The sea is nearly silent around her.
A faint skitter of fiddler-crabs upon the sand connects
to a murmur of the night-wind in palm trees overhead.
Her lover tide is making low complaints like the ache of earth
caressing and bitter against an expectant land.
She keeps half-awake the anguished spirit of self-love,
to half-lull it with a soothing song to ease the embers from the brand.
The moment pales—a broken trail of sparks on water in the east,
a splash of crimson paint so frail it cannot last.
It leaves like a night to a brand-new day.
I just finished reading a how-to-write-like-me book recommended by a friend who, like me, wishes to become a published writer. The wonder-tips I gleaned from the essay made me consider that I may need to increase the meanness of my antagonists to a 90 score or higher on the Downright Meanness Scale.
We all know mean people. They are overly bossy or controlling, physically aggressive, exclude others, talk about popularity, make threats, keep secrets, say “Just Joking” after being mean, have mean friends, and do not respect authority.
Being mean makes you stupid. I tend to shy away from mean, stupid people.
Good natured at heart, I gravitate to likeminded people who don’t attack others. Good people get ahead in life by transcending violence.
Good people build great things in life, including relationships, and are driven by a spirit of benevolence.
When I write stories, I tend to give my bad guys bigger nice sides than bad. I simply find it difficult to imagine someone can wake up seething malevolence, remain mean all day, and go to bed that way, 24-7 all their life.
This type of life nagged me during a chat with a fellow writer. She had seen an article at MSN about sleazy landlords. Those who know me well know I have rented from probably the world’s sleaziest landlords. I scorn these oppressive ne’er-do-wells who class themselves—grandly in many cases—by their yearly earnings, which is money for nothing, and have the audacity to put down their tenants for being either unfortunate and poverty stricken or people who opted to rent instead of owning property. These landlords appear to have no laws to keep them in check, so they do as they please, which often isn’t maintaining the property they own. The ones I know blight our society with their ineptness, greed and downright laziness.
After I rattled off some quick curses aimed at all sleazy landlords, my friend suggested I imagine these lowlifes gathered together in a police lineup whenever I create my villains. She said, “Imagine each one as a spouse, a coworker, or boss. How does someone live with that sort of person and not pity them?”
True. But how can even these lowlifes score 90 or higher on the Downright Meanness Scale? Is anybody, whether awful landlords, bosses, senators, or rulers of the empire, really that bad?
I cannot imagine anyone with little enough humanity in their hearts and souls to better their ways. Even while they gain fortune and power and sink lower in corruption and sleaziness, I cannot fathom them becoming monsters.
Monsters easily score 90s on the Downright Meanness Scale. But monsters are not human … not in my book, and certainly not in my stories.
However, despite my beliefs, the daily news reminds me that humans can become monsters. Plenty of writers write about them. But not this writer. I like that my bad guys have bigger nice sides than bad. They may get angry and kick the dog, cheat on their spouses, and double-cross the tenant renting from them, but they never score 90s on the Downright Meanness Scale.
Still, I’m a writer. I need to write mean spirited characters into my stories if I want be a published author. I won’t enjoy putting myself in oppressors and villains ill-gotten shoes, so I’m certain my good guys will play bigger parts … to keep me from exploding with contempt!
I see in today’s print market for fiction that story characters react more to frustration than any other emotion. Frustration is not getting what we want. And frustration is the carriage that drives all of us along the road of life. How we handle it determines what kind of person we are. Writers who deal with rejections from editors and publishers vent their frustration on the Internet. Google frustrated writers to see the multitude.
Overall, I am an average person who tries repeatedly to overcome failure until I either succeed or give up defeated. But as a fictional character, whether I win or lose, I must learn a lesson from the experience and grow more meaningful as a person. Doing less than that makes me an unchanged character in a story that many editors and publishers today would throw back into the slush pile. In other words, my typical life is not worth writing about. I didn’t wallow in self-pity during the entire second act of my story. I didn’t write off my problems as too much trouble and become dependent on others. I didn’t turn to alcohol or drugs and slide into depression. I didn’t blame and fight others and seek revenge with payback schemes, or go on shooting sprees. No, I stayed levelheaded and had little conflicting inner turmoil, and the opposition never dragged me down into the murky depths of life’s underbelly.
Fiction, therefore, must be exaggerated. A super-powerful adversary must drag me down and make me struggle harder for success. I must grow darkest and be emotionally powerful throughout every story event before I pull myself up into the light at the end of my problem by squashing that no-good in my life.
On paper, I deserve all the exaggerated frustration I can get so I can be mightily victorious in the end. Off paper, I thank God it’s not real.