Woof. Here’s the thing about writing. Sometimes it ain’t pretty. In fact, sometimes it is downright menacing for your health.
Take the latest story I have been working on in-between more serious ventures. Please.
I have had to get into a disgusting head space for the main character of “The Short Career of Doug McDuff.” One where, when I read back on what I wrote, I can see was necessary for the character I am creating yet at the same time is completely vile. Right now I am swimming in the thought version of hot sewage.
I need to work on my metaphors. Back in a second.
Okay, back. I think I got a hold on it.
As in the case of a lot of characters writers create, Doug is based on some actual people I have known. Some of the concepts were lifted whole cloth out of their mouths. Some are direct quotes – scarily enough, cleaned up and made a little nicer for company.
Everyone has had to share company with men like this. And every man I can think of was once “friends” who shared these notions until they knew better.
The main source for this character was a nasty, nasty man. I have actually softened the edges of the written character. Were I to have presented him as is, it would be TOO cartoony. This in a story that is meant to be the equivalent of cotton candy: a little fun, bad for you, and completely disposable.
So here’s the issue, and writer peeps, tell me if you have been through this before: sympathetically writing a character whose perspective is the direct opposite of what you believe or think. How do you purge yourself of the taint after you are done writing? Is this why writers are known for their drinking?
I am probably not going to drink because I am a lightweight. I get tipsy on Mike’s Hard Lemonade, which is as close to Kool-Aid as booze gets. The problem is that every time I write things from Doug’s point of view, I want to drink a LOT of Mike’s Hard Lemonade.
So what do YOU do when you have a character you find vile, but whose terrible aspects are also important to the story?
In my case, it is important that Doug NOT be a sympathetic character, because this is a story of a violent and narrow man who has wandered into a situation that he has no hope of ever controlling. This is a man who embraces violence and hatred because he feels that it is the best way to take control of his life when this very violence ensures that he will be robbed of ALL control.
But since this story is from his point of view, it is vital that I understand him. I have to be somewhat sympathetic to a world view I find vile.
Where’s that goddamn Mike’s Hard Lemonade.
Okay, that loosened things up! So are there any tricks of the trade that you do? Do you soldier on and purge after? Maybe write a story about two bunnies who fall in love, get married, and then suddenly nothing bad happens? Do you write about a sentient teddy bear made out of love and snuggles who wins a fortune and opens her own “Cuddly Stuffy BearBear” chain of family restaurants?
Personally, a crate of Mike’s Hard Lemonade sounds REALLY good right now.