no, I don’t drink blood or bathe in it, really…

Someone commented recently about the irony of my inherent shyness (which I have mentioned on this blog) considering I chose the point of view of a shameless, knife-wielding murderer for my first book. It begs the question: why do we, as writers, write what we do? What is it that draws us to tell the stories of particular characters, regardless of how (un)pleasant these people may be? As I’m sure I’ve said before, Erzebet was fascinating to write about – but I wouldn’t want to have tea with her. She would probably stab me over the scones.

I was drawn to write about Erzebet because she is in so many ways my stark opposite: so fixated on her own appearance that she’ll have no remorse about bleeding her helpless servant girls in order to harvest their blood for her own beauty regimen. She is callous, high-handed, and a perfectionist when it comes to creating the face reflected back at her in the mirror. She craves the power that beauty gives her and even revels in the pure violence as she wreaks her blood-thirsty havoc on the girls unfortunate enough to find themselves in her employ.

I’m not saying that I’m completely without vanity, but I can’t even bother with makeup, never mind opening the veins of a servant every night. But aside from these over-arching issues, there were certainly ways that Erzebet and I could connect: her vanity stretched all the way to insecurity, as vanity often does. Her fears of the future, of change, and of the unknown leads her to some very dark places in her own soul, and while she takes a very different route to combat those dark places (with blade in hand) I know I’ve experienced those same fears, too. So the key to writing about her was finding a way to empathize with her, in spite of her monstrous past-times.

Empathy aside, it’s simply fun to write about someone completely different, completely alien to yourself. At the risk of frightening any psychologists who may be reading, there is something deliciously terrifying about experiencing – from a safe distance – Erzebet’s glee at the havoc she unleashed, both within her own heart and created in her personal hell on earth in that dark tower dungeon. She is completely out of control, but also completely in control of her own actions, her own mad spiral, and I could just hear her laughing giddily the whole way down. Until, of course, the very end.

Writers out there (and I know you’re out there) please chime in! And no, I’m not referring only to published writers – if you write, then you’re a writer. Do you choose characters who are like you, in obvious or in secret ways?


Published in: on June 8, 2009 at 3:53 pm  Comments (8)  

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8 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. “I can’t even bother with makeup, never mind opening the veins of a servant every night.”

    Hey Alisa,

    I love that you make it sound like just might open some servant veins if it weren’t such a bother. 🙂

    It is interesting to hear your angle on finding the empathy with Erzebet. The extremes of vanity and insecurity are really not all that different, maybe only in the person’s reaction to it and how they deal with it externally.

    With my writing I get asked this a lot too (especially by non horror fans). What would make you write that dark stuff? For me it is a couple things. I like to explore that dark side a little but usually through a ‘good’ character who is poking their nose where it doesn’t belong or getting in over their head. But my biggest interest has always been getting into the head of the person who is the villian, the criminal, the killer, etc.

    People can be so selfish, so cruel, so violent to each other that it never continues to amaze and sicken me. I guess I want to know why.


    • Oh, non-horror fans sometimes get pretty ooked-out by this sort of thing, seriously. I’ve had the same reactions. I did get a nice compliment recently, my sister told me “you write crazy really well.” My mother wasn’t quite comfortable with this, alas:) But yes, I love writing about people who do bad things – it makes them so interesting! What were they thinking? It’s sort of an experiment in psychology, trying to make “sense” of it all.


  2. I know for me, I often have moments (mostly with my main characters) where I write a line of dialogue and it almost sounds like something I might say. I also frequently have this kind of funny, flirtatious banter between characters that sometimes resembles conversations I’ve had with friends when we come up with some of our craziest ideas.
    Also, I’ve yet to successfully write a story from a guy’s perspective. I’ve always been more comfortable writing about teenage girls (even before I was a teenager).

    • I’ve heard a lot of authors say that they eavesdrop on conversations in order to learn about dialogue. So if the dialogue you write sounds like you and your friends, it probably sounds very genuine!

      As for me, I’ve tried the guy perspective and enjoyed the challenge, but I don’t know if I really got the voice to “work”. It’s certainly outside of my comfort zone, which can be good writing practice.


  3. Oh and ps- I love the picture. ^_^

  4. I’ve been writting now for quite some time and when i find myslef creating a character for a short story i tend to pull from what i see in the real and world(For exemple one of my shorts called twisted aesthetics is based off this girl on saw on the bus one day; she had elongated canines and everytime she’d open her mouth, I would always try to peek and see if the were real or fake(duh, they were fake…But you never know.) I then asked myself how far would we go? To waht point would our culture allow such physical changes? lets just say that, in my short, it goes far) On the other hand, many of the characters that i create seem to be personifications of characteristics that i would love to have. Brave, Strong, Worthy, Secure, they seem to reflect who i want to be as a whole. Then again, i also like to write about people who take for virtue what we take for vice. Its fun to inverse culture and stipulate about how it would fonction and what kind of people would exist in it. Anyways, i ranted. I dont know if this answers your question.

  5. I started writing when I was little. I’m only thirteen big suprise but i love the picture I also like michael jackson! Tell me if I can make it as an author.

    • Of course you can make it as a writer, if you want. Why not, right? For me writing takes a lot of time and effort and determination but it’s also a lot of fun. Let me know how your writing goes!


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