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SpookyWriter
01-10-2007, 10:15 PM
I write horror, suspense, and thrillers so I naturally have this tendency to dig deep inside for disturbing behavior that I can use in my works. I've written prose of extreme horror, death by means most people would cringe, and suspense that would be marked too realism for most.

But all this disturbing behavior of my characters are not me. I don't stalk women, nor do I pray on the innocent -- depraved behavior that drives my antagonistic characters. I'm a nice guy by my nature, so it pains me sometimes to exploit these feelings for my work. I love my writing, to a point I get excited by the dismal failings of humans when suffering, and yet I am troubled that these same thoughts that make my work believable are able to surface so easily.

I've seen dead prostitutes, murdered people, the scabs of humanity that walks silently while taking life without remorse, as I've seen and experienced so much pain in my time here. Now I draw upon these emotions for my work and it distrubs me sometimes.

How do people manage to remain sane when writing about insanity, chaos, death, or any form of humility at the hands of an antagonistic character?

I'm at a loss within myself to be the nice guy and the same man who will gladly open a wound to see my own suffering as a writer.

Any thoughts about the anguish of writing a genre that is so disturbing that it also affects your mental health?

P.S. I am writing a short story now about a young man who drags a dead uncle into Walmart (generic store) to cash the uncle's social security check. So, I must feel and think as this boy which bothers me a little.

Spooky

giftedrhonda
01-10-2007, 10:17 PM
The fact that you can distance yourself from the character you're writing about should give you hope. You are NOT that person. You just are able to clearly analyze and depict that person.

Take comfort in that.

Kate Thornton
01-10-2007, 10:20 PM
I too write as scum sometimes. And as men, women, children, vampires, aliens and sometimes (rarely) as myself.

I write about death, horror, destruction, despair, and sushi.

But I am not what I write - I am a prism. Light comes through me and is reflected out differently. Yes, I have to get inside the head of my latest serial murderer. But I am an actor on paper - I'm not really that sociopath who can calmly dismember a victim and feel the crunch of bone.

Or am I?

Spooky, nice rotten food for thought here.

Jaycinth
01-10-2007, 10:27 PM
Spookey.
Kinda makes you feel like a criminal 'profiler' doesn't it.

It is for that reason I don't post any of the horror I've written. I don't want people here to think of me like that.

But we know you are a nice person.
One has to dig around in chaos before one can find a dancing star.

HUGS!!!

Meerkat
01-10-2007, 10:30 PM
I believe you should go for it, in all of its gory detail, if it is your intent to show a real side of human nature that we cannot pretend away. WE ARE indeed your most hideous characters, unless we make the conscious choice at every moment not to be.

SpookyWriter
01-10-2007, 10:30 PM
I too write as scum sometimes. And as men, women, children, vampires, aliens and sometimes (rarely) as myself.

I write about death, horror, destruction, despair, and sushi.

But I am not what I write - I am a prism. Light comes through me and is reflected out differently. Yes, I have to get inside the head of my latest serial murderer. But I am an actor on paper - I'm not really that sociopath who can calmly dismember a victim and feel the crunch of bone.

Or am I?

Spooky, nice rotten food for thought here.But don't you feel the same lust as a sexual predator? How can it be possible to distinguish the two personalities and make the work believable? I have characters who have no qualms about inflicting pain on their victims or who can steal the last cent for an elderly woman for their own personal gain. Don't these persona's become more real to the reader when they can sympathize with the victim?

I've struggled for years with characters who are so horrible that I sometimes get too personal with them. Does that make sense? When I write about a certain person (antagonist), I almost feel the same emotions as they do. I get so deep within the character that I almost become that person. Sometimes I'm disturbed beyond belief that I could even imagine doing such harm to another human, but it's all just fiction. Right?

giftedrhonda
01-10-2007, 10:33 PM
Ohhhhhh good point.

