I just killed a man.
I don’t mean that I literally went out, clubbed him in the head and then buried his body somewhere in the desert… next to the 13 dead prostitutes.
I mean I just killed a man to death with my words. I like the way that sounds – killed a man to death.
Anyway I was coming up on one of my writing milestones; 20,000 words. I don’t know that I’ve ever written that much in my life (at least not for the same story) so I was pretty excited.
Then I thought “what if I just end the book right now, how would that look?”
So I wrote “Then he died” and that was it. The book was over and my main character (he just happened to be the one in the line of fire of my next sentence – dang those subjects and verbs!) was dead.
His life went dark and his character was no more.
Authors have so much power. I think we tend to focus on the creative nature of our craft more than the destructive side. But the power is the same either way.
I just killed a man. It’s crazy.
As part of my study and preparation to become “an awesome alliterative author” (and after a few weeks of planning and research to identify my desired genre) I have been reading a lot of works by Kurt Vonnegut and Philip K. Dick (PKD).
This is the style I want to learn. I guess they fall in the Paranoid Fiction category/genre for several of their works. Honestly I’d never even heard of that genre before I started researching it but the more I discovered the more I realized that it’s exactly the stuff I want to write. I like everything about “messing with people’s minds” and PKD and Vonnegut both do that pretty well I think.
Their craft is what I want to steal to help me build my art (yeah, I know I’m taking myself a little too seriously by calling the crap I put on a page “art” but bear with me, it will get better I promise).
In Vonnegut’s book “Breakfast of Champions” he makes a cameo as himself – the author and Creator. He is the creator of the whole universe where the book takes place. He created the story, he created the details and the settings, he even created the main character (who is actually a character that makes appearances in many of his books) – Kilgore Trout.
There’s a scene in this book where Vonnegut is sitting in a bar at a table in the corner watching the events that are taking place. The events that he created or at least the scenario where he released his creations. He occasionally makes a comment but he’s really just telling the story of what is happening between his characters as if he were there. One thing he wrote that I didn’t quite understand fully until I murdered someone myself was when he said that he “created these beings but [he] has very little control over what they actually say and do.”
At the end of the story Kilgore comes face to face with his Creator – Vonnegut. And Vonnegut “sets him free” as a gift for his 50th birthday.
It was a weird read. But I liked it.
And today is when I made the connection – I am a creator (note the little “c”). I have the power to create and I have the power to kill.
Don’t worry, I’ll keep the killing stuff confined to my books – for now – (cue evil laugh: muwhahahaha).
I realized that I have actually created these characters in my head. They exist to me. They have personalities. They have quirks. They have their own way of looking at the world. And sometimes they do and say things because of how I created them and not necessarily because of how I wrote the scene or how I want it to go.
My main character in my first set of stories, his name is Mark Weaver, is very smart, a little shy and is currently having issues with staying in a set time. He’s confused and frustrated because he can’t figure stuff out. So last night when I was writing a scene where he meets the girl of his dreams he was really having a hard time thinking of something to say. He was so focused on his “personal crap” that he really didn’t feel like chatting with this woman.
He didn’t mind staring at her while he thought, but getting him to talk was proving to be difficult.
It didn’t matter how many different ways I wrote the scene and the dialogue, it just didn’t fit with Mark. It wasn’t Mark. It was me trying to be Mark. And that wasn’t working.
So I killed him.
See how he likes that!
Then I brought him back to life and made a deal with him that I wouldn’t try and force him into those situations until he was ready – he needed time to think, he needed some closure and resolution before he could move on.
So that’s what I did. I created two new chapters (hopefully that’s enough time) before his encounter with this girl where I will try and put him in a position where he can be himself – and where the scene won’t be awkward to the flow of the book.
I had no idea that this would happen. It was a fun discovery and a little humbling at the same time.
The creative power is real – and it should be used carefully (in real life and the imaginary). The characters have to be fully created, then they can be released into the world you create for them. They have to be allowed to act as they were designed (to fulfill the purpose of their creation you could say). Then it’s like the story writes itself.
I think that’s what makes a good story.
I think that’s what makes a good book.
I think that’s what Vonnegut was talking about.
Sorry I killed you Mark. I’m glad you’re not buried in the desert next to the hookers.
And I’m really glad I had the power to bring you back.
If you enjoyed this little article, please help me out and share it with your friends using the social sharing buttons at the bottom or to the left.
And if would like to follow along on my journey of becoming an author or you just like what I have to say then please check out my personal website: rebenjamin.com and consider signing up for my email list.
Also published on Medium.