by Jeffrey J. Michaels
You are alone. The only light in the room shines directly into your eyes. You are faced with questions, intense questions, with persistent demands for answers. You do not know all the answers. Sometimes you do not know why the questions are being asked. The room behind you has one shadow, your own, cast upon the wall by the terrible light of the computer screen. You are a writer and it is sometimes the hardest and scariest job in the world. We fear many things as writers, but mostly we fear ourselves or perhaps, what we truly fear is our sanity!
Should you call the authorities on yourself? Does everyone have voices in their head? Are they answering you right now?
You may think, Where did that weird and unstable thought come from? My character is a villain, certainly, but that? That is grotesque and disturbing! Hmmm, Perhaps I should google it and see how this depraved thing is actually accomplished…
It is not always villainy. Sometimes it is simply basic human relationships. But, Oh! How twisted they can become!
Oh my! That is so sad! He is so demeaning and treats my poor heroine so badly! Why would any man do such a thing to a woman, especially such a handsome, virile, successful man that she is so clearly in love with and they are the perfect match made in…wait a sec! This is a sick, sad relationship! How can I write such a passive-aggressive story? Where does this come from within my own psyche? Certainly I am not like this, am I? Maybe if I keep on writing for a while Rod Strong will see Emma Worthing’s desperate loveliness and fall in deep and abiding love and they will love each other until…It Never Dies! (Ooohhh! Good title! Love Never Dies) Yes! He can and will change!
Many twisted thoughts can arise within the writer. We periodically joke at our own expense that we need someone to clear our document and browser history if we are ever tragically lost in the jungles of Cambodia searching for a lost temple, or perish in Paris when an asteroid strikes and destroys most of the civilized world but miraculously leaves our laptop intact, or the experimental prototype sub-orbital jet we are riding in for research for our next bestselling thriller accidentally launches itself into space and we are sent to spend our final days spinning into the sun…or just incapacitated by some mundane occurrence like a broken leg. Of course we only joke about this with other writers, preferably in our same genre. Preferably late at night in the sad, confessional nature of the hotel bar while we are attending a writers conference where we meet other equally normal, but secretly twisted, folks.
But are we really twisted? Are we really so weird? Or is it that we give voice to others who have secret fears and bent psyches? Is it that the human experience is one that is fearful and we simply observe the nature of society and report it, albeit in an entertaining way? And hopefully in a way that translates into sales.
Should the thought that we tap into dysfunctional relationships and make them appear common enough to discuss out loud over tea and crumpets scare us even more? (And what are crumpets anyway? Should I have used the word scones instead? No, this is a funny piece, not a mystery. Are you talking to yourself again?)
Truth is, the world is a dysfunctional mess most of the time and we, as writers, often transcend the judgment phase of society to try to comprehend the why of people’s motivations. While transcending judgment, we simultaneously seek to look past the accepted narrative of societal mythology and create a greater awareness or raise perceptions higher than the mundane. In a sense we place ourselves above the population and look down upon them, foolish mortals that they be, and we see the futility of their pathetic struggles and offer them insight and wisdom through our tales of derring-do and romance and bug-eyed monsters, even if they never comprehend the multifaceted depths of our ART. Yea, we behold their foibles and, and…sometimes get that god complex going at a high rate of speed. (But that isn’t psychopathic, is it? More sociopathic, right, and that’s not as bad, is it? Better Google that one…)
In our writing, specifically fiction and genre work, we sometimes use standardized tropes to craft a basic storyline, one that has been told many times before, but we personally inject our own observations of life through our varied characters’ perceptions. In this we personally can make sense of why our family and friends act the way they do and why we react to them and then they react to us. It can be scary to be so intensely self-analytical. But it is liberating as well. Not just for the writer, but also for the audience.
(Wait. You mean someone might actually read this stuff and then they might actually talk to me about it? What if the neighbors find out? What if my high school class, the ones I based most of my most depraved characters upon, what if they discover my bestselling book soon to be a major motion picture? Should I be using a pseudonym?)
And here we pause because I have given myself writer’s block.
Next: The scary thought of actually letting someone else see your work.
Jeffrey J. Michaels is a Gemini. As such he is deeply involved in whatever interests him at the moment. His describes his book A Day at the Beach and Other Brief Diversions as “metaphyictional,” combining fantasy and humor with metaphysical elements. He is currently polishing a sweeping fantasy series of interconnected tales collectively known as The Mystical Histories. It is varied enough that he says he may even finish most of the stories. In his real life he is a well-respected creative and spiritual consultant. He does not like to talk about his award winning horror story.