Something people like to ask me is whether or not I have ever killed someone off in a story. Well, since I write suspense thrillers about serial killers one would think that I could just look at them and say, “Duh.”
Well, sometimes I do, actually.
Then they go on to explain that what they really mean is, “Have you ever put a real person into a story and killed them off in the story because you were mad at them or something?”
Then I look at them and say, “What? Are you some kind of sicko or something?”
After I spend a few minutes watching them get all flustered I let them off the hook and give them a real answer.
That being, “Yes. Of course.”
I have made real live annoyances in my life into characters, then had them meet an ugly demise. This is something that every fiction author on the planet who writes a murder mystery, suspense thriller, or the like has done at one time or another. If such an author tells you otherwise, s/he is lying. Guaranteed. They can tell you I am full of it if they want, but they are still lying. I take a dump every morning.
Hell, just look at the facts – they even have coffee cups and t-shirts that say, “Be careful or I’ll kill you in my next book.”
Those didn’t happen by themselves, let me tell you.
So, yes, over the years I – like most all of my word slinging colleagues (some of them write non-fic) – have named fictional victims in my novels after old girlfriends… I have named them after the idiot behind the counter at the local shop ‘n stop… I have named them after someone who did me wrong… And then I have offed them in some horribly gruesome and terribly painful fashion – all on the pages of a novel.
It’s one of those cathartic writing exercises. It makes you feel good and just a little evil at the same time.
However, one particular “story killin’” stands out in my mind above all others. It actually didn’t happen in a novel. It was in a short vignette I wrote while in High School. You see, I was in a film study class – mostly because it was an English Credit, and I had already taken all of the truly academic English/Lit courses. This is not to say it wasn’t a good class, because it was. I actually learned quite a bit and enjoyed it immensely. But I digress…
During that semester there was this girl seated in the desk next to mine. We’ll call her Janice, mostly because that was her name. Now, Janice wasn’t a horrible person by any stretch. At least, not that I am (or was) aware. She was, however, insanely annoying. You see, she had no desire whatsoever to think for herself, so even in a class so subjective as Film Study, she wanted everyone else to provide her with the answers. Since I was sitting a mere three feet to her left, and was “gettin’ good grades” as Timbuk 3 would say, she figured I was a good candidate for providing them.
In keeping with the song reference theme, she had another issue – Just like Joe Walsh has crooned, “she just would not shut up…”
Yeah, Janice was a talker, and that just made her even more annoying.
So moving right along… One day Janice happened to notice that I didn’t just write for the school newspaper. This happened because I dropped some papers and she got to them before me. My guess is she was probably looking to see if there were answers she could steal. What the papers were, however, were some of my short stories. For whatever reason, this intrigued her, and she embarked upon a mission to talk me into writing a story that featured, who else, her.
She kept on me, and on me, and on me for more than a week. Every time I saw her in a class. Now, it bears mentioning here that Janice and I weren’t exactly friends, nor were we dating or anything like that. She was just one of those bizarre folk who would glom onto someone and drive them crazy just because… well… she could.
Anyway, after finally becoming fed up with the harassment, I gave in. That evening, I went home and rolled a sheet of paper into my trusty Smith-Corona manual typewriter (yes, I’m old) and proceeded to tap out a 2 or 3 page vignette featuring none other than Janice herself. It was a sci-fi sort of setting, with her being a high level operative of some government organization who had been captured by very bad people – but in a stroke of blonde genius (yes, Janice was blonde and a poster child for the negative stereotype) she had managed to subdue her immediate captors and was making her escape from the maximum security facility where she was being held for interrogation. (wow… that was a long sentence)…
Anyhow, as I am sure you have guessed, she didn’t make it. It was a sad and horrible death. Not overly gruesome. Just the right amount of gore, mixed with pain, and a healthy dose of “holy shit, I should have turned left instead of right.”
The next day, in Film Study class, as we were taking our seats and she was bugging me, I handed over the pages. Ten minutes later, as we were all sitting quietly, working on our assignments, she blurted out while waving the papers wildly, “WHAT? YOU KILLED ME?!”
Now, there is something else I should mention here – Our teacher, whose desk was nearby, had been hearing Janice annoy me about this story for the entire week prior. In fact, the teacher had even told her to lay off on several occasions, not that it really did any good, obviously.
So, as Janice belted out her umbrage over my having dared to do her in on the page, drawing quiet attention from every corner of the room, the teacher looked up from her desk and without missing a beat said, “Can you blame him? You’ve been annoying the poor guy all semester.”
Hmm… I think maybe I should name a victim Janice in a future novel. After all, that’s one of the great things about being a fiction author – you can always dig up your enemies and kill ‘em again…
More to come…