Sunday, July 5, 2009

Naughty and Nice

The classic tale is, of course, good versus evil, but the naughty versus nice debate is not nearly so flushed out. Contrary to the slander flying around about me being an evil twin, in the battle of good versus evil, I always fall solidly good (I heard that snort, I don‘t know who it was, but I heard it). I really don’t want anybody to be mean and if they are, I want them to pay. I am decidedly, instead, the naughty twin. But the whole debate sent me on a tangent… something required of my religion: Digressionism, so it’s good. I’ve read interviews from soap actors (I know, just another skeleton in my closet) and actors who play really rotten characters talk about a release. They are able to play out every horrible thing they’ve ever thought, so the demons no longer lurk at the edge of their home life. Peter Bergen (once the beloved Cliff on All My Children, since then, the ruthless Jack on the Young and the Restless) said his wife prefers him playing the bad guy because he’s so much nicer at home. What I’m wondering, and bringing up for discussion, is the question of whether the writer gets the same release, and are there parameters around which it works and doesn’t work? I’ve written some bad guys, I’ve even gotten in their heads, but inevitably I come to understand and sympathize and am so compelled to redeem them that it is almost beyond me to stop. In fact, the transition I usually make is that they come to understand they are not meant to be evil, just a little naughty. So the effect of writing a bad guy, for me, has been an expansion of empathy, I suppose, and an increased urge to be a little bit naughty. The empathy fits making me nicer, but not in the way I was thinking because it is so convoluted. Empathy for evil people doesn’t make one act more nicely, necessarily, except maybe in relation to those evil people. I want to know if anyone has succeeded in getting deeply in the head of someone BEYOND redemption, and if it has had a positive or negative effect on their personality. Does writing awful things act as catharsis and so bad behavior in real life goes down, or does it desensitize and permit a little of one’s evil self to reach the surface and grow?

1 comment:

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Wow...this is a really deep question. Although I write murder mysteries, I'm a lot deeper in the sleuth's head as she works through clues and red herrings to figure out the puzzle--instead of the killer's. I'm in the murderer's head enough to discover his motivation and the ways he tries to throw us off track.

I think if I wrote thrillers, I'd have to get a lot more in touch with my bad guys. I'd imagine it would be tough to get back OUT of their heads after trying to see the world through their eyes for a while.

Mystery Writing is Murder