For those of you who were intrigued enough to click on this because you figured you would read a political rant from yours truly, Bryan the Writer, I apologize. I am not about to extol the virtues of either the Republican or the Democratic Party. Quite to the contrary, I want to take you to a part of your own personality you desperately would like to avoid. Somewhere that deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties you’d rather not discuss. 🙂
I was thinking about writing and how authors very often have to write characters that we generally don’t like. In many ways, writers are essentially above the fray as far as political discourse is concerned. Ours is not to participate in politics, but more to the point is that we are there to interpret what we are seeing.
For those of you who read my book, Riapoke, you will remember that one of the characters specifically references the presidential election. He doesn’t really voice support for one side or the other. He mainly points to the absurdity of both candidates. He’s essentially telling everyone that he has a responsibility to protect the people that he loves, even when the rest of the world appears to be going to hell in a hand basket.
I was thinking it might be fun to have a bunch of authors in a room who identify with a political party and ask them to write a sympathetic story about the politician they hate the most. Essentially forces them to examine the people and the ideals that they are steadfastly against. Those of you who have known me for any length of time know I’m a conservative, so for me that would be like writing a sympathetic piece about Nancy Pelosi. I have close friends who span the liberal spectrum from center-left to socialists. I would want them to write about President Trump.
I know you find this hard to believe, but I don’t especially like serial killers. But this doesn’t stop me from doing research on them and trying to delve into the darker parts of myself that inform me on what their motivations might be. I truly believe that no one ever wakes up and is magically crazy. Hollywood has popularize the myth that someone can just wake up one day and be criminally insane. Psychologists have proven this is essentially impossible. People’s personalities just don’t shift that quickly. So by studying serial killers, I can better understand the motivation behind them. When I couple what I learn with the darker places in my own personality, I can come up with a composite of what a serial killer might look like given a set of drivers in a storyline.
For example, Rigby, in The Dramatic Dead, goes crazy because he loses someone he loves. It’s not enough that he just loves this person, but he loves her to the point where she makes up a whole other side of his identity. When he loses that part of himself, it drives him insane. As a matter of fact, it drives him so insane that his subconscious mind looks for a way to reconcile the situation. And that is where the marionettes come in.
By the way, I chose marionettes on purpose. I don’t care who you are, the idea of puppets coming to life is terrifying. It’s the same concept that comes into sharp focus in the movie, Poltergeist. Almost everybody remembers the scene where the little boy is laying in his bed and the clown doll comes to life. While watching the movie with my son recently, I was reminded of how terrifying that scene truly is.
I’m not saying you necessarily have to go into great detail as an author into those people you hate. However, if you’re going to write them, and make them believable, you do have to dig into a place in your mind where you at least understand them. I’m not suggesting you sympathize with them, only empathize with them. Understand their point of view and maybe where they’re coming from. It will make your character stronger, and your story appear more genuine to the reader.
No, going into the dark parts of your own personality is not fun, but it’s necessary if you want to truly understand the characters you are writing about. After all, there is a reason you’re writing about them in the first place. Those characters come from you … a deep, dark part of your own psyche.
Yes, we all have dark places in our soul. The trick is to better understand those parts and then to better understand ourselves.