Can you consider the writer as a persona, as well? So if the writer has that lust in him, that's not you...is it? I mean, you're not going to go out and brutally murder people just so you can experience it, are you?

Do you fantasize about doing that to real people, or just to your characters?

Are you able to separate reality from fiction?

If so, I think you're quite ok. :D

Kate Thornton
01-10-2007, 10:33 PM
It's all just fiction - but no matter how depraved, it is part of the possibility of human experience and we as writers do need to feel it in order to write it authentically. You are right about the lust part, but even if I feel these things to write about them, I know it isn't really me - it's just part of my connection to the Human Experience.

inanna
01-10-2007, 10:37 PM
It's a gift to be able to examine these things and present it to others in a way that has meaning - not everyone has the mettle to do it without flinching away (and not everyone can read about it, either). But horrors exist, and the potential for it lives in all of us whether we like to acknowledge that or not. Denying these things doesn't make them go away. Some say it gives them more power. Writers write about the human condition. This is one aspect of it, albeit extreme.

But if you can do it, and also know that these things aren't who you are or how you want to be in the world, then you have something to offer, IMO - an important piece of the storytelling mosaic (I'm starting to get corny here, I know :) ). Take a good look at your characters, so we can get a look at ourselves. Just don't forget to step back once in a while and take a break. Balance is key :)

SpookyWriter
01-10-2007, 10:38 PM
It's all just fiction - but no matter how depraved, it is part of the possibility of human experience and we as writers do need to feel it in order to write it authentically. You are right about the lust part, but even if I feel these things to write about them, I know it isn't really me - it's just part of my connection to the Human Experience.Ah, that's my point. My first novel was difficult to write because of the lust I felt by the depraved acts of Jimmy. He's not real. But I've been told many times his character is so believable. Oh my, did I? No, I didn't and yet how is it possible to separate fiction from our subconscious sometimes?

SpookyWriter
01-10-2007, 10:53 PM
Excerpt:

The man cocked his head slightly to the side and blood drooled from his mouth onto the listless body. Then the giant hands stripped away the woman's blouse.

She tried to wiggle free but he held her in place by the neck.

The large man whipped out a small tube from his jacket pocket. He briefly inspected it under the light. Then he stabbed it into her chest and pushed. At first there was some resistance, but he shoved his palm against the tube until only a few inches remained visible.

With a deep throaty growl, he placed his lips over one end and grunted as he sucked. A steady stream of blood flowed into his mouth. Each frightened beat of her heart pumped more of her life through the narrow opening.

The woman gave a faint shrill and began to jerk, her body writhing from the sudden loss of blood and shock before she died.

giftedrhonda
01-10-2007, 11:01 PM
EW! hahaha yeah, that's gross.

Would you try that? Have you found the urge to do that?

Pat~
01-10-2007, 11:06 PM
But don't you feel the same lust as a sexual predator? How can it be possible to distinguish the two personalities and make the work believable? I have characters who have no qualms about inflicting pain on their victims or who can steal the last cent for an elderly woman for their own personal gain. Don't these persona's become more real to the reader when they can sympathize with the victim?

I've struggled for years with characters who are so horrible that I sometimes get too personal with them. Does that make sense? When I write about a certain person (antagonist), I almost feel the same emotions as they do. I get so deep within the character that I almost become that person. Sometimes I'm disturbed beyond belief that I could even imagine doing such harm to another human, but it's all just fiction. Right?

I'd love to reassure you, Spooky, but it's my own personal opinion that the reason we can imagine doing such harm is because we ARE capable of doing such harm. It can be a very unsettling experience to come to terms with this...coming to terms with my own 'depravity' was a big factor in my getting pretty depressed awhile back. I'd found great security in My Morality--the belief that "I" would never do such and so (because I knew better, because I had higher standards, etc., etc.). Of course, that all presumed that I would always be in control, my mental functioning would always be clear, healthy, and logical, etc. And that presumption was, for me, a house built on sand. I now know that "but for the grace of God there go I"--concerning any human behavior.

