I bet you think this grisly death scene is about you.
Sometimes the inside of my head looks a lot like those scenes in High Fidelity when Rob (John Cusack) imagines several — ahem — somewhat less-than-polite responses to Ian’s (Tim Robbins) attempt to get Rob to quit pursuing his ex. I think we all have those moments when some immense fuckwad is pushing our buttons so hard that the idea of tearing them into tiny little bits feels like the best idea ever. Ever. But if you’re even vaguely interested in being a productive member of society (or just, you know, a good person), you swallow it. You stuff it back down. You wrangle it into submission. Or, you channel it into something less destructive.
It’s nice to think that creative writing gives me an outlet for all of the frustration, anger, and etc. A way to vent the steam before the boiler explodes. And it does, just not always in the ways I’d expect.
A certain person thinks that I’ve metaphorically skewered him. He’s made a couple of comments about how I “stabbed” him, to which I replied (rather bewildered), “Nuh uh!” Because I honestly didn’t write anything like that with him in mind. Not at all. Of course, I can’t prove what I was or wasn’t thinking at the time, so I don’t think I’ve convinced him of that. I don’t think I can ever really convince him, because hey — maybe it wasn’t done consciously, but perhaps there was something bubbling in my subconscious. I don’t think so, but then again, I keep spotting themes in my own darned books that I didn’t put there deliberately (at least, I don’t think I did), so who knows?
But here’s the thing: most of the time, it’s not a one-to-one correlation. Let’s say, for example, that I’m in a meeting. A bigwig is in the room, and he’s started an argument about something that he doesn’t understand, but he won’t listen to anyone’s explanations. He’s literally yelling at us about it, but his comprehension of the topic is so poor that he doesn’t realize that he’s angrily yelling in agreement with us. (No shit, this actually happened to me, years and years ago. It was surreal.) What I really want to do is bounce a coffee cup off his forehead and then tell him, in small words, with great feeling, what an utter and complete fuckwit he’s being. I can’t do that, unless I want to get fired (and probably arrested), so I push it aside for later.
Later, I’m still steaming about the whole thing, so I sit down in front of the computer and start writing. What I don’t do, as a general rule, is write him into the story and then make something absolutely horrible happen to him. Satisfying as that might be, writing a person into a story like that doesn’t usually fit into the narrative or make the story better. It’s too forced. Too artificial. Too self-serving. Instead, I try to use the emotions and energy to inform situations. Tone. Atmosphere. It often ends up being poured into something that doesn’t even vaguely resemble what actually happened. Whether I’m doing it well is another thing, but usually, I’m not shanking fictional representations of people who’ve pissed me off. It’s like painting a picture of a foreboding landscape, rather than painting a detailed image of the asshole who keeps blasting his stereo at two in the morning being torn apart by demons.
Soooo… if you know me, and you ever wondered if any of the people who’ve died horribly on the page were meant to be you, then the answer is no.