How books can stop all evil (except paper cuts)

I’m working on about 10 short stories at the minute. I told myself I’d do ten by the end of the year. I hadn’t written or had an idea for a short story in four years before this, so it just goes to show that ideas don’t come from particles flying in the air. Or rather, they do, but you have to attune your magnets to draw them in. (See Wyrd Sisters for more on this theory).

So, I have ten stories. Topics include: serial killers, stalking, ghosts, suicide bombing, dementia, stolen children, and war. The most frivolous one I have is about someone doing their best to avoid a marriage proposal. What’s the matter with me? Why am I so mean to all my characters? I was working on a story the other day about a child getting stolen, and had originally written that at the same time his mother gets injured so she can’t have any more children. Then I thought, hmm, that’s a bit mean. She seems nice. Let’s allow her to get pregnant again. Why not? Give her some hope.

The strange thing about writing –one of the strange things – is that you (usually) love your characters, and they are real to you. But at the same time you must make them suffer, kill them, send them to prison, take away everything they love, give them abusive childhoods, put them through painful indigestion, heart attacks, knocked-out teeth. And somehow, even though you love them, you enjoy it. Yes, writers are sadists.

Here’s an idea – maybe the UN should introduce grants so that the would-be sadistic dictators of the world can be writers instead and take out all that evil on fictional creations. It’d be cheaper than peace-keeping troops.  After all, they always say one of the reasons Hitler was so filled with hate was that he got turned down for the art academy, didn’t he? If only someone had suggested he wrote instead. Imagine if Chairman Mao had carried on his little red book series – the little red book of calm, anyone? The world could be a very different place if people channelled all their evil impulses into fiction (The Evil Empire of the Sun? That’d have stopped Darth Vader, for one). As for me, I have no urge to wound or maim in real life – I’ve got several characters to terrify, injure, and possibly kill off, and that’s quite frankly enough for today. Plus, writers are weak and peaceable folk on the whole. They spend all day moving only about 2% of their body mass. They’d never have the strength to pick up a gun.

Hear that, world? Make stories, not war.

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