The act of writing has, over the last few months, opened my eyes to the fact that I am not a good person.
But that’s okay…neither are you.
* * *
I’m currently working on the first draft of a novel, which I send out, chapter by chapter, to some of my friends for editing and feedback. I’ve found that I love eliciting emotional reactions from my readers, especially by subverting their expectations.
Upon revealing to my readers that a beloved character is not, in fact, completely safe, but actually in mortal danger, I become the guy in the middle:
I get a heady feeling from knowing I’m about to turn someone’s world on its ear. And while I don’t relish the task of killing or hurting characters that I’ve grown to love, it is gratifying to know that other people will be as emotionally affected as I am.
But the greatest high comes from the raw application of deception.
* * *
Writing a novel is one huge mind-game.
Nobody wants to read something that is completely predictable. People savor the adrenaline rush of surprise, and seek it out in books, movies, and television.
So what do I, as a writer, do?
I set out to make the most intricate web of deceit I possibly can. I hide skeletons in closets to bring out at the most inopportune times. I arm my villains with the most powerful words in my arsenal to make them truly formidable. And when I’m not outright lying to you, I use every cliche, plot device, and trope of the trade to make you look one direction while I go the other.
And when I succeed…when I pull the wool over your eyes so perfectly that everything you thought you knew flips upside down…those are the days I sleep like a baby, your looks of shock and astonishment dancing all night long on my mind’s eye.
I understand now why pathological liars feel the urge to deceive. I majored in Professional Lying, with a minor in Misdirection, and I’m finally coming into my own.
* * *
Now before you begin hurling stones, let me ask you something: How can such a miserable, treacherous creature like me possibly survive?
Are you sure you want to know?
I survive because you want me to.
Think about your favorite movie endings. How many of them featured a marvelously-executed surprise twist?
Though you don’t want to admit it, you thrive on being deceived. You want to be led astray, to realize too late that the path you chose has taken you to a destination you never had in mind.
You get off on being fooled as much as I get off on fooling you.
Worse than that…you derive enjoyment from the suffering of characters. Yes, you want things to work out for the protagonists eventually…but not until the end. Until then, you want them to undergo trials and tribulations.
Fiction is nothing without conflict, and conflict is pain, loss, and want. Lovers separated by fate; friends embroiled in irreconcilable battle; ambitions unachieved; desires unmet; loved ones in peril–this is what drives our stories forward.
If you think you want a story where nothing bad happens, you’re only lying to yourself.
* * *
Together, you and I, we make up a tangled mass of literary sadomasochistic tendencies. Rather than cry foul at each other’s inexplicable quirks, let us make the most of our strange compatibility.
“Once upon a time…”
* * *
Do not disparage writers sly
Or name their stories cruel
For readers all must sometimes cry
And sometimes play the fool