Character Fodder: Writing Jerks

It’s been a frustrating September beginning. Ten days in and my edits for Killer Orange are going slow, and even though the fault is my own, I can’t take the full responsibility when real life rears its ugly head.

I have been absent from blogging because of my anxiety, a condition I have had to live with for several years. They have been less frequent since I moved over to my new job, but once in awhile panic attacks come back with a vengeance, mostly with a partner in crime – the migraine.

So I have a health excuse. My anxiety flared the moment I learned we’d have to deal with an selfish, uncaring neighbor who has let her toilet leak into our garage for over two years, something she was supposed to fix in the first place. Well, here we are, working on getting 2 years of black mold removed from above our garage. Whether or not spores have migrated into our house remains to be seen, which is another part of my anxiety of having to pay for unexpected tests that are not my fault.

Long story short, this neighbor is the WORST to deal with. She wants to fix our garage the cheapest way possible, she refuses to talk to us over the phone, and she warned us to NOT talk to her tenants that are living in her mold invested condo. Of course, the situation has escalated to barbs, yelling and name calling – and the worst is when she told my husband she had wished he had died from the mold “if he was so allergic”.

The rest of the story isn’t important. It’s a rant for another day, but it got me to wonder about characters, about how we write or imagine up despicable characters to become part of this story. Lately I’ve seen a trend of redeemable villains. I like that trend.

What I haven’t seen much in my own writing are the despicable just merely being despicable. Maybe it’s against my nature to think that some people are just terrible and have no softer side, have no love in them and are irredeemable.

Dealing with this land lady neighbor has changed my perception of that.

There’s basically nothing I can do to combat her. I can’t write my way out of this situation. There is no fiction here; there is no protagonist that can appeal to the better angels of a real life character who just happens to be a nosy, heartless cheap-ass.

I have to ride the choppy waves of dealing with this lady, and I can pray that this situation doesn’t get worse. I can hope that we will finally be done with her, and she will fix our stuff. I can hope she does something kind for once and takes responsibility for her own problems without creating ten thousand more.

Maybe I’m expecting too much from her, but feeling powerless in appealing to her better nature irks me. It pokes at the anxiety, yes, but it just aggravates me that as an adult, she can’t be reasonable.

The only thing this lady has inspired me to do is use her.

I’ve seen an article floating around, I think by Cracked, where writers have gotten their revenge on real people by using their names and personalities into their stories.

I definitely agree with this sort of coping mechanism. Some things are just out of our control in the real world, when writing lets us play a sort of god.

And on that side note, being in sales and just my personality in general, I’ve been able to talk my way out of many sticky situations before without much fallout. In this situation, it seems I can’t.

So… you crazy ass diamond neighbor lady, I hope you enjoy your reign of terror on my anxieties and energies. Someday, maybe you’ll be somewhat famous. You’ll become the terrible plot device to move my story along, the first body on the scene of the crime, or the annoying character that just had it coming from the beginning.

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It’s definitely the best solution I’ve come up with for dealing with such people.

I encourage other writers to do it (even if you haven’t already). It’s a great form of therapy.

Cheers,
H.K. Rowe

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5 thoughts on “Character Fodder: Writing Jerks

  1. I remember knowing someone at NASA who was really deplorable. He was kind of interesting because he *did* have a bit of a “sympathetic villain” edge, but I still disliked him. He was a two-faced robot who collected friends just to use them later. One of the main reasons I’m writing a memoir about that time is to show off what an awful person he was!

    I’m probably not going to give him a nasty comeuppance in that book, because it will be based on real life. But hey, maybe I can fictionalize it and have him kicked out of the internship or something. That would be nice 😛

    • Yeah, sounds like someone like that deserves some kind of author justice. It also sounds like he’ll be an interesting perspective in your memoir. It’ll definitely make things interesting. 🙂

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