Just my 2 cents...

Kate Thornton
01-10-2007, 11:38 PM
Wow Spooky, that was effective writing! Made me want to wiggle and cringe and vomit.

But it's not everything you are - you are so much more than your visceral understandings.

Yes, I believe these things become a small part of us, and must, if we are to write with an authentic voice - but not the big part, not the part we truly are.

PS - You inspired my whole blog today, Spooky! Thanks!

SpookyWriter
01-11-2007, 12:03 AM
EW! hahaha yeah, that's gross.

Would you try that? Have you found the urge to do that?No, I as a rational human have never thought to try or do such a thing. But my antagonist isn't so understanding. That's the problem I face sometimes when I need a scene that is effective and keeps the reader entertained. I don't just bring about gore or horror without a purpose. I needed, in this case, to show how depraved the antagonist is toward his victim.

So my thoughts for this novel always teetered on the edge. There were days when I felt differently about family and friends. I was edgy.

Which reminds me, Mac mentioned this to me a few weeks ago when I was in the middle of another short story. See, I was taking (unknowingly) this attitude of my antagonist into my real world and it was obvious to at least one person.

SpookyWriter
01-11-2007, 12:04 AM
Wow Spooky, that was effective writing! Made me want to wiggle and cringe and vomit.

But it's not everything you are - you are so much more than your visceral understandings.

Yes, I believe these things become a small part of us, and must, if we are to write with an authentic voice - but not the big part, not the part we truly are.

PS - You inspired my whole blog today, Spooky! Thanks!You're welcome. While you're at it, just remind me that I can return home to the world of sanity any time I desire. Yes?

janetbellinger
01-11-2007, 12:06 AM
It can't be any w orse than the movie Weekend with Bernie which was about a man who died and his weekend guests dragged him around and propped him up pretending he was alive. The movie was hilarious so I wouldn't worry about your motives.

SpookyWriter
01-11-2007, 12:17 AM
It can't be any w orse than the movie Weekend with Bernie which was about a man who died and his weekend guests dragged him around and propped him up pretending he was alive. The movie was hilarious so I wouldn't worry about your motives.Delaney was hungry. He opened the fridge for the third time in as many minutes. The chest was empty, as usual. He slammed the door. "What will I do for food tonight?" He didn't want to take more from Uncle Bob, but he didn't feel as though he had a choice. He was hungry again.

The first day wasn't so bad. He propped Uncle Bob on the sofa and drank orange soda all afternoon. He had food in the fridge and nothing to do until the check arrived next week. The time would go by quickly enough, just so long as his uncle cooperated.

---
Different theme entirely. Do you eat Uncle Bob or steal his government check? Hmmm...what would you do if you got hungry enough?

Spooky

Chasing the Horizon
01-11-2007, 12:21 AM
Wow, Spooky, that sounds like something I would write. :D

I also feel what my characters feel when I write. When my heroine is stabbing a man in the chest, slowly moving the knife back and fourth, and actually laughs at the sound the blood makes as it sprays from the wound, I feel the same twisted joy she does. There are several places where I graphically describe the protagonists killing those who have wronged them. These are some of my favorite scenes to write because I get to share in the rush and satisfaction my heroine feels.

Anyone who doesn't believe some part of them is capable of doing horrible, twisted things is lying to themselves. The only thing that separates 'good' people from 'evil' people is whether we choose to indulge those twisted fantasies in real life.

IMO, the very fact that you're disturbed by these images and feelings probably means you're a good person who would never actually act on them. :)

I've actually become a nicer, calmer person since I started writing. Now when real people piss me off, I go and graphically kill a few fictional characters, instead of screaming at the real people.

