Posts Tagged ‘psychopath’


As we get closer to the release of Beautiful Monster (September 1st, 2012!), I begin thinking more and more about the sequel. Mimi A. Williams (Kim Williams-Justesen~ my mentor and co-author), and I decided shortly after the manuscript was accepted for publication, that we’d like to make this a three-part story. Whether or not this will be of any interest to the publisher or not, we don’t yet know, but if the only reason we do it is for ourselves, that’s reason enough for us.

We’ve outlined the second novel, which we are planning to call Beautiful Liar, and I have written the first scene of my first chapter. As I get going again, there’s only one thing I’m not looking forward to: seeing the world through the eyes of my deranged main character, Sterling Bronson. Sterling came into existence as the result of more than a year’s worth of intensive research on serial killers, sociopaths, narcissists and a variety of other psychologically disturbed social deviants. I know Sterling well, and this is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, knowing him makes him easier to write. On the other hand, he disturbs me.

Writing fiction seems to be a lot like acting in many ways. When you’re inside the mind of your characters, you really become these characters, and when you’re writing a true monster of a man, as is the case with Sterling, this is not always a pleasant thing. For one thing, you subject yourself to the possibility of nightmares. I have had many disrupted nights of sleep because of Sterling, and I was glad when we finished Beautiful Monster because of that. Now that we’re going again, I have already dreamed of him twice. In one dream, he was just standing on a bridge looking at me, nothing serious. In the most recent dream, however, he was digging up the floorboards in a house to show me all the bodies he had hidden there. For the sakes of the more sensitive readers, I won’t go in to details, but the point is, Sterling is back to his old self again, and eagerly showing me the worst side of his nature.

I’m not complaining. In fact, I feel truly blessed that someone finally believed in me enough to publish one of my books. And that it didn’t take the statistical seven to nine years of rejection after rejection is something I’m truly grateful for. There’s just a small part of me though, that wishes it had been a different, more pleasant novel of mine that caught the eye of a publisher. I didn’t write Beautiful Monster with any real expectation of it ever being published. I thought it was too graphic and too offensive to ever get picked up… but, go figure, it’s the one that made the cut. Again, I am neither complaining nor apologizing. I’m just not looking forward to seeing life through a maniac’s eyes again. I don’t like wondering what kind of mentality is required to take a human life. I don’t like wondering what someone’s flesh, under the blade of a knife, would look like as it separated from itself. I don’t like thinking about the last words a person might utter as their life is being taken away from them. I don’t like the fact that in order to believably write this character (again), I need to really understand the wicked twists and bizarre kinks of his mind.

But I’ll do it. I’ll do it because I want to tell this story. I’ll do it because, despite the horrors this character is composed of, I’ve somehow come to like him, and I want to see how his story plays itself out. I will do it because I was lucky enough to be given an opportunity to prove myself, and if I treat it like a hobby, everyone else will treat it like a hobby, and I don’t have time for another hobby. I’ll do it because it’s my job. And… I’ll do it because if I don’t, I’m afraid of what Sterling might do to me!

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     It’s been over a week since I wrote anything in An Evil Heart, the collaborative novel I’ve been working on with my mentor, Kim.  At first, this just seemed like a little break and I thought nothing of it.  The last couple of days though, when I sit down to write, a strange thing happens: nothing.  It wasn’t until today that I realized why.

        Kim and I sat at the coffee shop, where we’ve been meeting on Saturday mornings, and began to discuss our progress.  I, of course, admitted to having made none.  When she asked me why not, I was a bit surprised to realize I hadn’t given any real thought as to what was hindering me.  I thought about it for a while and then stumbled on my answer.  “Because,” I told her, “I am starting to really like Sterling (the antagonist and my main character) and every time I try to write him, I find myself wanting very badly to redeem him, to make him a nice guy somehow… and I know I can’t do that.”  Kim agreed that no, I can not suddenly make Sterling into a good guy.  Doing so would only throw the story entirely off course, not to mention, be wholly unbelievable.  So I know that’s not an option, but my sudden change of heart is a perplexing shift that has thrust me, yet again, into foreign and bewildering new territory.  I suddenly feel kind of like I’m in the middle of the ocean without a life raft… a feeling that is becoming all too familiar in this whole writing thing.

     In the beginning, writing Sterling was fun.  He is all the terrible, nasty things I could never be.  I never admired him by no means, but it was a fresh, albeit horrific, new perspective that invigorated my sense of adventure and truly moved me outside of my own way of thinking.  It was fun and it worked because I hated this character.  Whenever I would think of him, I’d get little chills of distaste all over my body.  The things he did made me feel sick sometimes.  I despised him.  But now that we are more than half-finished with the novel, a baffling thing has transpired:  Sterling has grown on me.  I seriously like the guy… despite his wretchedness and hideous proclivities.  This should be a good thing, but in this case, I’m not sure it is.

     I’ve spent many hours this afternoon rethinking Sterling and re-planning my approach.  Here is what I’ve surmised:  I don’t have to like this character or dislike him.  I have to love this story though, and if I change this character, I have to change story, which A) in this case, isn’t entirely mine, and more importantly, B) would ultimately be a great disservice to the story’s integrity.  Simply put, you can not set out to write a reprehensible, psychopathic character and then develop of conscience mid-stream.  So… I will maintain Sterling, warts and all, and let him tell his story, terrible though it is.  In the end, I know I’ll be glad I did.

     That being said, some definite good has come from this.  I’ve learned that even I have a fundamental desire to find the good in things, even the most vile things.  I’ve learned that with the dark and destruction comes also the light and the creative.  Perhaps above all, I’ve learned that what’s most important to me after all is the integrity of a good story, and that raises my faith in my own ability to continue on this path.