Friday, September 28, 2012

The Importance of Keeping Literary Characters on the Page

Lately, I have been hard at work writing the manuscript for The Midnight Murderer. This book, my current work in progress, hosts many complex characters and grisly scenes. For example, the lead character Adam Sharpe's thought processes are often paradoxical. While chasing the bad guys (arsonists, serial killers, psychopaths, etc.) as an FBI special agent, Adam must entertain the darkest thoughts and motivations humans are capable of. To this end, I, as the author, must think these thoughts first.

This is not to say I go about my day wondering about the type of igniter the serial arsonist in The Midnight Murder will use to burn his victims (a cigarette lighter, by the way). Instead, I have to separate the thought processes that must occur to write the book and the thought processes to live my life by. Without this careful and strict separation, I could not be a writer. Neither could the dozens of writers behind such dark shows as: Law and Order (esp. Special Victims Unit), Criminal Minds and The Brother's Grimm.

Sure, at times, especially after a long writing session, it can be difficult to erase the images, voices and thoughts of my complex characters, but the separation must occur.

Now, some will ask, why write about any of the darkness of humanity at all? My answer is a metaphor. Let's say there is a skunk in your backyard. And, no, this isn't a cute Pepe Le Pew come to offer love and affection. This skunk is a bonafide wild animal. Your backyard has become its new living quarters. Congratulations! But, oh, you don't want a skunk as your new neighbor? So, you do something about it. With swift purchases at your local hardware store, you successfully kill off the skunk with a deadly trap. Congratulations! But, here is where the metaphor becomes clear. You now have a dead skunk on your hands. What are you going to do with it? You can pretend the skunk was never in your yard. Though, this plan has a serious flaw: the dead skunk now rotting grotesquely in your yard. So, you only have one option. You must remove the foul creature. This means actually picking up the trap containing the creature and throwing it out yourself, only then will your backyard truly free from your skunk problem.

See the connection? My novel, The Midnight Murderer, is not creating any evil in humanity that does not already exist. Instead, it serves as tool to remove some of that evil from the world. The Midnight Murderer, once published, will help people take care of the skunks in their backyard. Now, I am not insinuating that every reader should act like an FBI special agent (sorry); but, I do expect The Midnight Murderer will help open people's eyes to what already exists in the world. Additionally, and, most importantly, after finishing the novel, readers will be equipped to better identify and eliminate skunks that potentially live around them, or within them.

In a nutshell, The Midnight Murderer needs to be written. I must get into the minds of every character, no matter how dark their soul is; but, what happens in the story stays in the story. If you are a writer of any genre, remember that rule. If you are not a writer, but solely a reader, know that authors like myself are not creating evil. We identify it, caution against it and eliminate it in the end.