There are times when you walk a really strange road as a writer, going down some dark paths and scary, twisty highways. As authors we do things to our characters we’d never dream of doing in real life. We make them suffer in a myriad of ways--from the agony of emotional wringers we hope never to experience ourselves to very physical torments.

I kill people…in my books, anyway. I’ve had my characters kidnapped, beaten, burned, cut, threatened, tortured and just about any and every other horrible thing you can imagine. I make my characters suffer…in the interest of writing an engrossing story.

It takes a toll. I generally regard myself as a pretty nice person, and I think most of those who know me would agree. In real life I’m a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a friend, a neighbor and a co-worker. I’ve never deliberately harmed anyone that I can remember, and I try to be a positive influence on the world.

So where does all this come from?

In one of my books I wrote a harrowing battle scene where many friends and acquaintances of the book’s heroine were injured in ghastly ways or died, and then I wrote the even more harrowing scene of the aftermath of that battle. It was one of the most difficult scenes I’ve ever written, and one of the most important.

But it left me wrung out and emotionally devastated afterward.

Whenever I write a scene where bad things happen, especially when they happen to good people, as they frequently do in my books, I find myself wondering… Where did that come from?

All that horrible stuff was inside me?

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Comment by Karen McCullough on July 17, 2008 at 11:39pm
HI Paul -- True...the world can be a dark and dangerous place. Reading the newspaper every morning is a grim reminder of that truth. And it's a truth we bring to our writing. On the other hand, our books are generally about how justice prevails in the end, something that doesn't always happen in real life.
Comment by Paul McGoran on July 17, 2008 at 2:24pm
It starts as the logical deduction that the world is sometimes a dark and dangerous place. Given that, you have to make it real. When I bump somebody off under this influence, I pant and sweat, I feel the blows and I wield the knife. And I grieve with those who feel the loss afterward.

I've recognized that this stuff is inside me for a long time. I don't revel in it, but neither do I feel any lingering sense of guilt. Is it cathartic? I suppose it is. As fiction writers, we are constantly manipulating our emotions to achieve an effect. In the end, if the effect seems honest and true, we've done our jobs. If it seems merely contrived, we fall short.

Interesting discussion.
Comment by Karen McCullough on July 17, 2008 at 12:38pm
HI Dana -- Thank you for that perspective! You're very right.
Comment by Dana King on July 17, 2008 at 4:38am
Yes. And in me, and in any other writer worth reading. Any people worth knowing, for that matter. Actually, probably all people. Americans love to see things as either/or. Either good or bad; right or wrong. People aren't like that. Even the most mild-mannered person, who controls untoward impulses almost perfectly, has those impulses. As writers, we occupy an enviable position of being able to encourage and indulge those darker impulses, with no harm done. Don't worry, be grateful.

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