Living In Your Killer’s Head

With the preference of first person writing comes a strange and sometimes overwhelming character absorption. In other words – you can’t just portray the image of your character, you actually have to become that person in thought. Not every personality written can be a bubbly little ball of joy whose words flow like rainbows and eyes dance magically in the light of  sunshine and happiness. The dark dreaded characters also have to be created (especially in thrillers, obviously).

I remember reading an article a few years back about actors who “become” the character they are playing in movies or shows.  They will live their lives exactly how that said character would do, sometimes for months at a time.  They will talk like them, walk like them, dress like them, and even react to life’s events with a certain dramatic flare – just as their characters would do.  As I was reading this article I thought to myself ‘wow, seems a bit extreme’.  Then I brushed the entire notion under a rug in the back of my mind. While writing the killer in Aggravated Momentum, I somehow lifted that memory rug and let the dust of it fly free. If you think about it, writing a personality isn’t too much different from acting one. Both require a very personal connection.

Now, I clearly didn’t re-route my psyche and run around with a gutting knife chopping people to bits. I did however, develop a horrible trait of minor self-loathing.  YES I do realize how completely depressing that sounds, and NO my point is not for any level of pity.  I don’t need a hug, or even a pat on the back. The intention of this post is merely to share my own writing experience with others who may be having the same unwelcome emotions while hashing out what could possibly be their next best seller.

Every great writer and actor alike have a switch. This on/off switch allows them to toggle back and forth between themselves and their characters. When creating the sickest, most twisted personalities, that switch isn’t so easily flipped.  Unfortunately, It’s common for it to get stuck somewhere in the middle. It took me months to write what should have been done in weeks.  During that process, or emotional slump I should call it, I’d often ask myself ridicules questions like: Am I actually an evil person to be able to think this sh*t up? Why am I able to relate with such narcissism? And… What is wrong with me, to enjoy a raunchy sex scene through a killers eyes?  I actually found myself wallowing in question of self-character and integrity. That is until I made a conscious decision to slap that silly toggle switch senseless, and knock it proper.

One morning upon waking it hit me. Before I was even able to stand to my feet I promised myself that ‘today is the damn day’. I had had it.  I knew that my killer’s personality was imperative and that moping around like a petty little slave to him was undeniably juvenile! So, I got rid of my kids for the day and went to work. I completely submerged myself into this character, stopping only to eat and shower. I did this every day for over a week.  I cried, I shook, I worked on my calm breathing techniques and I visited parts of my mind that until then was completely untapped. Then, the very instance I finished up his character, I put it way.  I set my writing on the back-burner and spent the next two weeks cleansing the palate.  I played with my children, went on dates with my husband, and watched countless hours of Disney movies.

The moral of my tale is this:  Figure out your switch! It is okay to “become” your characters to a certain point, but never ever linger in a place you’re uncomfortable with.  Write your story (even the darkest of them) in a way that is healthy and wholesome no mater the circumstance. If your book requires you to tap into a part of yourself that is better off left untouched, then maybe it is best to jump into the water completely, swim your laps, and then get the heck out of the pool!

This is Aggravated Momentum, the book I mentioned, and it’s actually on sale right now for 99 cents for a Scary month special!!

 

Advertisements

14 Comments Add yours

  1. Very interesting post! It’s great that you have such commitment to your characters, as long as you’re taking care of your own well-being too. I remember reading a quote from Gillian Flynn (author of Gone Girl) about how she goes in and out of those dark headspaces. They can be so immersive and affecting that she has to make sure she does something cheerful for a while after each writing session to come out of that mood. She mentioned watching a Broadway dance routine is a good strategy!

    Like

    1. Didi Oviatt says:

      Gillian Flynn is one of my favs!! Glad to hear about having something in common with such a power house writer!! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. She’s a top fave of mine too!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. (P.S. I saw you followed me a bit ago. Thank you!)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That immersion is necessary, I think, and you’re right that too much isn’t healthy. I wrote a dark book (for me) and was physically sick for the entire first draft from the stress. I became dehydrated and developed a heart arrhythmia that took me to a cardiologist. When the draft was done, all symptoms disappeared.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Didi Oviatt says:

      wow, I’m glad you were able to pull out of it! Before becoming an Author I would have never imagined such extremities and emotional connections to ones “work.” I admire your dedication! On a positive note, I think we can safely say that we ARE actually good hearted people, despite the twisted depths of our imaginations. If not, then we wouldn’t react so harshly. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. One way I immerse myself is through music. I find a song for each of my main characters and listen to the songs ad nauseum as I write those characters. It helps me get into the right headspace.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Didi Oviatt says:

      Ohhh that’s a great idea, I’ll have to try it!! Thanks for the tip, I love it 🙂

      Like

  5. mitchteemley says:

    Well said! The gentle-spirited J.K. Rowling (writing as Robert Galbraith) succeeds disturbingly well in entering the mind of a serial killer in her last Cormoran Strike novel “Career of Evil.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Didi Oviatt says:

      Thank you and that sounds Awesome, I’ll have to read it!!

      Like

    1. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s