Being a writer has many ups and downs. Writing can be time-consuming and often frustrating on some days, and on others, the pages flow quickly and freely without much effort at all. There are occasional breakthrough moments that leave me elated, but there are other moments when I want to drop my computer off my third floor balcony and watch it shatter on the sidewalk below. It’s the beauty and anguish of being a writer, I suppose. For me, a particularly difficult aspect of writing is having to dig deep within myself to find the strength to be brave enough to connect with the characters I don’t want to connect with—the bad guys.
Tom Cressfield in I Am Lucky Bird is one of them. To say he’s a monster is being nice. And having to bring him into the novel—a difficult task from the get-go as he makes his initial appearance in the first few pages—was like watching the rape of Sarah Tobias played by Jodie Foster in The Accused. I didn’t know what to expect when I saw the film the first time, but when I watched it again, my stomach clenched into a knot and my hands started shaking a good ten minutes before the dreaded scene. I had a similar reaction when I had to bring Tom Cressfield into Lucky Bird’s life. I created him though.
I knew what he was and what he was going to do (and what he’d already done). And as I despised him, I had to give him life. I had to swallow my fear and unravel the twisted rope in my gut and put this animal in the pages of my book to torment the young Lucky Bird. I created this man in my head—a compilation of the many bad guys I’d read about in books or I’d watched in films—and now he was alive and breathing. I made him walk and talk. I made him do those horrible things. There were moments when I questioned my own sanity. Was it possible I did have some deep, dark traumatic moment in my past that I was repressing?
It was days, maybe weeks later, when I realized it wasn’t so spectacular that I created this character. Writers aren’t brave for creating villains. They’re brave for finding a way to connect with them, for finding a way to make their readers empathize with them. I tried digging deep within myself to find the strength to be brave enough to connect with Tom Cressfield, but I fear I fell short.
I had to find a way to make my readers not hate him, even though he disgusted me. It’s an incredibly tricky task for writers, and there are many out there who can do it, and do it well. Unfortunately, I don’t think I succeeded because each time I think of a new reader about to meet Tom Cressfield, , I get that same sickly feeling in my stomach, like I’m about to watch that horrible scene in The Accused.
See the guest post on Bending the Spine!