How far would you go to research a character for a book? I’ve asked this question before but don’t remember the responses I received. I got to thinking about a situation where a writer is developing a story about a serial killer. It’s a work of fiction but during her research, she goes too far and kills someone. She doesn’t turn into a serial killer, but it of course, jacks with her perception. Lines blur; it’s as if she discovers a part of herself she didn’t know existed.
Well it is often, as of late, that my real life and the lives of my fictional lead characters seem to imitate each other. I base my characters and plots on what I’ve lived, then some aspect of that fiction manifests in my real life. So far, it’s been mild occurrences and nothing has lead to my crossing any dangerous lines. But…there was this one time. And at this point I have to ask you, before I tell this tale, how much of my writing do you believe to be real and how much do you believe is fiction? Am I perhaps taking a bit of dramatic license, adding a bit of fantasy so as to make things more than what they are? I’ll let you be the judge.
Earlier this year, a character stopped by to visit. She was sitting at a bar, and was well into her cups as the old folks used to say. I knew as soon as she started talking to me that she wanted to die. She’d come to accept the monster within and while she believed in redemption, she didn’t want it for herself. She was at peace with that decision. Anyway, as she told me her story, I began to write. We got to a point in her story though where she lost me. I couldn’t grasp the emotion or feeling in what she was telling me. She grew impatient at that point and told me point blank, to “man up” and try it myself. She was daring me to go to a swinger’s club.
Now, I’m no prude. I’ve been in some extremely adult situations – fortunately for the most part, as a consenting adult. It took a lot to make me blush and even more to make me flinch so I wasn’t worried about that. I’d been curious about the lifestyle for a while anyway, her goading me was justification for doing what I’d already said I’d wanted to do.
I recruited a male friend to go with, picked out something cute to wear (something my character approved of) and something strong to drink. $45 dollars later, and I found myself sitting at a small table, drink in hand, nervously trying not to freak out at the boldness I felt sitting there. There was food so I ate a little something to ease the butterflies. Posing in the lounge area was easy, would I have the guts to disrobe, slip into the something less than comfortable I’d brought just in case, and venture into the back where the real action was taking place? My character told me I didn’t have it in me. That I’d never be the woman she was. Peer pressure from a voice in your head is a bitch, let me tell you. But I wanted to know exactly what she’d felt as she sat there at the bar in her swinger’s club, perfectly sexy and almost visibly vibrating with a sense of her power. I’d never felt very powerful but there was something to be said for knowing I was someplace where my physical form wouldn’t be judged, only desired.
I will save the aftermath of that visit for another story. I’ll instead, leave you with this – it worked. I tapped into my character and was able to understand why she’d chosen to be there, why when she made arrangements with the guy in the personal ad, she told him to meet her there. Her inner monster had to make sure the man on the other end of the ad was prey. I, on the other hand, discovered…
Anyway, here’s an excerpt from the as yet to be titled work of fiction:
He came with some force. The vortex of the mouth never let up, every drop was sucked free from his balls. He fell back into the bed with a sigh.
“Was it good?”
“Diz, you know it was.” But even he sounded unsure. Something had been nagging at him since she’d told him to put on the blindfold. Foreshadowing maybe. Her games had gotten more and more bizarre. He’d grown uncomfortable, but she’d goaded him. Asking him to be the man for her. To help her scratch that seemingly never satisfied itch she had for pushing him beyond his sexual boundaries.
“You can take off the blindfold now, if you’d like.” He was suddenly afraid. The tone of her voice held an unspoken truth. His had trembled, hesitated to move toward the silk covering his eyes, blocking his vision. He was afraid of what the light would reveal.
“Do you want me to do it?”
“No.” He said it with more force than he’d intended. He could hear the mocking smile in her voice and he was now angry as well as afraid. “I can do it.”
He snatched it off to prove something to her but instead, succeeded only in justifying his fear. Grace sat in the comfortable chair closest to the window. Marcus was still on his knees at the foot of the bed, wiping the last vestiges of Devon’s pleasure from his lips and chin. He could only stare at the two of them, abject horror making his eyes widen, then murderous anger clinching his lids.
“Hey Devon.” Marcus’ casual tone inflamed Devon’s rage. He hissed, between clenched teeth, “Marcus. You mothafucking son of a bitch.”
“Whoa. What the fuck, bro?”
“Stop talking Marcus. Just fucking stop talking or I swear to God I will get up off this bed and kick your ass.”
“Dude, seriously. What’s wrong? Diz said you’d like it if I did you for a change.”
Devon turned his killer’s stare toward Diz. She sat comfortable, relaxed even. A half smile on her face; Devon thought it would look better if he’d bloodied it with his fists.
“Oh my God. Dude you didn’t…Diz, I thought you said he’d be cool. He’s never? I mean, he didn’t know I was? Shit. This is so fucked up. Devon, for real, you’ve got to believe me. I never would have done it if I’d known. Never. That’s not how I get down.”
Devon let out a snippet of his rage with a growl. Marcus shut up and began throwing on his clothes.
“Damn Diz. This was stupid. How could you? Damn.” Marcus grabbed his shoes and left the hotel room without looking back, leaving Diz in the room with the equivalent of an angry wild tiger. Still, she never changed positions, never dropped that half smile from her face. She was the epitome of cool under pressure. She faced Devon’s wrath as if it were no more than a cooling breeze on a warm summer night.