Sunday, March 4, 2012
Valerie and the Art of Not Caring
So the other night I was watching an episode of "Masters of Horror", the HBO series that brought in famous horror directors to make 1-hour shows (I recommend Miike's "Imprint", John Landis' "Family" and "The Fair-Haired Child"). This episode was called "Valerie on the Stairs" and was based on a Clive Barker story. In the show, a man moves into a rooming house for down-on-their-luck writers. He runs into a mystical-looking chick on the stairs who begs him to save her from some sort of awful demon creature (played by the criminally underrated Tony Todd), then disappears.
SPOILERS BEGIN HERE:
Of course the writer assumes she's a ghost, who wouldn't? But after poking around a little he learns that both Valerie and her tormentor are characters brought to life by the passion of three of the house's other residents, who collaborated on a torture porn novel about the terrible things the demon does to Valerie (one of the writers is Christopher Lloyd...THE LIBYANS!). And now the demon is killing off his creators so he and Valerie can be free to live their own lives and do what they want.
But the writer just has to save Valerie, and after fighting off the demon and rescuing her he learns that he is actually just another character, written into the story near the end. Because what he didn't know is that the novel and finished, and so are he and Valerie.
Now, this was a decent episode but not great. Part of the problem is that, as a writer, I don't feel that I create my characters and their stories. Huh? Let me explain:
I have always felt that I don't create, I document. I might just be crazy, but somehow I feel like the things I write are actually happening in another place, maybe a parallel dimension. Sure, when I revise I change things, but the general plot and characterizations rarely get tinkered with. I think I feel this way because my subconscious is a very busy place; when a story or a character comes to me, they are usually already fully developed, like Venus popping out of Zeus' head. My subconscious has already done 98% of the work.
This is helpful, I think, because I often encounter writers who moan, "I had to kill off/make something terrible happen to my character and I feel so guilty." Because I document rather than create, I never feel guilty: Lord Amano will die of his wounds whether I write it down or not, Zeus will rape Scylla, Cordigan will betray Mellie. I might feel bad about it, but certainly not guilty; after all, I didn't do it. I just told people about it.
So if Valerie and the demon (who is actually pretty sympathetic, seeing as he's madly in love with her) were mine, I wouldn't feel a bit bad about torturing her endlessly. Until she and the demon- creatively named Ol' Fuckface- came back to rip out my spine. Then I might feel a moment of regret.