August 2, 2021
The Bad Girl I Lock Away


The Bad Girl I Lock Away

On the appeal of domestic thrillers

Addison Michael

Sometimes when I’m at the end of a long day that has been filled with incompetent people from work, rude workers in service industries, and nagging teenagers, I snap a little.

I’m not just talking about a snide comment or a sarcastic remark. I’m talking about the bad girl I lock away. When my teenage daughter chooses that moment to tell me yet one more piece of bad news, the bad girl I lock away threatens her life.
“I’ll kill you!” I say.

We stare at each other for at least a minute. Then the corner of her mouth tugs up and she smirks at me.

“You gotta stop saying that, mom. Someone might hear you and think you’re serious someday.” Then she leaves the room snickering a little.

Only, I don’t find it funny. In that moment, the bad girl I lock away really wonders if I’ve finally hit the point where I could kill someone someday. Obviously, it’s not going to be my children. But I pity the next person who calls me to tell me bad news or ask me why something isn’t running correctly when it should be because I fear they will meet the bad girl I lock away instead of me.

Clearly, threatening the lives of my children has become a running joke in my house. But it originated from a true frustration in my inability to solve every problem life threw at me on a given day. I have a solution for everything starting in my household and going on up to the presidency. If my boss would just pick up his phone and call me, I could solve a lot of problems in the company. But he doesn’t call me. Maybe that’s because if he did call me and tell me about a problem, the bad girl I locked away might respond:

“I’ll kill you!”

When I think back over my favorite domestic thrillers and notice patterns and themes that emerge, I understand why I love this genre. Obsession, generational sin, codependency, chaos, traumatic childhood, jealousy, abuse and neglect, revenge, insecurity, fear of the unknown, loneliness… and the list goes on and on.

Why do we love thrillers with these themes? Because the bad girl (and boy) we lock away can relate. I mean, who hasn’t had a messed-up childhood or at the very least a very messed up incident that occurred in childhood? Domestic thrillers are a step (or ten steps) further than we are willing to go in real life. These books push the boundaries of our own comfort zone while making us feel pretty good about our own shitty life. Domestic thrillers explore how far the protagonist (who also might be the antagonist) is willing to go to appear normal. The justification of why he or she does crazy things compels us to keep reading. The motivation to do those things brings us to the protagonist’s (and sometimes antagonist’s) side. We want them to win. Because if they win, we can win too. It’s a twist on fairytales and romance.

For those of us out there who are broken, our “happily ever after” is the ability to navigate our bad girl (or boy) locked away and keep that part of us hidden so we can coexist nicely in society. We work the hardest to fit in despite our messy lives. Where do we really fit in? With another broken person who survived a lifetime of disappointments before they even came of age. Domestic thrillers are enticing because at the core of fiction is real life exaggerated to a horrific degree. Real life can be awful until we read how much worse it could be.

What makes a domestic thriller even better is the way writers present mystery elements. Red herrings (to repeat a very old term) are great when they truly lead us down the wrong path, so we are surprised and delighted in the end. Speeding up and slowing down the pacing in a book is a fun way to take us on a ride from the beginning to the end of the book. The bad guys must have a strong and believable motivation to keep us nervous enough to not put the book down even when we need a potty break. Then there’s the way we read the story from the perspective of the killer, which is awesome for creating suspense and raise the stakes for the “good guy” in the story. These are craft elements of a well-written domestic thriller that keeps us turning the pages to the end.

My absolute favorite element of domestic thrillers (or any thrillers really) though is an unreliable narrator. I will go down the dark hole of crazy with the protagonist or antagonist until the moment it clicks that this character is lying. I want to believe her or him. I give the character the benefit of the doubt. The sheer joy of being duped for so long will take me to the end of the book every single time.

The bad girl I lock away is content at the completion of a really well done domestic thriller book because I can justify that my thoughts and motivations and actions will never be as bad as the protagonist or antagonist that just survived some huge atrocity. Because the antagonist survived, I believe I can too. When the bad girl I lock away feels doubtful about surviving another stressful day without snapping, I simply pick up a domestic thriller and all is right with my world for one more day.

About the Author

Addison Michael writes riveting, character-driven thrillers heavy in suspense with a focus on the intriguing motivations that make a person a murderer.
Addison grew up in a home where rules were not meant to be broken. As such, she was the “goodest” of the “goody two shoes” around. At 16 years-old, she survived a deadly head-on car collision. With a twinge of survivor’s guilt, she developed a morbid fascination with who lives and who dies and why.

Being the oldest of six siblings forced Addison to lead by example. Her golden reputation solidified well into her thirties. But every good girl needs to have an outlet. Behind every smile and sweet comment, there is a dark side waiting to emerge. Addison Michael found the outlet for her dark side writing thrillers. She has an uncanny ability to step outside herself and create believable characters who navigate unbelievable circumstances involving murder, mystery, secrets, and suspense.

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