P.S. Spooky, I would love to read some more of your work. Do you have anything published? Maybe want an extra beta reader? :D

SpookyWriter
01-11-2007, 12:29 AM
P.S. Spooky, I would love to read some more of your work. Do you have anything published? Maybe want an extra beta reader? :DKind of disturbing sometimes how we can extrapolate real life into fiction. I know what you're saying. Believe me.

I don't publish. I am working toward the goal of my icon Van Gogh. But I do have a few things in SYW which might interest you. Check the short called "No sex for me, please." or a few other examples.

Now back to my story. Errr...I need to wipe the flies off uncle's dead ass before they breee...me some nice noodles for my soup.

greglondon
01-11-2007, 12:33 AM
Any thoughts about the anguish of writing a genre that is so disturbing that it also affects your mental health?

Don't?

I'm near finished on a rewrite of a science fiction novel that is brutal. Suicide bombers, war crimes, killing on massive scales and killing told from up close and personal accounts. Sometimes I get an unsettled feeling when I'm finished writing for the day, but I try to make a point to leave it at the keyboard. Walk it off. Get out of my head.

If writing is affecting your mental health, don't write. Or don't write what you were writing. Or figure out something you can do after that gets you out of that space and make sure you do it every time you walk away from the keyboard.

I remember seeing someone on TV explaining how they used to train actors by telling them "If you need to feel sad for a scene, think of something sad that happened in your life, and then tap into that." But the person was explaining that what happened is actors would think of something like their uncle dying or something and use it to trigger sadness for some scene. And they'd do this over and over, and then at some point, they'd think of their uncle dying and they didn't feel anything at all. Now, the instruction is something along the lines of become open to your emotions and tap into them directly, dont' use some personal event to get into them.

It may be that you're getting into the emotions of your characters from too personal of an approach or something. Don't know for sure. Even if you're not, it sort of points to the idea that this can be an emotionally challenging job. Be safe.

SpookyWriter
01-11-2007, 12:58 AM
It may be that you're getting into the emotions of your characters from too personal of an approach or something. Don't know for sure. Even if you're not, it sort of points to the idea that this can be an emotionally challenging job. Be safe.Greg, good ideas and thoughts for writing scenes that can hurt you emotionally. I agree with you.

But I have this short story that requires me to dwell much deeper into the character's state of mind than I would like...and so I too must go (where you've gone) there to discover what will happen and why.

The truth about Uncle Bob is a story I'm writing about a young man who is trapped inside a trailer home with his dead uncle and can't leave because he has no home, no money, and is wanted by the police for a minor crime. He needs to wait until the next government check comes so he can use the money for bus fare to another town. But what does he do in the mean time? He has no food, no money, and can't get a job while he's on the run.

I need to get inside his head "Delaney" and how he feels about being trapped. How does he cope with running out of food? How does he cope with the stench of a dead uncle? Can anyone write a story like this without some insight? Where does this come from? Hmmm...

See, it's the story that hurts to write. I need to go where it is not possible for other people to understand unless they've been in a similar situation.

Poor people with little hope might understand. I, myself, am overwhelmed by the desperation of my protagonist.

Did John Steinbeck not also suffer some turmoil when he wrote the Grapes of Wrath? Isn't this part of understanding our character

Spooky

PeeDee
01-11-2007, 12:59 AM
I've never had any trouble leaving disturbing and worrying people or scenes at the keyboard when I walk away. I can be writing a scene (in fact, I did write this scene) of small babies with sharp teeth eating two police officers alive. And when my wife asks me what I want to watch on TV, I cheerfully say I don't have a preference but I'll watch what she watches, and then I look down and go back to typing this grisly scene.

But for me, the emotion sits on the page and not in my head.

The most I ever get is occasionally I'll write something late at night that'll freak me out.

SpookyWriter
01-11-2007, 01:13 AM
I've never had any trouble leaving disturbing and worrying people or scenes at the keyboard when I walk away. I can be writing a scene (in fact, I did write this scene) of small babies with sharp teeth eating two police officers alive. And when my wife asks me what I want to watch on TV, I cheerfully say I don't have a preference but I'll watch what she watches, and then I look down and go back to typing this grisly scene.

