Monday, 2 November 2009

People do scary things...

By scary things, I mean not nice things, dangerous things - evil even. And we writers capitalize on those nasty doings.

Whether it is fictional or about real-life, we write tales involving murder, theft, assault, espionage, and super-natural beings that have an axe to grind (sometimes literally) and our readers buy these dark stories over and over again. We invent monsters and twisted minds all in the guise of entertainment.

Is it that we enjoy misery and fear?

These dark stories can cause an adrenaline rush similar to the high many people get when riding a roller coaster. It's a rush that leaves you feeling alive and tingly. Evil doings also force us to think - what would we do in that situation, how would we outmaneuver the diabolical masterminds? Reading a well-written book allows a person to live vicariously as they are absorbed in the words and driven to turn the page to see what happens next.

All but one of my books to date has been romantic-suspense with the anticipated and requisite happy-ever-after ending; my one mystery suspense featured pure evil and a twisted mind. I've used art theft, rape, murder and murder attempts, arson, sexual deviants, corporate espionage, and international terrorism in my plots. Scary stuff, but I really am a good girl.

Sometimes a writer will use the ugly and scary things in life as part of a character’s past so that the reader will feel sympathy for him. I did this in my upcoming novel (due out in print this month and already available on SmashWords), A Chaunce of Riches when I explain how my hero and heroine first met:

Sam had already been in the foster home when Ben came to live there. Her parents had died in a car accident. She had been rescued, orphaned, from the wreckage. There was no family to replace the loving parents she remembered. She had been the only child of two only children. There was an ailing grandmother halfway across the country but no one else. Her grandmother sent what money she could for the few years she lived but she couldn’t take care of a child. Samantha had just started kindergarten when her world was destroyed.

It was a little more than a year later when Ben, already eight, the same age as Philip, was taken away from his drug addict mother. She had tried to sell him for drug money when she came up short but he had kicked the pedophile she was bargaining with and ran away. It angered her and she sent him into the streets to fend for himself. He was scared, homeless and hungry for almost two days when Baltimore cops picked him up and child services got involved. Ben was brought to the foster home; there were six other kids including Sam and two more birth kids belonging to the couple. It was a relief not to have to hide in the closet while his mother turned tricks to get drug money. But the child in him still felt resentment that his mother had tossed him away like garbage. And the child in him was terrified that he would lose the new-found comfort his foster family provided him with. He couldn’t relax, he couldn’t trust. Sam was the only one who could get through to him. She was the only one who made him feel safe.

He had come to the foster home early in the fall, just in time to start the school year. He was lacking in education because his mother never made sure he got to school each day and he was embarrassed. Even though Sam was younger than him, she helped him study and eventually catch up to his grade level. Then, when the excitement of Halloween drew near, he was terrified when the other kids talked of donning costumes and going door-to-door for candy. He refused to go, he was afraid he would have to do more than just ring doorbells. But when the other kids came home happy and laughing and with sacks filled with candy, he felt left out. Sam dumped her bag of candy in front of him and said it was too much for just her, he had to help her and eat some of it.


Lindsay Townsend said...

I agree with your very thoughtful and thought-provoking article, Chelle. Your 'Chaunce of Riches' sounds amazing from the excerpt - I like characters with issues: always gives an added depth and tension.
(Beautiful cover, too!)

Thanks for sharing!

Kathleen O said...

This will I think be a very emotinal story. The part where he did't want to go out for Halloween because he was afraid of the unknown, brought a tear to my eye..
Good story..

Cheryl said...


You are so right about our "evil" characters. Do you know, I had a very good friend who refused to finish FIRE EYES because she said she couldn't think of me creating someone as evil as Andrew Fallon was? I told her, "IT'S MAKE BELIEVE!" She said, "Yes...but you had to think of it, and write it." I guess it scared her that those thoughts could have been in my head. But voicing our opinions and thoughts through our characters doesn't make US evil, it only shows that we are able to recognize it. LOL My sister told me she was surprised at how evil my villains are, too. It's not scary to me, though. Even though I'm writing them. I know their "only make believe!" LOL
Great topic and excerpt.

Cheryl said...

Oops, I should have said, THEY'RE only make believe, not "their". Sorry!

Savanna Kougar said...

Chelle, it's interesting when I'm writing villains they take on a life of their own. It's not that I've even planned them out, or thought about the depths of the criminality and/or evil. Those just aren't my normal thoughts.
Yet, as authors, our creativity kicks in. We're writing a story and that story has to make sense in terms of the characters and why they are the way they are.
Nice excerpt.
I still don't understand smashwords, even though, I went to their site and checked around. I mean, how it would relate to your book.

Kaye Manro said...

Very interesting post, Chelle. I enjoyed reading about your characters, Sam and Ben.

Chelle Cordero said...

Thanks for coming by Lindsay, Kathleen, Cheryl, Savanna & Kaye.

Yes Cheryl, some of my friends have also expressed concern that I could create villains or depict ugliness. I guess they worry that I can "think that way".

Savannah, even when I write a villain who I consider NON-redeemable, I still like to give the reasons why the person is that way. And I often (not always) give the villain something decent in their nature (such as in Bartlett's Rule I let Hal finally do something for Paige just before he died); no human being is ALL good or ALL bad.

Kathleen, I am so touched that you felt Ben's despair as a child - no matter how "tough guy" he appears, inside he is still a bit insecure about abandonment and acceptance; his anger/resentment/bitterness over Sam's abandoning him is a huge part of this story. As Lindsay said, "characters with issues".

Kaye, one day I hope you will read more about Sam & Ben and their story.

BTW, SmashWords ( is a distributor of various formats in EBooks. Right now they are instrumental in helping the Operation EBook Drop ( coalition forces

LK Hunsaker said...

Chelle, I think creating villains helps us try to cope with our world where there are so many villains. You have to wonder why anyone could act that way.

Nice post :-) Best of luck with your newest!