Friday, December 15, 2006

Psych 101 for writers, readers, and characters

Q#9 -- How does 'abnormal behavior' enter into the realm of creative writing and fiction?

Answer: Have you read any one of my books? OK...risky word phrase this 'abnormal behavior' as you have to ask then what is 'normal' behavior in a species that 'won' out as the meat eater of all the great apes? Authors are forever dealing with perceptions of what is right and what is wrong, what is good, what is evil, and the common error of taking things at face value. Is writing and painting and creating 'abnormal' in itself since, like actors, all artists have to be driven and obsessed to become a player in this field? This question may be too complex to answer here, but let's keep exploring.

Appearance is seldom what it seems in a novel, especially a mystery or suspense or thriller. Societal norms are taken to task. Since I write about murder and often times serial murder, murder is my stock and trade, my INC. This means 'abnormal behavior' is my bread and butter but once removed as I have killed no one except on a stage. My evil antagonists are always into aberrant and sickening words and actions; what he says, thinks, and does is who he or she is (see Final Edge for the worst female killer in all the history of books! Laurelie Blodgett). Such characters are motivated by sick fantasies, mania, fear, psychological disorders, obsessions, phobias, actual physical deformities, actual illnesses just as are Shakespeare's worst villianous scum like Iago. They are motivated often by 'abnormal' beliefs, but often such 'abnormal' beliefs come out of popular cultural beliefs, legends, even religion as in anti-religious behavior on a grand scale. Some sick beliefs have a foothold in historical fact about mankind--as in cannibalistic behavior, perhaps even necrophilia--sex with the dead. Certainly there are enough scatologically disgusting elements about mankind and his history to provide fodder for many, many an aberrant behavior or belief system or 'nutty' fantasy, desire, want, goal.

I don't have to mention Stephen King and Anne Rice made a killing on abnormal behavior, do I? Still there is a fine line at work here. Abnormal can slip over into caricature and unintended funnies in the blink of a cyclop's eye if one is not careful. How far from the 'norm' can our 'abnormal' Grandma Grimwood go before she becomes a twisted Dickensian comical granny?
In books about psychotics, sociopaths, organized and disorganized killers of every stripe there is great latitude in defining abnormal, but in all cases the sociopathic monster has to have its\his\her roots in humanity and where we've come from...from the primitve lizard brain to the present...roots are sunk deep. This is why the abnormal among us, in the end, are human after all. Humanity swings a wide arc across the rainbow from purity to the unspeakably vile and no author can turn away and not see this if the story demands it. Those who do turn a blind eye to the absolute end of the spectrum, the deepest rung in the pit miss an entire part of the human condition and it's like being color blind, missing an entire spectrum of the rainbow itself.
OK...believe it or not.


Blogger Echelon Press said...

I can't help but wonder what draws us to characters of abnormal natures. Is it something akin to the hangnail theory? It hurts like hell when you pick at it, and yet, you continually pick and pick and pick until you have mangled the dang thing to the point onf tears.

Perhaps we all have those odd little tendencies inside ourselves that make us wonder if we really think the stuff that King and Rice write are so abnormal. Consider the popularity of Hanibal Lechter. Cripes, it doesn't get much more abnormal. Yet, milliona upon millions of readers world wide devor the work of Harris to th epoint of making him a Pop Culture Icon. Normal.

We really do need to consider what the motivation for an author is when writing and paricularly evil character with such blatant abnormal characteristics. Or maybe not. Just give the people what they want!

9:28 PM  
Blogger Echelon Press said...

Holy cow...I got so excited writing that post I lost track of how to spell. My apologies to all.

9:29 PM  

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