Sunday, August 21, 2011
Why is it so much fun to write about bad guys?
Many of my writer friends tell me that they have a problem with their villains: the villains want to walk away with the entire book. Evil and its cousins, malice and dissimulation, have an undeniable energy. It's a lot of work to be bad, and energy can be magnetic in a book.
For one thing, energy draws the writer. If we have one character who's always ready to jump off the blocks -- as our villains so often are -- and others who need to be coaxed and pampered and fed the occasional carrot, guess who we're going to want to write about? And guess who the reader will want to spend time with?
It takes a really strong Othello to keep Iago from stealing the show.
Which brings me to LITTLE ELVISES, my second Junior Bender novel, which was just released as an ebook on Amazon and B&N. One of the great treats of writing the Junior books is that everybody's bad. Even the hero is a burglar, and the rest of the cast, with a few exceptions, goes downhill from there. And have they got energy.
Writing them is like being in the middle of a sack of cats. They all want so desperately, and since most of them aren't bound by niceties like the laws of property, they see no reason not to take. Put them in a room together and turn off the lights, and fifteen minutes later you'll have two picked pockets, a seduction, a mugging, and (if Mercury is in retrograde) a murder. I mean, there's a book every fifteen minutes.
And LITTLE ELVISES also let me indulge myself in some of the worst rock and roll ever recorded. The Little Elvises of the title are Philadelphia teenagers plucked off the city's stoops by a record producer and turned into pallid imitations of the boy from Tupelo until their 14-year-old fans got tired of them and moved on to the next one. And there always was a next one waiting.
In the book, the producer, Vinnie DeGaudio, justifies the assembly line like this:
"These were crushes, not love affairs. The girls weren't gonna marry my guys, they were gonna buy magazines with their pictures on the front and write their names all over everything, and fifteen minutes later, they were gonna get a crush on the next one. Like junior high school, but with better-looking boys. Girl like that, she's a crush machine, or at least that's what they were back then. These days, who knows? Not much innocence around now, but that's what my kids were. They were innocence. They were dreams. They were never gonna marry them or knock the girls up or drink too much and kick them around, or turn out to be as gay as a lamb chop, or anything like what guys do in real life. They were dreams, you know? They came out, they looked great, they sang for two and a half minutes, and then they went away."
But Vinnie -- a gangster whose product was innocence -- has made a central mistake. Some things never go away. And that's what drives the plot of LITTLE ELVISES.
Of all the books I've ever written, this was the most fun. If you've got an e-reader and $2.99 burning a hole in your pocket, I hope you'll give it a try. Maybe you'll have fun with it, too.
Tim -- Sundays
at 12:17 AM