Friday, September 19, 2014
Another Friday, another question for mystery authors Mary Jane Maffini, Barbara Fradkin, Robin Harlick, and Linda Wiken. This continues the panel discussion held at the Capital Crime Writers mystery day last May. There were so many questions left over, we're continuing to answer them on Mystery Maven Canada.
Today's question for our writing quartet is: What role in your novel would you give to the person who holds the title of "Most Loathesome" in your life?
I vacillate on this: but if someone has been loathsome they can count on being cast in one or all three of these roles in the near future. That's the great thing about crime fiction: sure you bump off the current PITA by, say, dropping them into a limestone pit (if the offense merits it). But nothing prevents you from resurrecting that miserable so and so, changing their hair colour or gender and turning them into some snarling Moriarty. Naturally as a villain be trapped, shamed and finished off in the last chapter. The fun never ends! For minor offenders, there are many pathetic roles they can play in a work of fiction. Just saying,
Be nice to us and we'll be nice to you.
Loathsome. Isn’t it a fabulous word? It conjures up all sorts of unsavoury characters as it rolls off your tongue. A loathsome person could only be a murderer. No ifs buts about it. Making a particularly nasty piece of work would be wasted as the victim. You’d no sooner create this wholly despicable character complete with obnoxious neuroses , than you’d be killing him or her off. Much better to make your worst nightmare the villain and slowly unveil every sleazy detail of their character until wham they get their just desserts.
If a person is truly despicable, they deserve the worst you can give them. Being a victim is too easy; not only are they dead and done with, but there’s a risk some people will feel sorry for them. But murderer or even suspect fits the bill. I prefer to drag out their suffering by making them squirm. Preferably under the steely glare of my police inspector. He can turn on the thumbscrews, accuse them of all kinds of villainy, call them a liar, and expose their true colours as the novel progresses. For a writer, it’s rather like sticking pins in a Voodoo doll, and just as satisfying. The final triumph? Although the despicable individual will rarely recognize themselves in the book, other people will.
Good thing this wasn't used at the panel -- everyone finally agreeing on something! How boring. But the fact that our most loathesome person would get the title of villain is not boring. Think of all the nasties you can have happen to that person in the time between committing the deed and going to trial. And, the villain would develop in such a way that the readers would be yelling from their chairs, that's the murderer. Cuff the cad. Those same readers would be so, so happy when justice is done and he/she got what was coming.