Thursday, April 22, 2010

Sadistic Sickos

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 am I?

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.

That's right. We're Writers.

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?


Manipulating Emotions

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!


Catharsis

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.


Death and the Tart

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.

16 comments:

Caledonia Lass said...

Hmm... I could offer myself up as a Hit Woman to Authors and make a fortune... Give me your characters and I'll kill 'em off. One. By. One. :D
While you have experienced lots of death in your early life and are "okay" with it, I have not experienced a lot of death in my own. Yes, I have had aunts and uncles, grandparents all pass away. But I never got closure on it either. I never got to go to the funeral. I was also older. But when it comes to killing off someone in my books, I am all for it. I suppose I have my brain wrapped around it differently. I mean, they're just characters. They aren't real. But then again, being on the outside of it all, never getting up close and personal with death, I guess I just don't hesitate.

Something to ponder at least.

M.J. Nicholls said...

One of Vonnegut's rules of writing was to have something horrible happen to one of the characters. Sadism almost seems like a necessity in fiction.

I was having this chat with a fellow writer yesterday and I came to the conclusion that I'm a heartless bastard who doesn't really have very many emotions. Or "man" as they're also known.

Gulp.

WELCOME TO MY WORLD OF POETRY: said...

This was most interesting to read to say the least. I did enjoy it but not being a writer of stories felt a bit out of my depth,
Loved the pics.
Have a lovely day.
Yvonne.

Fire and Ice said...

Ahh. I know how it is to struggle through killing off a character. I have only had one death (of a main character) to write and it took me longer than any of my other writing. I just couldnt seem to pull the trigger.
I think in my case it was more of an attachment to the character than anything. But had I not done it, I would have had a VERY long and unending story.
As for the pickles on toast with peanut butter, all I have to say is...YUM! I absolutely LOVE it. (we can be weirdos together.)

Leesh

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Oh I've killed off many of the people I went to high school with... :) Very cathartic.

I think teenagers know how to push our buttons...

Elizabeth
Mystery Writing is Murder

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I think writing is a way to express these things in a constructive manner.

Watery Tart said...

Mel--it IS an interesting question, isn't it--that maybe it's easier for you because you haven't seen it up close...

Mark, you heartless bastard *snort* *hugs Mark and gives him fond nuggies* I'm onto you. You just PRETEND to be rotten.

Leesh--so I have a new theory... maybe death is only hard to write for people who love peanut butter and pickles! *highfives* That is me too--it is hard once I've gotten attached...

Elizabeth-you crack me up. I didn't actually have anyone from high school that I hated. See, this may be my problem... I can pretty much find something redeeming in even the most horrible people...

Alex-I agree with you--and ACTUALLY the writing is a huge help to PROCESSING, even if it will never see daylight. What little sanity I have, I attribute to having always written. And you know what? THAT is a good reminder--my OTHER characters need their chance to process, too...

Sugar said...

So would it be bad to kill off your teenage daughter in a scene? Hmmm...I've been tempted..oooooh so tempted! lol. Gotta love the hormones eh? I can't wait till I get to the killing of evil things in muh booksy. *evilgrin*

Watery Tart said...

Yvonne--I saw your comment, then my brain left me! Some of your poems are stories--don't you ever kill anyone in them?! My poetry (which I haven't written for year) was always VERY dark.

Sugar-it's incredibly tempting, but if she ever read it, she'd probably never speak to me again!

Sugar said...

Lol..I may have been talking about mine!

Megan said...

I write about death all the time and thoroughly enjoy it. Murder, suicide, illness, car crashes. I have a whole novel devoted to death. There is just something about killing off characters that is so...freeing.

Of course, not everyone likes to read about that stuff. Hence, my early demise from ABNA. LOL.

Megan said...

...and I just realize how psychotic I sound. LOL.

Watery Tart said...

Psychotic Megan--I like that. It suits you. (though of course that means it suits me, too). I think you're right that it's not for everyone. There are people who definitely steer away, though i think there are even MORE (deluded) people who think it isn't for young people--my daughter loves mayhem and I'm sure would TOTALLY love your book. You just got a bad (or misinformed) reviewer.

Both my books vying for 'next' have a death focus, though one is an 'armegeddon conspiracy' (lots of it and people using it for nefarious plans) and one is actually from a ghost PoV.

Raquel Byrnes said...

You know, I hoped I wasn't the only one who carefully set up a character in a cozy life so that I can gleefully rip it to shreds... Ahhh...feeling better. =)

Kierah Jane Reilly said...

i killed off a good guy in a short story once and I had to walk away so I wouldn't go back and hit delete. I hated it! I actually had to stay away for a few hours so I could properly mourn before I could continue with the story. but I think I could kill off a bad guy pretty easily!

Slushpile Slut said...

I have 3 teenagers and I totally get the infanticide part....but it is illegal and agents don't like prison writers....

I have demons in my YA and whew boy are they some sadistic characters, I've notice though that it usually takes me about 3 rewrites to really get graphic with those parts....it's like I have to work my way into it for some reason...Matter of fact today I'm re-writing a passage where one of my characters receives the gift of a human tongue in a box....That's sick! And I've incorporated ancient torture devices...i don't know what those Romans were thinking when they came up with these devices but they are almost more sadistic than my demons..go figure.Great post!!