I’ve always been attracted themes that genuinely interest me, and characters that have so many layers, they are so perplexing that they struggle to even understand themselves. My fascination for these things has ultimately guided all of my writing and it’s only when I reflect on my choices in The Artist.
Perhaps this is a practice for my first novel I ever wrote, In Between Dreams, because the secondary female MC is Brianna – with minor differences. I’m so attracted to characters who would easily be labelled as crazy, or psychotic. Characters like this really allow me delve into their mind, memory and psychology to pin point the key moment that created this desire for destruction and as I created Brianna I came to one conclusion – what did turn her towards destruction?
The more I thought about this, the more confused I became. In my head, nothing immediately justified her actions, with what little I have planned for her story I realised – there isn’t a distinct event that triggered her actions. This brings me back to the question about her character and personality. What kind of person is she? And this is what makes writing this story so fascinating for me. She’s so complex and sheltered, even to me. After all, I’ll reveal a quote from the story so far.
“If she were honest, weakness should be masked at all times. Any weakness could, and would be exploited.” – Brianna, The Artist, Chapter two.
It’s no secret that I don’t plan every aspect of my character’s lives before I start writing, I let them guide me through the chapters and as they naturally unfold, I find the story feels more authentic, and the characters can develop at their own rate. A large part of the satisfaction with writing is the spontaneity. Brianna has surprised me in four chapters and we’ve learned a lot about each other in this short amount of time. Perhaps this counts as a love story – Dom and Brianna have a dysfunctional love, but it works. Their twisted personalities perfectly match and they become, the perfect couple.
What attracted me the most to this story is my interest in the themes. I briefly cover it with In Between Dreams but what really grabbed my attention was the life choices Brianna chose. Without giving too much away, Brianna picks rich victims with a lot to lose, she manipulates them, then threatens to run her mouth. With a generous payment in exchange for payment (usually fresh bank notes), this is how she seeks her enjoyment.
I love characters that test me as a writer, a reader and a person. I am usually so moved by movies, books or music that I find myself deeply connected to my characters. I will never understand “it’s just a film” or “why are you crying? It’s only a book.” For me, those people can’t truly connect with the story and the characters and without the ability to lose yourself in a different world, living life through somebody else’s shoes, how could we truly enjoy these mediums? I strongly believe that if the character has enough layers and they resemble real people, with their habits – even abnormal ones – then the story will come to life.
I know some people and indeed some people I’ve spoken to, and have studied with are uncomfortable with the theme of rape in literature, but for me – I am attracted to it. Those themes that make so many uncomfortable attract and I think I understand why. My keen interest in Sarah Kane, Ellen Hopkins and Kim Ki-Duk have shaped my writing to focus on those areas of life that are so frequently dismissed.
Beyond these darker themes, there are lighter (I suppose that’s the right word) elements to this story also. Brianna and Dom, as previously mentioned, have a dysfunctional relationship. While it may not be the norm, it just works. A fair section of the story is based around sex – not just between Brianna and Dom, but between Brianna and her victims. Her mentality is very interesting to write and I know from my feedback on In Between Dreams Jetta was very well received.
So again, I return to the question of why are psychotic characters so fun to read about, or write? Why do we find such enjoyment in these people we can’t really understand?
For me the answer is the unknown – I’m not familiar with those things myself, so to understand what is so appealing through Brianna’s eyes, and what could have triggered these desires, I can learn something about her as a person, but also about world. We may think “wow that’s a crazy character”, close the book, and think no more of it – but there is always more to the story.
The sad reality of it is that there are women like Brianna and Jetta out there. Perhaps love from Dom and Brianna may be hard to find, but the foundation of the story is based on something that happens everyday – and this aspect fascinates me. People in difficult situations tend to my favourite themes to explore and this time – I can write as the people causing it. I can learn why she’s causing it.
I honestly can’t wait to keep writing this story, and I hope you guys will be as enthused as I am.
- Crank by Ellen Hopkins (the-book-report.com)
- Writing Uncomfortable Scenes (calliehunter.wordpress.com)
- Imagery and the art of realism (kate0murray.wordpress.com)
- Do Characters Talk? (smpauthors.wordpress.com)