My writing buddy Joann linked to a really great article in her blog yesterday by Jeff Lindsay, author of DEXTER, which originally appeared in the Huffington Post.
I’m going to go right to the part of the article that inspired Joann’s post – and now my post:
For the short time each day that I write, I am Dexter and everything is different – but otherwise, that stuff creeps me out. I don’t actually like murder and gore, and if I didn’t write Dexter I probably wouldn’t read it, either.
Of course, this squeamishness makes me hyper-sensitive to a question I get frequently, one that I think is pretty stupid. There have been two murderers that I know of who claim they were inspired by Dexter – in both cases, the TV show and not the books, but maybe that’s a quibble. And some reporters love to ask, “How does it feel to write something that inspired murder?”
Do I really need to respond to that? Seriously? Because the answer should be obvious to anybody with enough intelligence to tie their own shoes. Reading Harry Potter did not give you magical powers, and reading Dexter will not make you a killer. If you are not already capable of killing another human being in a cold, cruel, deliberate way, no book ever written will make you capable of doing so. There are no magic words that will turn you into a psychopath.
Thank for you saying that, Jeff.
Perhaps writers are a little sensitive to the misconception that we are what we write. This is because we’re NOT what we write, and the assumption – and yes, it’s a stupid one – that we have the power to inspire people to commit dastardly deeds through our novels is idiotic.
Do we tap into personal experiences to help enrich our stories? Sure we do. Fiction writing – for me, anyway – taps into a personal place, and it’s inevitable that parts of myself will seep into my work. But ultimately, it’s a fictional story. It’s made up.
As I said on Joann’s blog, if anyone were to insinuate that I’m somehow responsible for turning you into a psychopath… well, I’m sorry, buddy, but you were already there.
Or maybe it’s that thriller writers (and writers of dark fiction in general) get tired of the assumption that we’re all creepy, weird people with psychopathic tendencies we channel into our writing so that we don’t actually kill anybody. Well, shit, maybe that’s true for some writers. Who the hell really knows what goes on in Stephen King’s head? But as far as I know, he hasn’t murdered anyone, and neither have I, and neither have my friends who also write thrillers. We just write about murder, for reasons we can’t always explain, but that’s all we do.
And if you assume otherwise, I’ll stab you.