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Why Are my Characters soooo dark?

When I wrote my first piece of note at age twelve in a school in Bellevue, Nebraska...I specifically remember my instructor putting a note on the paper (no laptops in the dark ages...) and in red pen he wrote: 'Heavens! Don't end your story here!'

The story had ended with the primary character slumping in his seat, blood dripping, a smoking gun in his hand. I was twelve, for God's sake. Nowadays, they'd have rushed me to a school counselor's desk at the speed of light. Back then, I didn't even have the temerity of spirit to walk up to my instructor's desk and ask why he'd not wanted me to end it that way. It seemed perfectly normal to me.

Fast forward thirty years. Okay. Make it forty, I won't go any higher than that. And I'm...STILL

DOING IT. I can't quite wrap my head around why I love the deliciousness of crafting a bad guy and making sure he 'gets his just rewards' in the end...but since I've been writing books I've learned from talking to other writers that writing the bad guy is most authors' absolute favorite thing in the whole world. Which opens up a huge basket of worms as far as writers' brains are concerned, but I digress. What is it in our cumulative dark psyches that makes (most of us, anyway) ACHE for a bad guy and watch in fascination as he diddles away his future in the most peculiar and distasteful ways? Hmm.

For me, in many ways, it's cathartic. Over my life I dated so many, uhh, words fail me, but I dated them or married them, and crafting a really gritty bad guy based on personal experiences is especially delightful. Of course it is! Because I can make the situation turn out the way I WANTED it to in the first place.

Or...the way I FANTASIZED it would turn out if certain laws had not been in place.. and the cherry-on-top-caveat is the authenticity I bring to the table as I'm writing. I imagine it would be quite hilarious to watch me write these characters... I have a wicked smile on my face and my fingers fly across the keyboard as if possessed.

Perhaps I err on the side of heinousness, but we writers all have our fail-safes. If someone happens to write a less-than-stellar review on one of my books, I can rest assured that even if the book did not get rated five stars, the bad guy got a five-and-a-half.

My question is: what does that say about me, as a person? Starting in on the bad guys at age twelve certainly raises a cautionary flag. Do I have a 'save the world from bad guys' complex? A vigilante complex? Is this the reason I love Jack Reacher so much? Is it also the reason that cozy, heartfelt, Hallmark-type movies make me run from the room, gagging?

Whew. A lot to unpack. Suffice to say...that for now, I am content to mold and destroy wicked, wicked men in perpetuity, as long as people like them in my books. The last book I wrote, though, had a FEMALE villain. Now that was tricky. But fun. I don't have quite as much experience with unsavory women, but they're still fun to write. Almost more fun, now that I think about it.

As far as my suspense series goes, Olivia Callahan in book four (available August 2024) is out to rescue her friend Hannah from a destructive and wonderfully hate-able (is that a word?) bad guy. She gets trapped in the boggy bayous of southern Florida, and I'm having a grand time exploring this man's predispositions. I hope you'll join Olivia in her journey when the book comes out this summer! Until then, I raise my glass to the bad boys of the world. You've made my books a better place.

Find out more about the Olivia Callahan Suspense series here!


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