It is said that novelists write better when they ‘write what they know’, but for a lot of plots, this is difficult. For instance, I use the example of myself and other mystery or thriller writers. In contrast to creating the sorts of villains who are from another world or from the future (to use the Sci-Fi and Fantasy umbrellas as contrasts), our characters cannot be made up aliens out to conquer the world we know. Instead, villains of the mystery drama are often very normal people, set off on a killing spree by an inner passion – the crime passionnel – and turned against their fellow man by the littlest of things. We see this in the everyday with the phrase ‘the straw that breaks the camel’s back’. Yet, this is more serious. These characters may not be unhinged or depressed or violent, even, but they still kill, showing that each human has that potential within them.
It could be anybody. I once saw an episode of a murder mystery series where a vicar was the murderer. What I mean to say is that there’s no way of telling. And, whilst supervillains often have grounded reasons and abilities, the every-day people are just that: normal.
This idea brings me onto (or rather, back) to my devised term ‘the Writer Phenomenon’, which suggests that the subconscious has a large part in the creation of pieces of literature. Today, I look at personality.
A blog I happen to follow, of Andrea J. Wenger, uses the Myers-Briggs Personality types to aid writers in their methods. For instance, as an INFJ, I start first drafts with a lot of ideas for the bigger picture; I use my intuition to roam, but miss out on the details. That’s why one gets the florid phrases!
From Ms. Wenger:
Intuitive writers come to understand the world by letting their unconscious mind discover patterns and connections between ideas. They value insights into the implications of the facts more than they do the facts themselves. With their abstract perspective, they enjoy theories, complexity, and creating an overall vision.
If you’re an intuitive writer, you may tend to think in generalities. This makes it difficult to connect with readers. Be specific. Include relevant facts and details. Say what you mean rather than simply implying it. Don’t make intuitive leaps without connecting the dots for your readers.
However, I stand that it’s more than that for authors: the personality may affect one’s methods, but it’s easy to get around that with practise. The Writer Phenomenon, on the other hand, explores and ‘takes’ (if we imagine it as a selection process in the mind) from the subconscious, and the writer can do little about it. In the same way that our choice may be an illusion – if one chooses (!) to believe in Determinism (I personally don’t) – our ability to decide on plot and character and setting may be influenced by the subconscious more than we suspect.
So? You are what you write. And, for me, that’s a frightening idea. Of course, I’m not saying that writers of thrillers and mysteries are themselves serial killers hiding their dead bodies in their backyards, or thinking of how to make someone’s life either a misery or non-existent – or even murderers-in-waiting. The genre not maketh the man. I know a couple of horror writers who are ’emos’, but that does not mean they are the rule.
What I mean is that maybe – just, maybe – there’s a part of any of us that bears the killer-streak, on the balance of lashing out in the wrong combination of stress and emotion. I know there’s a part of me there, beyond the subconscious, in the conscious, if not in the front of my mind. That’s why it’s frightening. I know how to kill. I know how to conceal.
And I know how to save. In‘Of Moscow Mysteries’, my supporting character has to stop a rapid-acting poison – but she does. And that’s what keeps a virtuous mind going when plagued by anti-righteous values of hate.
Too, though, I’m not going to deny that, even when there is a spark of good in all of us, there is also the chance for a spark of evil.
Of course, this is a simple hypothesis that I hope to expand upon in the future. However, I cannot say that I have scientific proof to it yet. I just enjoy creating ideas!