I kill people. And for the most part I make sure they stay dead. No, this isn’t an admission of guilt that will now land me on the front page of my local newspaper and maybe a few national rags. In fact, not only do I not bear any actual guilt, but I don’t feel guilty about killing people at all. Or killing dogs. Or cats. My killing sprees are wholly fictional and completely a product of my imagination.
I kill people in my stories (and a few dogs and cats too). Well, to be fair, I don’t kill them; my characters do. But since I’m the puppet master controlling the strings, I guess I’m mostly to blame for the crimes committed in my books.
And while I don’t feel bad or guilty about forcing fictional characters to perpetrate crimes against one another, I do need to be careful. Sometimes fiction can spill over into reality. To create believably bad dudes, I need to put myself inside the heads and psyches of those villains. I need to become them on a certain level. And that can be a frightening ordeal.
I don’t want to be a villain, not physically and not psychologically, so writing scenes from the point of view of a villain needs to be a careful dance. Murders and crimes of all sort begin in the head, the thoughts, the desires, the fantasies. To accurately portray a criminal, you have to toy with those thoughts, you have to fondle the desires and skirt around the fantasies. Momentarily, at least in thought only, you have to become that criminal. Take on his anger, his pain, his irrational need for revenge. You have to align yourself with him and say, “I understand; I get it; I feel your pain too.”
So how does one do that and remain sane? How does one insert himself into the mind of a killer and not become a killer? It’s an interesting thought. The answer, to oversimplify, is very carefully. I wade into that foul pool of evil intent, of maliciousness and ruthlessness, of misguided justice and perverted needs only so far as I need to. Usually, I stick to the kiddie pool, splash around a bit to get a feel for the temperature of the water, the taste, the sensation of it on my skin. But I’m careful not to wade in too far. It can sneak up on you. The deep end. Before you know it, you’re in over your head and find you can’t swim in those murky, muddy waters. And once in there, it’s so hard to ever get out.
But I do it to show readers the seriousness of sin, the darkness that, but for the grace of God, can infect any of us. It’s real and it’s not to be toyed with. Evil is all around us, pressing us on all sides. It begs to be noticed, and though we may want to ignore it, to act as if it doesn’t exist will only fuel its fire more.
Evil is necessary in fiction because without evil, there can be no good to conquer it. Without darkness, there can be no light to dispel it. Without death, there can be no celebration of life.
About Mike Dellosso
Mike Dellosso is the author of several novels of suspense, an adjunct professor of creative writing and popular conference teacher, a husband, and a father. Born in Baltimore, Mike now resides in southern Pennsylvania with his wife and four daughters. His latest novel is Kill Devil.
About KILL DEVIL
Jed Patrick is convinced he’s doing all it takes to keep his family safe―new names, new location, new identity. But just when he thinks he finally has his life back, trained men claiming to be CIA agents break in and threaten his wife and daughter, proving once and for all his family will never truly be safe until he eliminates the agency dead set on hunting him down.
Not knowing if Karen and Lilly are better off by his side or in hiding, Jed is determined to protect them while finding a way to use the classified information that he possesses to dismantle the Centralia Project. But he soon learns that eliminating Centralia may require compromising his own values. As danger escalates, Jed isn’t sure whether there’s anyone or anything he can trust―including his own senses.