Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Wrath of Rachael

I'm terrible at revenge. Given a good night's sleep and a sunny morning, I'll forgive most people most things. I stubbornly refuse to see the worst in people, even when they're displaying their ugliness for all the world to view. Even when they're pointing at it, showing it to me, saying, "Look here, I'm a terrible, awful person, and I hate you, you're ugly, and your mama's ugly, too," I'm the one saying soothingly, "Oh, no, you don't mean that, it's just been a long day and you're tired. Just have a rest and a sandwich. You'll feel better tomorrow."

So when people are actually mean, I don't understand it and I can only think that they're sad and scared. When people are actually angry, I can only think that they're hurt. I'm not sure that mean or angry really exist, except as mile markers, signposts for sad and hurt. (Don't say that to an angry person, though. They won't buy it, and you might get clobbered.)

But revenge, in writing, is so interesting. As is anger. And meanness. And pain. I always need to UP those things in my writing. I can't run around to all my characters soothing them (although I try), making every little hurt better. What I'd like to do is let them all sit around chatting, engaging in funny banter. Then, ideally, someone would stand up and say something mildly rude. Then my characters would spend the next hundred pages engaging in friendly therapeutic encouraging dialogue, and then everyone would sing a rousing kumbaya around a pretty campfire and turn in for an early night.

However, my editor won't let me do that (DAMN IT). Something about "emotional depth" and "real conflict." Whatever. Books with plot. Ahem. (I jest, of course. I want to read books with depth. They're just slightly harder to write than books without.)

So revenge. I need to dwell on the possibilities, even if I can't seem to act on them.

(The urge to insert a smiley face is almost physically unbearable. So...)



Sophie Littlefield said...

that was so dear and so true!

i think you are exactly right about dark behaviors - fury and vengeance and violence - all stemming from hurt. elizabeth george is a genius at tracing that path, and that can be the basis of a beautiful book. but in its milder forms...run-of-the-mill cruelty and hurt feelings...it's still plenty interesting, and its resolution is so much more satisfying the more you dial it up.

Juliet Blackwell said...

I completely agree Rach -- and well said, of course -- about anger and meanness stemming from sadness and insecurity. My problem is when one is faced with horrors and horrific behavior, how do you respond to the immediate awfulness and still see the humanity in the perpetrator? Like child molesters and the like, people who hurt others continually in order to assuage their own hurt. Therein lies drama and...dare I say it? A story with a whole lot of emotional depth. ;-) Smiley faces, for sure;-)

Pam Asberry said...

I have some of these same issues. And while my forgiving nature has served me well through much of my life, there have also been a few times when a little conflict might have made for better outcomes for me. I am going to try to remember this in my writing. Because I don't think my readers will have the patience for my heroine's weaknesses that my friends have had for mine! :-)

Mysti Lou said...

I used to nurse resentments like they were mother's milk.

then I grew up a little. really. Just a little!

I haven't quite worked out if treasuring resentments is a gateway drug to full blown maniacal revenge-lust. I think the latter comes from some weird wiring, quite frankly, or is perhaps unavailable to those of us who have trouble completing tasks ;)

I've really deeply hated just a few people, and when I see them now, ruined amid the inevitable karmic paybacks, I really do feel sorry for them (in the sort of dead-skunk-on-the-highway-shoulder way)...

Adrienne Bell said...

Who the hell would ever be mean to you? That's the part I don't get. It would be like being mean to a litter of puppies on a bed of bunnies.

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