Today I get to kill someone. Okay, well I get to decide who gets killed, but not actually kill them.
Before you call the cops, I suppose I should explain. My epiphany (which is what I'm calling the writing exercises I've been working on) today requires me to gather together three or four ordinary people whose task it is to decide who should be killed. I'm not allowed to convey why they have to do this, and I'm not supposed to reveal their thought process, other than what is spoken out loud to each other, and the death is not supposed to happen in the scene.
My first reaction when I read the assignment? This is going to be fun!
Which started me thinking. Just how sadistic am I? This is a topic that my friends and I have all the time. And our non-writer friends usually give us that look like they're worried we're about to have a mental breakdown. We don't take offense to that. If we were them we would probably be worried about the same thing.
Because I'm a writer, though, I understand the thought process that goes into the idea that having a group of ordinary people deciding on who they're going to kill is fun. I understand that if this were happening in real life, I would be absolutely horrified. No doubt I would seeing a news story about it, my mouth would drop open and I would think 'that's terrible!'
The fact is, though, the person getting killed is a character. And not just any character, but my own character.
While I often contend that my characters are real to me, the truth is I know just how not real they are. And how real I need to make them feel.
That's the heart of it, really. We as writers are aware of just how not real our characters are. And we know that our readers will feel the same way. So we make them real by putting them in situations that no one would ever want to be in and force them to make a decision, or react. That's how we can make them 'real' even in our own heads. That's how they get their voices and personalities. It's how we form them in our heads.
So when I say that it will be 'fun' to place characters in this situation, what I really mean is this is going to be interesting. To see how there characters grow and develop in the short amount of time I'm giving them.
To see what answer they come up with.
Now I'm going to go force my characters to make an impossible decision. Wish me luck.
What's the worst situation you've ever put a character in?