Literary Escapism would like to welcome author Shane Briant to the floor today. Shane is the mind behind the newly released Worst Nightmares and he’s here today to discuss how he gets into the minds of his characters.
What interests me when I read a novel is exactly how much the author is identifying with each of his characters.
Often, I put words in the mouth of one character so I can be ready with the reply of another. In this way I can discuss something that interests me, horrifies me, concerns me, amuses me. However, as I read other author’s work, I frequently wonder if I hear the author agreeing or disagreeing. Which side is he on? For instance, pro-euthanasia or against it.
When I wrote Worst Nightmares (Vanguard Press, 12th May release) I was intrigued by the question of how far a good man will go to save his reputation, his financial well-being, his marriage. Which moral boundaries will he cross? What is his personal Rubicon? Naturally, I had to ask myself a heap of questions. After all, if my character does something I’d never do, then maybe I’m asking too much of my character. It’s possibly not plausible. This doesn’t mean that I have to be capable of doing everything my character does—???far from it. It’s possible, for instance, that he’s gay, while I am straight. I couldn’t kill unless my family was immediately threatened—then I’d do it in a heart beat, and probably wouldn’t regret doing so. This doesn’t matter. More to the point is would my character initially keep certain grizzly evidence to himself rather than sharing it with the police? Then would he compound his crime by covering up something worse. Then would he have to lie to his wife? Then…would he kill?
Recently I read a novel by a quite well known English author. It was a financial thriller. In the book five of our hero’s buddies are horribly murdered—one after the other. The leading man never feels compelled to share his thoughts about who the killer might be with the cops; even when his new girlfriend was threatened! Why? Because he is a broker and the share price is rising! Well, I lost interest quickly in the novel.
If I write a chapter, I have to feel sure that everything could actually happen. That’s paramount. If I’m delving into the mind of a psychotic serial killer, somehow I have to imagine how he might think. In many respects this is easier that one might think. First of all, take away any thought of human compassion and substitute anger, arrogance, and cruelty. That’s enough to start with. Mix all these ingredients in a mortar and crush them. Add a pinch of VERY dark humor and one small touch of heart. Then move on. Once you have your mind wrapped around this mindset it’s quite easy to imagine how this character might kill. Then I can begin to think about imagining how he might go about his brutal job, and suggest the degree of satisfaction he might attain.
Strangely enough, members of my wife’s family have often maintained they are at times troubled by my dark literary thoughts. How I can so easily conjure up the devilish exploits of my serial killer is a cause for constant concern. Could I actually be capable of some horrific act? Do I secretly harbor thoughts of immediate violence? Is my fantasy to bury bodies in the desert? I always reply that most probably Bram Stoker didn’t suck the blood of young women, nor Thomas Harris eat the livers of his victims. Yet I still see the shadow of fear in their eyes.
Thank you Shane for visiting Literary Escapism.
Contest Time! We’re giving away 3 copies of Shane’s novel Worst Nightmares to a lucky commentator and it’s very easy to enter. All you have to do is answer one of these simple questions (or all of them your choice): What are some memorable characters that you’ve encountered? Have any creeped you out? Have you ever wondered how an author came up with that certain personality?
Apologizes to my international readers, the contest is only open to US and Canada residents.
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I’ll determine the winner with help from the Research Randomizer. All entries must be in by midnight on June 2nd.