But for me, the emotion sits on the page and not in my head.

The most I ever get is occasionally I'll write something late at night that'll freak me out.But is that really something disturbing or just imagination gone wild? How deep will you go to discover a dark story? Would you ever dream or think of sticking an ice pick into someones skull because you (character) believed they were sent to spy on you? Deep dark and lonely isn't always the same as sci-fi or fantasy. Horror writers, like Poe, live on the edge of insanity because we sometimes can't differentate realities. Is this a bad thing?

SpookyWriter
01-11-2007, 01:14 AM
I've never had any trouble leaving disturbing and worrying people or scenes at the keyboard when I walk away. I can be writing a scene (in fact, I did write this scene) of small babies with sharp teeth eating two police officers alive. And when my wife asks me what I want to watch on TV, I cheerfully say I don't have a preference but I'll watch what she watches, and then I look down and go back to typing this grisly scene.

But for me, the emotion sits on the page and not in my head.

The most I ever get is occasionally I'll write something late at night that'll freak me out.But is that really something disturbing or just imagination gone wild? How deep will you go to discover a dark story? Would you ever dream or think of sticking an ice pick into someones skull because you (character) believed they were sent to spy on you? Deep dark and lonely isn't always the same as sci-fi or fantasy. Horror writers, like Poe, live on the edge of insanity because we sometimes can't differentate realities. Is this a bad thing?

Kate Thornton
01-11-2007, 01:32 AM
Is this a bad thing?

What bad? No - it's just part of being human. As for is it bad for you personally to become so involved, I think you have to remember that the real you is still there, the home is still there for you to come back to, and there is no need to become the horrors you sample.

Here, gimme a hug!

SpookyWriter
01-11-2007, 01:45 AM
Here, gimme a hug!:Hug2: Okay, but watch out for my other hand. I can't be responsible for the actions of the left.

Kate Thornton
01-11-2007, 01:50 AM
LOL! I'll watch out - after all, I am a monster, too!

greglondon
01-11-2007, 02:02 AM
I need to get inside his head "Delaney" and how he feels about being trapped. How does he cope with running out of food? How does he cope with the stench of a dead uncle? Can anyone write a story like this without some insight? Where does this come from?

A writer I know was having a terrible time with a story that involved horseback riding. They were trying to find out a whole bunch of info about riding horses and how to ride them and how to saddle them and all that. They explained the problem, and we went back and forth for a bit. And then I point out that in Lord of the Rings, not once do you read about someone cinching a saddle.

Well, there is a bit about Gandalf picking the fastest horse in teh land, but really, sometimes it isn't about the how. Sometimes it's simply about the what.

It may be that the best solution is to show what the character does, and give some surface thoughts that reflect their immediate concerns, and then let the reader delve into their own psyche to find their worst fears about this horrible scenario.

PeeDee
01-11-2007, 02:46 AM
But is that really something disturbing or just imagination gone wild? How deep will you go to discover a dark story? Would you ever dream or think of sticking an ice pick into someones skull because you (character) believed they were sent to spy on you? Deep dark and lonely isn't always the same as sci-fi or fantasy. Horror writers, like Poe, live on the edge of insanity because we sometimes can't differentate realities. Is this a bad thing?

What I was trying to point out is, I can picture stabbing smoeone with an ice pick. I could run 'em through a wood chipper. I could do a million horrible things to all sorts of people (and I Have a really, really graphically disturbing scene in my next book that's really horrifying). But at the end of the day, the scene is the scene, and it is not me.

I suspect Edgar Allen Poe's laudenum and opium probably didn't help him differentiate realities any. But I know that if I write, in the deep dark of the night, a dark and horrible piece of the human soul on paper, that when I am done I will crawl into my bed where the biggest darkness is trying to figure out which cat it is I'm trying to get off my pillow.

engmajor2005
01-11-2007, 03:13 AM
I've dabble in horror. I mostly write fantasy, and I have sword fights in my stuff. And I live by three words when I write a fight scene:

More. F*cking. Blood.

