Authors are artists — artists of the word. As is true of most artists, we are sensitive people. We laugh and cry, rant, tremble and rejoice, as we pour our souls onto paper, and expose our deepest fears and desires to the reader. Writers want to share our thoughts, our feelings, and our perceptions. We want to cure the world’s ills, heal souls and change minds. We’re also just the tiniest bit sadistic.
My particular brand of sadism wasn’t obvious at first. I’ve always thought of myself as a rather gentle person, prone to rushing to the defense of the underdog perhaps, baring my teeth and growling sometimes, but never intentionally harming someone. It wasn’t until I began to share my writing, publicly, that it began to rear its evil head. I should have known the first time a reader told me I’d made her cry, and I felt a rush of satisfaction that my work had induced such a passionate response. Reading and rereading the short story that had elicited the tears, I tried to analyze how I’d accomplished it. I wanted to be able to repeat the performance. Granted, I want to make people laugh, as well. I want to make them sigh and squirm, anything that takes them from simply devouring words, to living the story.
Sometimes I feel like a literary puppet master, tugging the emotional strings of the readers, in hopes of moving them just the right way. It’s that desire to create and share passions which inspires most writers to begin with. The response is further fuel — the more passionate the response, the better the continued production from the writer. I suppose that’s why reviews can send some of us into a writing frenzy, and have others ready to build a bonfire of everything we’ve ever created. Reviews are far more important to the writer than most readers realize.
When it comes down to it, though, there is no real evil intent in wanting fervent responses from our readers. Where a writer’s true evil emerges is in our manipulation of the characters…
Anyone in the industry will tell you that you can’t write a good story without conflict. Your characters must have obstacles to overcome, tragedies to survive, and abuse to rise above. To many of us, our main characters are like our children, lovingly created from our very essence and shown off to the world in words instead of snapshots. I compare myself more to a mad scientist, for what sane parent would purposely manipulate and torture their child in the name of art? My main characters have, often, horrible challenges to overcome in my stories. These children of my mind are ruthlessly tossed into situations that would drive most normal people quite mad. When I find myself struggling with writer’s block, I’ll randomly toss a sacrificial character into the fray, and try to determine how they’ll handle it. If a story requires it, I’ll brutally terminate a character’s life in the name of furthering the story. It’s cruel and sadistic, really, though I grieve every one like a beloved family member.
So there you have it. I have a rather blatant evil streak that hides in my sensitive artist’s soul. I will always do my best to use it for good, but if you hear an evil laugh, in the back of your psyche, as you’re reading my work, beware. I am a writer, it’s part of what I do.
(I have to give credit to Joseph Eastwood, who inspired this post with a blog post of his own. Mine is almost an addition to his, the other side of the coin, if you will. He compares writers to superheroes. You can read Joseph’s post here: Joseph Eastwood’s Blog)
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