I read about the intentional conflict Elizabeth is maximizing in her characters and I chuckle. I read the open letter of murderous intent B. Miller has written to her character and I cackle madly. I read the summary of an alien race decimating humanity one mutant cell at a time in Lisa K.'s summary (Heart of the City) and I shouted 'YES!'
What kind of wack job? I hear all of you. You don't think I'm a wack job AT ALL, at least not for these murderous leanings... Oh, sure, you might think I'm a nut for eating peanut butter and dill pickles on toast, or for trying to convince y'all to get naked all the time, or even for practicing Delusional Thursday with some regularity. But for cackling wildly at these sadistic scenes? You're with me. I know it. Because we are the freakiest bunch of psychopaths out there... on paper.
So what kind of NUT is drawn to this way of thinking? And is this any worse than the voyeurs who READ the stuff? (well... probably I should admit we wouldn't WRITE it if we'd never enjoyed reading it, so maybe we ARE twice as awful) but why is it so much FUN to torture characters?
There is a little bit of a rush to making our fellow man (or woman) cry. It's sort of a power trip when said man (or woman) says “I used a whole box of tissues!” or “I had nightmares!” Or (this is my favorite) “I soiled my armor, I was so scared!” Oh, sure, it can be really sweet and touching and yada yada blah blah blah to make them go, “Awwwwwww,” over something sweet, and there is a definite bonus to making someone fall off their chair laughing... but those negative emotions? We could rule the WORLD with that stuff! I definitely know when I bawl my eyes out WRITING something that I'm onto something... BOTTLE IT, SISTER!
Some might claim by getting all our homicidal tendencies out on PAPER, we no longer feel the need to murder our family members. Not so. Why just last night, when I took my thankless first born her mouth guard because she'd forgotten ALL HER WATER POLO stuff in her LOCKED high school (she could borrow everything but the bloody mouthguard for the game) she snarked at me. I told her I was done doing her favors, as she was always thankless over it, and she told me not to come to her game. At that point I considered retroactive infanticide... never mind that I was nearly 15 years late. So as catharsis, it is apparently inadequate... then again, I haven't murdered anybody in weeks... wait, no... not true... I finished CONSPIRACY on Monday night, and there WAS a death involved... yeah... if this was catharsis, it was inadequate...
Moving the PLOT
Are we REALLY such a bunch of geeks that we want horrible things to happen to people to MOVE THE PLOT? I'd say there is a definitive YES, going around. But it is a 'yes but not sufficient'... There are plots with pointless murder and death, and THOSE don't move us. Murder and death that moves the other CHARACTERS though... that's good. Murder and death that sets up a whole bunch of QUESTIONS (whether technical: who dunnit?) or philosophical (why is there death?), practical (who will take care of me now?) or emotional (how will I live without her?). Whatever the case, death is one of life's big events... the BIGGEST, aside from birth (at least if it's your own). Death also sets characters into conflicting patterns of behavior (some people turn into themselves, some act out, some hide the bodies, some solve the crime). Death is NOTHING, if not interesting. It's an excellent story device.
So in real life, I've actually seen a lot of death, but... okay, this sounds a little cold... it was paced well. I was born with 7 great grandparents, 5 of whom I knew. And real old, sickly people dying is a little sad... but if you've seen it 4 times by age 6 (the first one I remember, and I probably only remember because there are pictures) then it sort of is just... part of life. After THAT, the next one was my dad, and that was obviously very hard... young death is ALWAYS harder. Sudden death (car accident) is ALSO... maybe not harder at the time, but harder to recover from because there is no chance for good-bye... then I got back to great grandparents, a grandmother...
I'd never claim it didn't SUCK, but I think the pace of exposure has made me rather philosophical about it. But I keep wondering if that is holding me back from dealing with it in my writing...
The murder mystery doesn't seem to hard. THERE the first body isn't known very well, and typically the second (maybe 3rd) are negatively entangled enough to have been suspects... they don't tend to be people we have gotten attached to (at least not in cozies, and honestly, I haven't seen any 'genre mystery' that is that way—occasionally a mainstream mystery is...)
In my suspense books though... MAN... that death I wrote earlier this week has been planned for two books and I STILL wrote it the first time with the person recovering. I went on autopilot and COULD NOT write instant death. But then when I got to the 'clean up' chapter, I realized there was a conflict in the case of life, so I went back and rewrote.
I've written faked deaths... (those are FUN), I've written madness (another favorite) so why is someone at peace with death so hesitant to write it?
I'm thinking I need to write something from a villain perspective to get over it. (Talk about a sadist!)
At the moment though, I am just going to say, I've never claimed to be evil. I'm just naughty. Maybe a little evil though, might be good for me.