Close-quarters combat with bladed weapons is brutal, my antagonists are brutal, so my fight scenes are brutal. They are never brutal for brutality's sake, but they are not sanitized the least.

Admit it, violence is cool. If not, the Bible and history classes wouldn't be chock full of it. So if you're writing a story about a twisted murderer, make it violent. I always find that comforting when I worry about bad karma: the story must make sense, even if it's fantasy.

As for your problem of getting too close to your villains, well, that sounds like a deep personal problem. It might not be a bad idea to find someone--a pastor, a counselor, a close personal friend--to talk to. If it's bringing you down then you've got to fix it; nobody deserves to be down, even you Satanic horror writers. ;)

Maybe writing something different might help? Write outside of your genre perhaps. Write a YA mystery, or kids book about a talking goat. It could be a great writing excercise, and it'll get your mind off of the nastiness.

SpookyWriter
01-11-2007, 03:37 AM
...I will crawl into my bed where the biggest darkness is trying to figure out which cat it is I'm trying to get off my pillow.How do you know it's the cat? Hmmm...

LeslieB
01-11-2007, 04:19 AM
You compartmentalize.

I work in a crime lab, and have for twenty years. In this line of work you either learn to deal or you get the hell out. We lost a serology trainee two months after she started because she burst into tears after discovering that the underwear in a rape victim kit had cartoon characters on it.

I work computer crime. I have read email between child molesters. I have read the email of someone trading a pregnant 'slave' for a pickup truck. I have poked through the computers of the victims of a serial killer looking for any hint they were going to meet someone when they disappeared. I have read a Word document that started, "If you are reading this then I am dead and X killed me" dated two days before the person was murdered. I see the most graphic hardcore child porn around. I've seen porn involving zoo animals (just where do you go to get a zebra to have sex with, anyway?)

People in my line of work learn to compartmentalize their brain. You learn to literally shut part of yourself down, otherwise you turn into a quivering pile of sobbing mush. If you want a less gross example, think about gynecologists. Some people think they must be perpetually aroused because they see genitals all day. But they do the same thing, compartmentalize things into "happy fun time" and "the job".

I've written horror. I wrote a story from the PoV of a child rapist/serial killer. Detachment is the key. Detach yourself from your characters and their actions. You can dig deep into their personality and still keep an almost clinical outlook on it. It isn't easy, but it can be done.

SpookyWriter
01-11-2007, 06:27 AM
Is it really possible for writers to compartmentalize their thought while writing the story. I had written some shorts and novels where it was literally painful to rehearse a scene that contained subjective amounts of violence. I've refrained from violence, as a person, and yet these stories continue to protrude into my life without quilt or remorse.

How is it possible to separate the horror or our thoughts from the reality of our lives? Please, tell me.

ETA: Allow me to rephrase the question. Since you are a professional criminologist, I can take for granted that what you've told me of your activity isn't an original thought. Right? You did not write the letter of impending death, nor did you as the criminologist soil the panties from a serialized rape victim.

The difference, I fear, is that observation and imagination to create a story or expand on an antagonist is two distinct events. They are not mutually inclusive.

For the writer to create these events, as you described, can take an emotional toll on them. Think back to the times when Poe and others had to indulge in their own imaginations to create works that we still read and remember to this day. What was the price they paid?

Chasing the Horizon
01-11-2007, 06:58 AM
I've dabble in horror. I mostly write fantasy, and I have sword fights in my stuff. And I live by three words when I write a fight scene:

More. F*cking. Blood.

