene in about ten minutes.
When I went back to read what I had, I couldn’t help but laugh – that’s actually a good sign. My writing rarely affects me strongly on an emotional level. This did that (and still does).
So, let’s talk character motivation for a few moments.
There are three characters in this scene (not counting the hamster). Lenny and Squiggy (the two hulking minions who could probably snap Felonious like a twig should they decide to) are bone-tired. They’ve been up doing their master’s bidding all night long. All they want is sleep. And, of course, there is Felonious who, for whatever reason, rarely needs much sleep. He wants to keep moving forward.
The minions complain and ask for rest. Felonious being a logical (if someone cracked) being says he has a fix for that and produces a ray gun that should re-energize the two. When they are reluctant to cooperate with his plan he demonstrates its power on an unsuspecting hamster.
The results are somewhat spectacular.
What isn’t known is whether Felonious actually expected the spontaneous combustion. What we do see is how he uses the result to motivate his employees/minions without actually having to resort to extreme violence all while encouraging their continuing fear of him.
As I said before, a very fun scene to write. And when it came time to edit? Well, very little changed in the scene. The flow was good and really fit that portion of the book. AND…I kept laughing as I read it (as did my partner). It is still one of my favorite scenes to read aloud.