My fellow commuters know me to be a jovial, kind and generous man, indeed the delightful Miss Penny (A telephone receptionist) once asked “Mr Bruntingthorpe, how can you be so happy”? I looked into her violet eyes and with honesty I replied “It’s my wife, my dear” And she settled back to her romantic novel, secure in the knowledge she was in company of a delightful man.
A paragraph from the short story ‘Mr Bruntingthorpe’ which can be found in my latest book ‘Flash Fiction and Short Stories’.
When a character is murdered within one of my stories he will meet his demise by a feasible method. Baseball bat, knife, strangulation, drowning or poison and his death will usually be a swift one. Real murder is most often a spontaneous crime and the assailant is safer if the act is swiftly executed, so as to make good his flight from the scene of crime.
If one is writing about revenge attacks and murder then, torture and prolonged misery is warranted within the description. It seems female writers are more adept at describing horrendous and sustained methods of murder or revenge. And male writers are like myself tend to describe the method in a more definitive way. The human enjoys the murder mystery and I wonder why. The macabre is a popular subject for any writer to enjoy. Books written about zombies are the biggest sellers of all! People like death.
Who would commit murder?
Some years ago I considered murdering a woman. And as the source of my anger (one has to be angry to plot a murder) was a matter of the heart I decided a representation of Eros’s arrow by the way of a crossbow bolt was to be the instrument of demise. I envisaged the bolt being released and penetration the heart and as she fell to the ground her last thoughts would be of sorrow and shame. At this time I had access to lethal poisons. The other party would die a difficult death as the chemical destroyed the liver and kidneys. Best of all the poison has a bitter taste, he lived alone and I knew how to get into his house… Coffee jar here I come! Soon my thoughts wandered. How could I kill the woman and frame him for the murder, this became a far more interesting proposition and for a number of weeks I worked upon the conundrum. Fortunately, time and new friends are great healers and by the time the plan had been honed to perfection I no longer cared about the situation. There has to be a very good reason to take the risk.
The hatred of the victim must outweigh, risk of detection and punishment. Pre-meditation of a murder and then the fulfilment of the crime really does justify a higher tariff when the judge passes sentence and this deterrent must be effective. This is one of the reasons most murders are spontaneous crimes. Rarely is the result of killing the victim so gratuitous that the punishment is of no importance, and this type of character can make a story captivating.
Even the good have a breaking point.
A good friend recently told me of his meeting with a man who had made a vindictive comment about his character on a social website. I had read it, there’s no doubt the words were the strength of sulphuric acid and the scars left although not visible had had an effect. As he relived the meeting I realised the slanderous villain would have been very near to a beating. The kind, generous friend said to me ‘Ian, it frightened me, I really wanted to kill him’ No one who knows this fellow can see him other than a pacifist who genuinely cares for his friends, he continued ‘God knows how I controlled myself, all I wanted to do was to put my hands around his throat and choke the life out of him’. Everyone has a breaking point.
I have known three victims.
One a victim of a road rage stabbing. The second shot by her father and the third is a recent tragedy so I’ll not be writing of the details in this essay. What I know for certain is the three were kind, happy, truthful and loving, yes, they were superb human beings and it was a privilege to have known them. Two knew their assailants and this is an interesting observation, because in a world where many are in fear of strangers, statistics show people known to us can become our most dangerous foe. And the effect of the crime is like a ripple from the epicentre effecting many people, family, friends, investigators, jury and the social system. On a personal level the third murder turned around many beliefs and to my mind affirmed that the grace of forgiveness cannot always be given.
Lessons learned which the writer may consider.
Live each moment as if it is your last. Walk away from conflict. Rise above vindictiveness. Refuse to become involved in petty argument or contribute to the argument of friends. Ignore public displays of hatred or derogatory comments made by fools, the best way to deal with criticism is to ignore it, as the moment one takes up the sword it is difficult to put it down without being seen to be bully or defeated, either way the knight becomes the loser.
I believe the best authors understand and empathise with the human condition and each time his character does not walk away from conflict, does not rise above vindictiveness, becomes involved in petty arguments, the writer has the story!
The successful writers understand the mind. How did Colin Dexter make Inspector Morse such a powerful character? He made him, the crimes and methods used by the murderer/s believable. It seems to me that the hard hitting excess in some stories can quickly become boring. Working the plot and giving the characters difficulties to be overwhelmed based upon feasible parameters makes for excellent and powerful reading.
Man’s most evil act
It’s interesting to me man’s most evil act – That of taking another mans life is the subject of one his most enjoyed pastimes. Murder mysteries, stories, serial killers, homicidal maniacs. Is it violence, right defeating wrong (sometimes) or the conundrum of solving the mystery which appeals?
The crime is fictitious and does not effect the reader. The crime is reality and the reader finds it horrific. If the taking of life can effect the sane man with disgust, why is it acceptable within fiction? Does fictional murder serve another purpose? Is the ability to watch and explore a drama help with being able to cope with other situations? Does play acting and attempting to solve the mystery help when we have to:-
…The realities of actual events within our lives. Is this the crux of fictional writing? When the reader becomes immersed into unreal situations which are paradoxically attuned to inner fears is the reader more involved in the drama? Does the drama train the mind, exorcise the devils within the psyche? The writer who can harness this thought will make the story lines sparkle.
What happens when you think about your greatest fear and write a story around it? It becomes alive because you understand it. Could the enjoyment of the murder mystery have another aspect to it? Could the murder story represent other situations? What happens if the killer represented global warming, destruction of the rain forest and the victim is the human race, the planet Earth? Is the drama a powerful reflection upon society? Its even possible the drama is a gateway to the acceptance of the annihilation of cultural traditions. The realities are unseen killers, global warming, over population, poverty, these are all killers many humans seem to accept as an inevitable consequence of the play of existence.
When the politician talks of peace he’s often taking about war and death. We live within an ever changing environment on a planet which is a victim terrible neglect, are we not all murderer’s? Is it possible the minds conscience use’s fiction as an escape valve? If you are a writer this is an aspect worthy of consideration.
I give copies of my short stories for my friends to read and after reading a story called ‘The Meal’ I asked my critic what she felt. ‘Oh! I hated her, I knew someone just like the hag, and I was so pleased with the stories end, I feel better for reading it’ ! If Di is the only person who enjoys the character I’m happy. We write for ourselves and maybe writing is about freeing ones own demons.
The writer who understands and takes time to work out how to connect to a man or woman’s inner fears, so as the reader can experience them though their imagination may not write a masterpiece, he will write work which stays within the mind of the reader.