Close-quarters combat with bladed weapons is brutal, my antagonists are brutal, so my fight scenes are brutal. They are never brutal for brutality's sake, but they are not sanitized the least. Those are the only three words one needs for sword fights! :D

Spooky, maybe your problems come from writing from the antagonists POV, rather than from the protagonist/victim's POV. The main antagonist in my current WIP is so evil, I really don't want anything to do with her, so I just simply don't use her POV. I don't want to be in her head.

Maybe the dark scenes don't bother me because I do keep in my protagonist's POV. My next WIP is going to require a certain amount of writing from the antagonist's POV, though, so I'm waiting to see if that bothers me or not.

I don't know how anyone can distance themselves from the feelings they're writing about without having that distance come through to the reader.

AnnieColleen
01-11-2007, 07:02 AM
This is probably apropos of nothing, but this discussion is reminding me of one of Chesterton's Father Brown stories:


I am always inside a man, moving his arms and legs; but I wait till I know I am inside a murderer, thinking his thoughts, wrestling with his passions; till I have bent myself into the posture of his hunched and peering hatred; till I see the world with his bloodshot and squinting eyes, looking between the blinkers of his half-witted concentration; looking up the short and sharp perspective of a straight road to a pool of blood. Till I am really a murderer.


Now I set myself conscientiously down to be a revolutionary poet. I mean that particular sort of pessimistic anarchial lover of revolt, not as reform, but rather as destruction. I tried to clear my mind of such elements of sanity and constructive common sense as I have had the luck to learn or inherit. I shut down and darkened all the skylights through which comes the good daylight out of heaven; I imagined a mind lit only by a red light from below; a fire rending rocks and cleaving abysses upwards.


It solves the whole problem of time and sin. It gives a man his remorse beforehand....There are two ways of renouncing the devil...and the difference is perhaps the deepest chasm in modern religion. One is to have a horror of him because he is so far off; and the other to have it because he is so near. And no virtue and vice are so much divided as those two virtues.

http://etext.library.adelaide.edu.au/c/chesterton/gk/c52fb/chapter33.html
http://etext.library.adelaide.edu.au/c/chesterton/gk/c52fb/chapter42.html

I thought it was an interesting perspective, plus I was amused at this line:


I donít know whether you would make a really good criminal. But you ought to make a rattling good novelist.

PeeDee
01-11-2007, 07:24 AM
Whoa, that's creepy. I just bought a big book of Father Brown stories today. G.K. Chesterton was, off and on, a magnificant author.

The bit about compartmentalizing is absolutely true. I think it's important in writing too. I would hate to feel every emotion I wrote, every hard scene and rough moment. I would be wrecked by the end of the novel.

I can write rough stuff and I can make it emotionally significant (or just freaky and creepy) but it's not....in my head. I don't know how to explain it properly. It's on the page, it was in my head, but I view it clinically enough that I can say "Ah, so the scene where babies tear flesh off the man with their teeth and look at him with milky eyes, is a good scene." and then quietly get on with my life.

....That said, I don't compartmentalize well enough. It's in my profile and I've mentioned it before, but I am still petrified of certain dark and quiet places (garages, for example) at night because my imagination fills it up with terrifying things. And I have a vivid imagination.

LeslieB
01-11-2007, 07:57 AM
Is it really possible for writers to compartmentalize their thought while writing the story. I had written some shorts and novels where it was literally painful to rehearse a scene that contained subjective amounts of violence. I've refrained from violence, as a person, and yet these stories continue to protrude into my life without quilt or remorse.

How is it possible to separate the horror or our thoughts from the reality of our lives? Please, tell me.

ETA: Allow me to rephrase the question. Since you are a professional criminologist, I can take for granted that what you've told me of your activity isn't an original thought. Right? You did not write the letter of impending death, nor did you as the criminologist soil the panties from a serialized rape victim.

The difference, I fear, is that observation and imagination to create a story or expand on an antagonist is two distinct events. They are not mutually inclusive.

