Is it Wrong to Murder Characters in My Novel When They’re Based on Someone from My Past?
I’m feeling guilty about my murderous intent, even though I only murder in my writing.
Several decades ago, long before I became a writer and author, I used to be a pretty religious person. Nowadays, not so much, however, I am still a spiritual person (by my own definition of course), and could even be considered a Christian.
I try and treat all people with kindness and the same respect that I want to be treated with. That’s why I sometimes wonder if murdering certain people in my novel was wrong, particularly since the ones I killed were people who hurt me in the past — NOT VERY CHRISTIAN OF ME I GUESS.
Healing from Abuse
“The more I read, the more I want to write, but this kind of writing requires more courage than creativity.”
It’s no secret that writing is an excellent form of therapy for survivors who are healing, from abuse, and other painful experiences in life. You don’t have to look any further than the Medium publication that you’re currently reading to confirm this fact. Writing Heals was specifically created to be ”A place to share stories of writing as a healing practice.” As a newbie to the platform, I’m completely over the moon when it comes to all the awesome stories that are so inspiring.
It’s great to hear the voices of so many people who recognize the true healing power of writing. I love Writing Heals. The inspirational stories I’m reading are truly addictive, as well as contagious. They move me. The more I read, the more I want to write, but this kind of writing requires more courage than creativity. Honestly, it can be a little scary and a bit of a challenge when you don’t have fiction to hide behind.
Hiding Behind Fiction
Don’t get me wrong when I use the expression hiding behind fiction. Even though I can’t think of a more accurate way to describe what I mean, I don’t mean it in a derogatory way. There’s nothing wrong with expressing your views, sharing your thoughts, or even speaking your truth through fiction. Depending on what your objective is, fiction can be a great vehicle for telling folks what’s on your mind.
Fiction allowed me to purge myself of negative feeling about some things I could have never talked about otherwise. But sharing parts of myself through fiction writing eventually enabled me to open up more and more. Now, I’ve also begun to expose myself and my truth in non-fiction forms of writing.
Revealing My Truth
In all honesty, I didn’t really mean for the reality of my actual past to be so apparent when I wrote my novel, “Skipping Childhood: From Abused Foster Child to Adolescent Serial Killer.” But judging from one of the (few) Amazon reviews I received, apparently my truth was obvious to readers. Here’s what one Amazon review mentioned:
“…Overall, Ms. Baker did a great job holding my interest. I was genuinely concerned to find out what was going to become of Deandra. Although at times, it felt very much like I was reading more of a memoir, mixed with fictional fantasies of what the victim would have liked to do to her attackers.” — Cynthia —
Whoever “Cynthia” is, she hit the nail square on the head! In many ways, she described exactly what I had done, and for some reason that bothered me. I had sat down and seriously contemplated murder, even if it was just pretend. In reality, I could never plan to purposely inflict physical pain on someone, let alone premeditate an actual murder. But in my novel, that was exactly what I did, or rather, what 12-year-old Deandra Baxter did.
In “Skipping Childhood,” I wrote about some terrible memories from my past, and it gave me satisfaction to put the real-life perpetrators to a fictional death. After writing the book, I even felt a certain freedom; like I had managed to reclaim just a little of what had been taken from me. But admittedly, I also felt conflicted about having that kind of murderous intent, even though it never went beyond my writing.
Long before I read the review of my novel; before the book was ever completed, I had twinges of guilt when I wrote the murders into the story. I was practically ashamed of myself when I started to visualize the most graphic murder scene in the book. The genuine guilt I felt just for even writing about such murderous thoughts is shown in what I had the Deandra character contemplating right before the murder. Notice what she is thinking in the following excerpt:
She kept convincing herself that there was justification for the lives she had already taken.
Bad things like death happen to bad people. That’s just the way it is. Their lives are on them, not me. I just did what I had to do.
This particular line of thought began to make Deandra feel better. She felt justified to commit her next kill. But as she waited for him to stroll down the alley any minute, she knew this time things were really different. This was going to be a brutal and pre-meditated murder that had been well thought out.
Some writers may be wondering why I’d be feeling real guilt over a fictional murder. It’s not like I plan to look anyone up and go murder them for real (especially since I’m 61 years old, and they’re all probably dead and gone). So why do I feel like I basically committed murder in my head? Maybe because the alley where my brutal murder scene took place actually existed.
In fact, some of the other events that happened the night leading up to that particular murder also occurred. I could picture it all so clearly as I wrote the scene. I meticulously thought out every single angle of the assault. My cocktail mixture of fiction and facts helped to paint a vivid picture of what the imaginary scene must have looked like. Notice in this following passage from the book:
She managed to squeeze her body between the trash bin and the wall that it was pushed up against. She planned to wait there until Leonard first passed by heading to the store. On his return trip was when she would get him. This would allow her to time things better; giving her the few minutes she needed to prepare for the attack.
After what seemed like forever, the sound of footsteps came from down the alley. She held her breath, in case he could hear how loud she was breathing. Even before she heard his familiar whistling, she knew it was Leonard; not that anyone else was just strolling out there that time of night. Once he passed and continued down the alley, she was able to breathe a little better, and she didn’t waste any time doing what she needed to do to get ready.
She quickly peeled off the black tee shirt and sweat pants she was wearing. She had purposely not worn underwear so now she was actually standing in the alley naked. The idea had come to her when she tried to think of ways to prevent going home bloody. This seemed like the most logical thing to do.
Deandra pulled the lead pipe, some paper towels, and two pair of balled up gloves from the paper bag she’d been carrying.
Write to Heal
As a survivor of abuse, I write to heal because I have a right to heal. It’s only normal that I would have strong and intense feelings against the people who hurt me as a child. That’s why I try hard not to beat myself up too badly over this. As long as I’m using my creative powers to do good and heal, I think I’ll be forgiven for my murderous intent. Of course that only applies just as long as my murders remain on the pages where I write them.