Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Writing Against Conscience

Last week, I posted another chapter from Salvation Day.  Given the content, as well as the glee with which one of the characters is carrying out a double murder, a few folks have asked me how I could possibly have written such a thing.  A couple have even suggested some shock therapy to help me "overcome my demons."

I have to admit that the chapter in question was probably one of the hardest things I've ever written.  As a father, it was easy to imagine the little girl who got murdered and to feel revulsion at what was going on.  However, in order to show why the person the main character was getting the memory from was in Hell, I had to write it from his point of view, and that required me to put myself in the shoes of the killer.
(Step on a crack and break your daughter's back)
As writers, we have to step outside of our comfort zones if we want to really convey to the reader what we want them to understand.  To spark an emotional reaction in your audience, you have to do something unexpected.  Anyone can write a bland description of a murder, but to get an emotional reaction from the reader, you have to get inside the mind of the killer, show the pleasure he takes from such a wanton act.  And what would draw an even stronger reaction than the callous murder of a child?

Fortunately, most of us are incapable of envisioning such a despicable thing, let alone carrying it out.  However, that creates a quandary for the writer - how to draw in readers without going insane?

It became necessary to imagine the most vile thing anyone could ever do.  How would someone like this think?  What would spark such a reaction from them, a reaction so violent that not only would that person kill, but enjoy it?

I decided to try and go completely against my nature.  In order to do so, I had to write in chunks, and I heartily recommend that to anyone else who contemplates writing something that's such an anathema.  I was physically revolted by what I was putting on paper, so I did it in steps so I could keep fresh but not descend into the madness required to do what the character did.  Haven't we all sympathized with our characters at some point, even the villains?  As hoity-toity as that sounds, I didn't want to risk even an inkling of it, so I stopped several times during the chapter to clear my head.

Even reading it now, I get sickened, and I want to see the bastard fry forever.  However, a small part of me is excited by what I produced.  I think I proved to myself what I'm capable of writing when I want to.  Such things open up my writing world and enhance the possibilities I can create down the road.  Although writing against conscience is difficult, it lets me go in directions I never imagined and makes me more able to spark the reaction I'm looking for.  Such things, I hope, will help make a more saleable book, as well as satisfy an audience looking to be surprised.

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