Think about the kid next door. The one you’ve known since she was in diapers. The one that used to ride his bike with your son. The one that would hang out at your house while her mom ran errands. The one that gave your daughter rides to school when he got his license. The one that helped carry your groceries in when she was home from college.
Now what if you learned that that grown-up kid had been accused of embezzlement – or murder – or terrorism. Would you be disbelieving and need irrefutable proof? Or would you start to look at old memories in a new light. Maybe that time he bloodied your son’s nose was a sign of latent violence. Maybe carrying the groceries inside was an excuse to scope out the place. How would you respond to the police when they came round asking what you knew or had seen or had sensed? What would you say when a reporter thrust a microphone in your face?
Last week, I talked in my post about perspective. How we – and my characters – fill in gaps or interpret events through the lenses of own experiences in order to make sense of the world. We also respond to situations in ways we feel are best for us.
Self-preservation is one of the strongest innate responses we have. It’s why people remain silent in the face of injustice or wrongdoing. If we disassociate ourselves from or point our fingers at people under scrutiny, we won’t fall under scrutiny ourselves. It’s a form of misdirection, of asking the interrogators to look away and not pay attention to the man behind the curtain, if that man is me.
Paul’s neighbors, friends and acquaintances are facing scrutiny, and they respond in individually human ways. The reader will have an advantage, but Janelle will have to be observant to know whether to take what people are saying at face value.