Hi, my name is Kait. You and I have met before; I’m a writer who kills. You’ve had me as a guest a couple of times in fact, but this is my first meeting, such as it is, as a regular blogger on Writers Who Kill. I can see y’all sipping down your coffee, and a couple of you, tasting something stronger. We don’t have those rules here. You can drink what you like, long as you know who you are and what you do. Heck, you could probably light up a smoke or two. Might even help the atmosphere.
Ok, enough. I need to get down to it, I guess. I mean, you didn’t come here to listen to me wander all over the Southeast and points north. Fine.
Here’s the skinny on me. I’ve been writing since I could hold a pen. Nice, simple, stories, you know the kind. The house with the door and four windows in the front, the mommy and daddy, the brother to go with me. One face in every window. The true American Dream. Car in the garage, rose bushes alongside the steps. Regular stuff. I liked it. I liked that other people liked it. I really liked that the teacher liked it, and I got high praise for my efforts.
When you’re a kid like that, you think it’s never gonna change. No one is ever gonna look under the cover, flip the drawing over, see the inside. But that kid. She knows. She knows how many knots you need to tie into the sheet to get out the bedroom window. How Daddy is funny with one drink, a laugh a second with two, and someone you never met with three. All that while Mommy stands back and says, “He’s your father, do what he says.”
That’s when you want that family of four to look just like you, ‘cause if they don’t, there’s no place left for you to go. No place but down, and that’s where you’re going.
By third grade, you stop drawing that family. Those teachers, they’re smart. They figure you know your own house enough now. They don’t need to know what really happens. But they teach you something better. Something way better than drawing circles for Mommy and Daddy faces. They teach you to write. And they teach you about fiction. Pretty soon, you’re bringing home gold stars on your papers. Your teachers praise your creativity. Your parents put them up on the refrigerator. You’re going to be a writer.
For a while, you read every book you can get your hands on. Phyllis Whitney, Edgar Allan Poe, Louisa May Alcott. Everything. Nothing is immune from your reading need. You start to incorporate details from each of your heroes in your books. Suddenly, your teachers aren’t talking about classwork, they’re talking about careers. You and your career. You are a cut above. That’s rich. A cut above. If only they knew.
It’s about this time that some teacher hands you the book that changes your life. Some old guy named Antoine de Saint-Exupery wrote something called The Little Prince. It’s a short book, you read it twice before dinner. It was there that I learned to judge by deeds not words. That words are the source of problems and to love something, it must be let go.
That’s when I became a writer who killed. All of my prior stories were stories of my perception. I wrote what I saw. There was always a happy ever after. But after I learned that words were the source of all problems and deeds their resolution, well, I discovered that one must look deeper. Deeper than words. Some characters by their acts need killin’. And so, I’m a writer who kills. I look at the story world, and I listen to my characters, right and wrong, clear-eyed and self-deluded. Then I ask myself. How to help them write their own real stories?
What about you? What’s your criteria for a bad guy? Bad through and through or merely someone who through twists and turns, maybe jealousy and envy, becomes irredeemable?