Writing About Evil: Get in Touch with Your Darker Side
Just One Man’s Opinion
I believe there is a smattering of evil in all of us, just a dollop of the dark side flowing through our veins, but happily, that dollop rarely surfaces. Our kinder nature usually wins the day on the battlefield of morality, and I think I speak for all of us when I say that is a very good thing.
Still, as a writer, I find it challenging and yes, necessary, that I occasionally attempt to capture evil with my words. In order for me to grow as a creative writer, I need to push my limits and go to literary places that are abhorrent to me. I will never be the writer I want to be if I’m not willing to stretch my limits. Staying comfortably tucked away in my safe cocoon is not a recipe for growth, and I want desperately to grow as a writer.
For those reasons, I decided to embark on the evil trail with my latest novel, Shadows Kill. This is a psychological thriller with a vigilante as the good guy and a serial killer as the bad guy, and at times, it is hard to tell the difference between the two.
Let’s take a look at the bad guy, shall we? I give you the following passage from my novel. Then we’ll chat a bit about how to touch your evil as a writer and stay sane in the process.
From Shadows Kill
“Good afternoon, my dear. Are you comfortable? I hope I didn’t tie those restraints too tight. Let me check and make sure all is well with your circulation. Yes, yes, the coloring is good. That’s fine, just fine. Now, there, good as gold, eh?”
He looked down on the young woman, naked and spread out on the table before him. She had flowing, wavy blond hair and eyes the color of jade. There was a sprinkling of freckles upon her cheeks, a lovely neck, slim waist with ample breasts, a ripe young woman of twenty-seven. Her mouth was covered with duct tape, and her eyes glistened with tears. He knew her to be an avid hiker, and her muscular calves spoke of many miles trekking in the Cascade Mountains.
“Please don’t fight your bonds, darling. It really is useless to do so.” He stroked her face lightly and bent down, kissing her on the forehead.
“Shhh, now. It’s all right. It will all be over soon. Thank you so much for joining me. You will make a lovely message for Mr. Baker. Yes, yes, just lovely.”
He had entered her bedroom several hours earlier through an unlocked window. People were so trusting despite the constant warnings about intruders. Subduing her had been no problem, for he was a large man and she such a small thing. He knocked her unconscious and carried her to his van, the entire visit taking only fifteen minutes, and then a leisurely drive in the country to his farmhouse, where they were now getting acquainted.
He walked several steps to his right where there was a table with an assortment of knives upon it. Selecting the one he needed, he returned to the young woman.
“I do not want you to suffer, my dear. It is Mr. Baker who will feel the pain of loss. I will make your ordeal as painless as possible. I promise you that. Perhaps you would like to know what I am going to do. Yes?”
“This is a lovely knife, don’t you think? Perfectly balanced you know. The Japanese take great pride in crafting only the finest knives. This particular one is called a Hira because of its blade design. See how the edge bevels reaching all the way from the ha to the mune with no flats in between? This tanto is twelve inches long and approximately two-hundred and fifty years old. Nothing but the finest for you, my dear.”
He placed the point of the tanto on her chest.
“Now you must not squirm so or I’ll miss my mark. I am going to plunge this into your heart. You will only feel pain for a second or two and then nothingness will fall upon you, that blessed destination we all secretly long for. Shhh, don’t carry on so. Now, where was I? Oh yes, there will be the initial cut, and then after you have left this world I will carve out a specific design for our Mr. Baker. I’m sure he will find it interesting.”
“I want to thank you again for assisting me, Nanci. You have been very gracious about this whole ordeal. Rest well my dear.”
When he was finished he walked to the sink, washed the blood from the blade, then lovingly spread oil on it to keep it from rusting. Next he untied the girl and began preparing her for her final journey. With a warm, wet washcloth he cleaned the blood from her body and then dressed her in her clothes. He touched up her makeup, for the tears had made a mess of her lovely face, and then he lowered her eyelids and once again kissed her forehead. He wiped tears from his eyes.
“Thank you,” he whispered, and then carried her to the van.
Where Does This Come From?
Well not from me and that’s for damned sure. No, the inspiration for this antagonist came from Hannibal Lecter, the nasty guy from “Silence of the Lambs.” I’m sure most of you remember Hannibal, and I’m sure most of you experienced a visceral horror while reading about him.
That’s what I tried to accomplish with my own bad boy, and I think I’ve done it.
However, even the good guy in my novel has a dark side to him. In the following passage, he tries to justify and explain his own killing experience.
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- William Holland | Helping Writers to Spread Their Wings and Fly
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And This Is the Good Guy?
This, from Eli Baker, the protagonist in Shadows Kill:
Someone had sent an obvious message for all to see, a message so hideous, so degrading, so challenging, and it had my name on it….my name, my message, carved on Nanci….how does anyone ignore that vileness? Did Jimmy really think that depravity will just disappear, or suddenly be overcome by goodness? I appreciate the message and his fervor, but I’m not buying. Nobody is safe, whether you live in the bowels of New York City, or the idyllic wistfulness of the country. Evil walks among us. Hell, there are those who have never heard of Olympia, Washington, and yet twenty miles to the north of us, Ted Bundy called Tacoma his home, and fifty miles to the north of us, Gary Ridgeway dumped dead bodies as though they were cardboard at a recycling center.
Evil walks among us.
Plato said that ignorance is the root of all evil, but what is a sociopath ignorant of? There is no moral dilemma for the depraved among us. They are driven by a voice most of us will never hear. It is not a lack of intelligence, but rather a dysfunction, so deeply ingrained as to be a part of their DNA. They terrorize good, unharmed people, in the name of God or payback for cruelties paid to them in their youth, or whatever other justification they have manufactured. One does not counsel such depravity, nor does one lobotomize it. The only solution for peace-loving citizens, the only reaction that will bring them peace, is total annihilation.
How Does One Find Such Inspiration?
Well, hopefully, not from your own experience or actions. For me, I had to think of the scariest literary character I had ever encountered, and Hannibal Lecter surfaced. For the good guy, I thought of an old Charles Bronson film called “Death Wish,” about a vigilante. Toss in a few other very vile characters I have met over the years, and then mold them into my own nasty character.
I’ve mentioned before that Ted Bundy was our paperboy. Yes, that Ted Bundy, in Tacoma, Washington, circa 1960. I barely remember him delivering papers, but I remember clearly his infamous days, and the interviews I saw of him, and I remember his lifeless eyes, eyes that held or reflected no light. It was looking into the abyss of evil.
This latest novel is taking twice as long to write as my previous novel, simply because it is hard to embrace a character who is so dark. I have to write and then recover; write and then recover; and the process is slow because of that.
But it is worthwhile. When I finish this novel I will be a better writer and really, isn’t that why most of us do this writing gig?
2014 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”