For the writer to create these events, as you described, can take an emotional toll on them. Think back to the times when Poe and others had to indulge in their own imaginations to create works that we still read and remember to this day. What was the price they paid?

I've written horror (not for publication, for a web board), and I know what you mean by the emotional toll. You get down and wallow in the blood and insanity and gore... and then you save the document and go make hot chocolate for the kids. While I am writing things like that, it is real, it is emotional, it is nerve wracking. But you have to learn to shut it off.

And I understand what you mean about story ideas and thoughts intruding into your 'normal' life. But when they do, you have to remember that those thoughts are part of your work, not part of *you*. Keep reinforcing that thought.

I wouldn't use Poe as an example of a writer tortured by his writing, though. To put it bluntly, Poe had problems anyway. There is good reason to believe that Poe suffered from some sort of illness, though there is no exact agreement on which one. I've heard theories for everything from manic-depression to diabetes to explain his behavior. I adore Poe's work and consider him a genius, but he was a troubled soul before he ever wrote a word.

JimmyB27
01-11-2007, 04:13 PM
Ah, that's my point. My first novel was difficult to write because of the lust I felt by the depraved acts of Jimmy. He's not real. But I've been told many times his character is so believable. Oh my, did I? No, I didn't and yet how is it possible to separate fiction from our subconscious sometimes?

What have you heard? It ain't true, I tells ya.

Takvah
01-11-2007, 07:52 PM
Just a couple of comments.

First, why are you putting all of this thought into "thinking" about the writing? If the words are coming to you and the storyline is progressing, then your imagination is delivering the goods. You run with it, you don't gnash teeth and wring hands about where it's coming from.

Second, when writing (at least for me), I find myself in the role of observer. I'm not usually the one acting out the events that are taking place. Even when writing from the perspective of a character that exhibits disturbing behavior, I maintain a distance. I find that my characters become redundant if I put myself directly into their shoes. I want them to behave and react as "they" would. I don't want any of myself to taint them. None of my humanity should enter into the mix.

Are characters a part of our psyche? Sure they are, but to consider them to be some form of "multiple personality" seems quite a stretch.

We're all just telling tales. Unless you are exhibiting behaviors that would indicate that you yourself would act out the events which you write about, I don't see where the self analysis is required. I can almost envision the reviews for a book in which a man impales his victims with a hollow tube and sucks up blood and who knows what else, "Deliciously, disturbing."

SpookyWriter
01-13-2007, 09:06 PM
We're all just telling tales. Unless you are exhibiting behaviors that would indicate that you yourself would act out the events which you write about, I don't see where the self analysis is required. I can almost envision the reviews for a book in which a man impales his victims with a hollow tube and sucks up blood and who knows what else, "Deliciously, disturbing."Now wouldn't that be a novel idea? :D

Jenan Mac
01-14-2007, 06:31 PM
I'd love to reassure you, Spooky, but it's my own personal opinion that the reason we can imagine doing such harm is because we ARE capable of doing such harm.

I think there's some truth in this.
When I was working psych ICU, the running truism was that "the only difference between them and us is that they get better and go home". And yeah, that's generally the case. The difference isn't that we don't have the capacity for rampant crazy, but that for some reason or another, we don't cross the line.
Same thing with our ghoulish characters. We all have that capacity somewhere, and a good writer can draw on that. What makes it fiction is that we choose not to act on it.

aruna
01-15-2007, 04:06 PM
I donlt read or write horror. But Ihave some very dark themes in all my books: death, abuse, child prostitution, suicide and murder all appear.
It's my conviction that darkness is in me and that only through going through darkness can I be freed from it. My natural impulse is to go with all my darkness to where there is light. I have a regular practice of meditation, and as anyone who has ever practiced meditation seriously will tell you, it digs into your soul and brings out all manner of horrible things. But that's only good, for that's how I can let go of them.
But it also keeps me grounded and anchored in a place in me that is solid and clean and strong. So I am not afraid of the darkness.