One of the songs I listened to incessantly during my marathon writing sessions was “A Case of You” by Joni Mitchell – and in particular the excellent cover version sung by James Blake, which I also posted in the Proust Questionnaire for Pete.
These lines stood out to me in particular:
I am a lonely painter
I live in a box of paints
I’m frightened by the devil
And I’m drawn to those ones who ain’t afraid
I had to stop and think on this closely with regard to my own personal approach to writing. There have been a few autobiographical elements in the past that have leaked into my fictional work, and I’ve been up front about that for the most part – especially when it comes to my male characters.
The heroes, of course, are always funny, affectionate, and sometimes a bit boneheaded if they could not help it. The antagonists, on the other hand, are manipulative, callous, and often unfaithful.
Can you guess which of these types I have experienced more often than not in my lifetime?
To be fair, some of those villains have their own charm; they’re handsome and smug, and they’re brought down not so much by their sins than by their utter lack of self-awareness. But they can also be emotionally manipulative, in the worst way, and can cause a lot of damage in a manner that ruins the inner logic of the story, especially when there’s a romantic angle in the middle of it all. And, as much as I try to keep them there as mere obstacles, the cruelty that they inflict just ruins the magic of it all: The hero might rescue the princess from the ogre, but he’ll have to deal with her PTSD once the credits start rolling.
It’s not that simple, believe me. It’s hard to write these things when some of the “bad boys” I’ve known in real life are, in fact, terrible human beings. And I should talk, because I’ve been there. Therapy and all.
Right now, my fiction writing is the only place where I can let out the romantic yearnings that I cannot act on in my own real life. There’s nothing wrong with that for me any more, for as long as I know that nothing is sacred and everything can be edited. And yet, it hasn’t stopped me from editing so much because I want every word and action to make sense, within the logic of the story.
If only I could make it all work for me.