Over the weekend I wrote one of those scenes — the ones where you have to try to imagine something unimaginable. Something awful and traumatizing.
Stupidly, it began with me deciding that the stakes weren’t high enough in my manuscript. Up the ante, I said. Kick things up a notch. Bring on some violence.
All of which is very rational and sensible from a cold minded logical part of the brain, and which never seems to take into account that icky feeling that comes when you realize that you’re about to write this scene that’s suppose to traumatize your characters.
Sometimes I step back and think, Okayyy, what am I really doing here? Besides playing the sadist to a bunch of imaginary people in my head. And though I’m no George R. R. Martin I am a sadist nonetheless, most notably that time that I took the protagonist and turned him into an antagonist through all my various powers of corruption. It seemed like a brilliant idea at the time but all throughout the execution I kept asking myself what I was doing and why I was doing it. Because I enjoyed it?
After all, this is what we do for fun. No matter how important the story begins to feel, no matter how pressing, all of this started because telling stories is fun and this is how we choose to pass our time. So, for fun, we make all sorts of shit happen to our characters, and maybe we help them clean it up or maybe we don’t. Maybe we just make even more shit happen.
We sit down, open the laptop, blow some stuff up, close the laptop, and go make dinner.
That is inherently weird.
Why do we write about pain? To raise the stakes? To tell a hard truth? To make sure a story is worth telling? Because avoiding it would seem cowardly? None of that seems to have anything to do with the fact that I went over to Wistfully Linda’s blog today and gushed about how fun it is to have the villain corrupt the good guys.
So the pendulum swings back and forth. One minute it’s great to be sadistic and the next I can’t believe I just wrote something so unpleasant. I can’t believe I gave myself that crawly feeling in my gut just for concocting this torturous situation in the first place, and letting some depraved specimen of humanity make his mark on one of my precious characters.
All this in the name of truth and entertainment.
Am I the only one who sometimes thinks this is very strange?