I am not a mean person. Really, I’m not. (Unless you mess with one of my kids, then I’m a tiger; but that’s to be expected from any good mama.) Yet, I’ve found that when I write, if I’m writing about something nice (like a parent loving their child or a sweet husband and wife), I have to really put a lot of thought into how the dialog might flow.
However, when I write about a mean character (such as an abusive husband or a bully), I don’t really have to think about it at all. It just kind of flows out of me, and before I know it, I’ve written two or three thousand words about how they came to be so despicable.
My sister says that mean characters are more interesting than syrupy sweet ones. But then, I love books about the Amish, so I actually like the nice ones. That got me to thinking about this even more. I’m the type of person that allows people to walk all over me. I don’t retaliate or play tit-for-tat, not because I’m afraid of the other person, but rather because I am concerned about the bad karma that it would create for me if I did. (Plus, I genuinely believe that eventually mean people will get what’s coming to them.)
That said, it really started to worry me when I was recently writing about a social outcast and I so fluently described not only his own completely messed up childhood, but his plan to get even with the universe by annihilating all the people in a certain public place. I read that chapter to a friend of mine, and it gave her goosebumps.
Another example is in something I’m currently writing. As I’m telling the backstory of the protagonist and her arch-rival, I go back to when they were kids in ballet class together. The protagonist got the lead in the class’ performance of Little Red Riding Hood. The rival got the part of her understudy. So on the day of the show, the rival brought a jar of urine and threw it on the protagonist to look as if she wet herself, then she told the instructor that the protagonist was so nervous that she couldn’t perform, and of course she got to go on in her place. And obviously, the teacher didn’t believe the protagonist when she said that the other girl threw the urine on her because who in their right mind would ever do that? Every single one of my friends that I’ve told that story to has gasped loudly as they backed away. And almost all of them have asked, “How did you ever come up with that?”
When I got that reaction, it frightened me a little. I was a little concerned that it was so easy for me to think of such debauchery. But after I thought about it, I realized that I’ve personally had more than a fair share of bullies in my life, so perhaps I was extracting from the times that people were so mean to me and I did nothing to defend myself. And conceivably I’m writing what at the time I might have fantasized what I wished would have happened to my own antagonists. Perhaps my fictionalizing my own bullies and giving them what’s coming to them in my books IS my revenge.
At any rate, I just wanted you to know that I’m actually a nice person. Really. AND IF YOU DON’T BELIEVE ME, I’LL BEAT YOU UP!
(P.S. And just to show how “not unkind” I truly am, you should know that it took everything in me NOT to end my post above with “I’m just kidding. I won’t really beat you up.” But now that I look at my post-script, I guess I did do just that.)