Monday, March 14, 2011

High Grimes and Mister Meaners (Go ahead. Groan. You know you want to.)

It may not have escaped your notice that I enjoy a cocktail from time to time. Recreationally, for the most part, but sometimes I might visit the *cough* spiritual world to exorcise my writerly inhibitions.

(Stop laughing. I do have inhibitions. I just happen to hide them well.)

I exorcise them because -- and this is a terrible thing for a badass writer to admit -- I sometimes have difficulty being mean to my characters. I have an embarrassing tendency to want to give them a life full of rainbows and puppies.

What can I say? I'm a marshmallow*. And marshmallows are BORING.

Since the last thing I want is to produce boring books, I have to find a way to release my inner meanie. My alter ego, the antithesis of ME:

Mr. Meaners.

Mr. Meaners is much nastier than I am. He'll** happily toss my characters into painfully embarrassing and downright dangerous situations that I, with my achingly gentle heart, could never do.

After Mr. Meaners has done the dirty work, I come back in and do my thing. I call it Marshmallow Time -- you know, when it's time to fix the messes, to kiss and make up, to have a moment or two of perfect bliss. None of which would be nearly as satisfying if Mr. Meaners hadn't first laid the bumpy groundwork.

Novels are generally chock-full of a sadistic kind of foreplay, aren't they? Something bad happens...then something else bad happens...oh, look! something worse!...OMG, the WORST!!!

...and then everything is hunky dory. If you write light and funny, like I do, anyway. If you write deep, dark, and serious, then you might not wind up at hunky dory. You still get "hunky" -- if you're lucky ;) -- but not necessarily dory.

The point is, all that sadistic foreplay is what makes the ending fulfilling. In real life we love smooth sailing. Being happy all the time is not boring to us. (Now, our friends and neighbors might be more entertained if we provided some melodrama, but that's because, like readers, they are observers. Observers need more stimulation than participants. Something to do with the distance from the action, I suppose. It's like trying to scratch an itch through corduroy -- you have to press harder to get any satisfaction.)

When you really think about it, though, I'm being altruistic when I have a cocktail and release Mr. Meaners on my characters. It's all in the name of building a better book.

Yes, I do it for the readers. What can I say? I'm a giver.

*But a BADASS marshmallow.

**Of course he's a guy -- otherwise he couldn't be my total antithesis, could he?

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