Last week I wrote about drawing influence from published writers. Over the weekend, my latest influence revealed itself. Last week through Saturday morning I had been reading Robert Stone’s Fun With Problems, a collection of short stories dealing with heavily flawed characters existing in the darker side of humanity whether or not they even realize it. In some incredible feat, I spent at least ten hours on Saturday writing, rewriting, and revising a short horror story. I don’t get to spend that much time writing in one day usually, it was a strange feeling when I had wrapped it up for the night, like I had stepped out of time and reality. I didn’t want to come back at first, but my family came home, we needed dinner and so on.
The revelation came as I was reading the story aloud. Stone’s book influenced my approach to incorporating my protagonist’s backstories; slowly revealed details layered one on another creating a complex persona in as few words as possible. Without this awareness during the process, I found myself striving for new depths in character creation. Not to say I’ve never dug deep before; this was different.
I found specific intent in what I wrote about his past actions and their effect on the current-day storyline. Writing this horror story has become a psychological study of this heavily flawed character, seemingly laced with lessons in morality, maybe even spirituality. Good versus evil in this story became a thick pool of grayness, a viscous organic byproduct of several visceral systems malfunctioning in tandem. My flawless victim of circumstance born of mediocrity in the rough draft matured into a well rounded, wonderfully dark, and flawed character with the charm of a successful door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman and the patience of a hungry cat. I leapt over a hurdle I never knew was there.
Perhaps my protagonist, as different as he is from me, is my reflection or a second personality buried in my subconscious. We shall see.