I don’t know about other writers, but when I find I’ve written something a bit rough or cruel or viciously brutal— this doesn’t happen often, but it does happen — I feel more than a smidgen of guilt.
Not necessarily because of the experience the Reader will go through — they did sign up for it, though, so… — but more because of what I put the characters through.
Interesting, isn’t it?
For better or worse, I feel deeply for people who exist solely on the page. But that’s what I suspect gives my work emotional resonance: these people are real to me. Very real.
They are telling their stories. And, for better or worse, those stories follow me. Poke into my thoughts months, years, after being told. The consequences of what I create keep me awake at night.
No, seriously. That happens. A lot.
Almost a year after its initial release, Click, the third story in Eidolon Avenue: The First Feast, is one of those stories I can’t get away from. And it’s not just because of how brutal it was, but because of the innocence of the victims and the dangerous psychosis of the killer.
I’ve said this before, but I simply could not get my head around the absence of empathy and the glee he took in the act of hurting another.
You see, with my immortal Martuk, he does bad things, but there’s always a reason. So, at the end of the day, readers may disagree with what Martuk does, but they understand on a visceral, very basic level why he did it.
With Martuk, you hate him, you love him, you fear him and, most importantly, you understand the Why of his What.
But with Colton in Click?
He was pure evil. Evil and insanity. And, yes, there were reasons. A litany of Whys to his What. Wounds that drove him. Ancient scars that still bled.
But none of that excused what he, the Character, insisted I, the Writer, create for him.
I remember writing the story while sobbing — like, really SOBBING — because I HATED what was happening. Hated it. Made me sick to my stomach. Forced me up and out to take long walks just to escape it for a much needed breath of fresh air.
But it was the story that needed to be told.
You know, I still get emails and private messages via social media raking me over the coals for Click. Questioning my sanity, my kindness, my heart. Questioning what kind of monster I am to put on the page someone as horrible as Colton.
And I get it. I do.
Which is probably why I’m feeling the need to write what’s turned into an open letter.
But, listen, those of us who invest ourselves totally in our work sometimes don’t have the control over the final product people think we might. Sometimes our characters want to tell stories that we vehemently disagree with. Sometimes they grab us by the arm and drag us, kicking and screaming and, yes, crying, much deeper into the dark than we ever wanted to go. And when we stumble free, back into the light, after the story’s told, we find ourselves changed, wounded, even scarred.
But that’s the deal we made to do what we do. Life isn’t always pretty and perfect. Sometimes vicious people do atrocious things with no rhyme or reason. As someone who writes horror, it’s my job to capture the barest hints of that so that my readers can exorcise, vicariously, their own demons. I guess. I don’t know.
All I know is that I relish returning to the relative normalcy and sanity of my dearest immortal Martuk as I dive into Shayateen, his third and perhaps final book.
Still, though, I do wonder if there should be apologies…perhaps.
Looks like I still have some psychological knots to untangle.