BLOG: Sometimes you don't know what will happen
Updated: Oct 17, 2021
[Note: This is the fifth in a series of blogs exploring the characters, writing process, and behind the scenes of THOUGHTS & PRAYERS.]
Joe Hernandez is one of the good guys. He’s the guardian you hope will come to your rescue when you need it, the one you want to open your door to in the middle of the night when you’re terrified someone has broken into the house.
He’s a loving father and a highly commended member of the police force with a clear idea of which side of law and order he’s on. Soon he’ll take the sergeant’s exam and move up the professional ladder from patrol officer. Although he’s frequently flummoxed by single-handedly raising a teenage daughter, he’s sure she’ll turn out fine.
And then some kid shoots up his daughter’s school and it’s game over. Something in Joe snaps. The world he thinks he knows changes instantly. For all his training, all his eighteen years on the force, all his dedication, random violence can still destroy the very safety he thought he had secured for his daughter.
No matter how he tries to tamp it down, fury grows in him. It can’t be reasoned away.
Everything in him has been honed to solve problems, but when his daughter’s life is shattered, he has no idea how to fix it. Suddenly a black hole opens under his feet that sucks him back into the violence inflicted on him as a kid, that reignites his agony over his wife’s death.
What would he do about it? That’s the question that dogged me as we worked through the plot of Thoughts & Prayers. Because he’s not a guy who sits and thinks; he’s a guy who does stuff, who takes action based on his feelings. He will risk his life, and he will make mistakes.
I met Joe on the cusp of the most important choices in his life, and I loved him instantly.
Putting him on the page wasn’t so much an exercise of trying to be in his head as watching him deal with all the crap life had thrown at him and writing it down with as much fidelity as I could.
I saw the boy walking to school terrified that some gang member was going to give him a beating just because he happened to be on the street at that moment. I watched him cringe when someone was casually disdainful to his father and heard him swear he would never let that happen to him. I observed as his heart broke open when he saw beautiful Emilia stranded by the side of the road, the hood of her car raised, her colorful skirt blowing like a flag in the wind. I stood in the room when he first held the tiny body of his Sofia, his soul, his dearest, his everything.
And I was with him when he watched the life go out of his Emilia and the long sorrow that followed.
He’s a man full of love and purpose, and someone threatened the world as he knew it. He had to do something. Even I didn’t know what he was capable of.