Thursday, April 22, 2010

Pavlov's Dog is Wagging its Tail for Writers

Robert W. Walker’s Psych 101 Questions -- Over time, I have considered these 10 questions that delve into the relationship between psychology and writing the novel, and being a novelist. In other words, what has psychology got to do with imagination and creating whole worlds populated with people out of ink marks on a page? The following questions and answers delve into the psychology of the author himself, and eventually will also ask about the psychology of characters an author creates: This is Psych 101 for Authors and readers interested in the craft and creative impulse.

Q#2 -- How does 'abnormal behavior' enter into the realm of creative writing and fiction?

Answer: Have you read any one of my books? OK...risky word phrase this 'abnormal behavior' as you have to ask then what is 'normal' behavior in a species that 'won' out as the meat eater of all the great apes? Authors are forever dealing with perceptions of what is right and what is wrong, what is good, what is evil, and the common error of taking things at face value. Is writing and painting and creating 'abnormal' in itself since, like actors, all artists have to be driven and obsessed to become a player in this field? This question may be too complex to answer here, but let's keep exploring.

Appearance is seldom what it seems in a novel, especially a mystery or suspense or thriller. Societal norms are taken to task. Since I write about murder and often times serial murder, murder is my stock and trade, my INC. This means 'abnormal behavior' is my bread and butter but once removed as I have killed no one except on a stage. My evil antagonists are always into aberrant and sickening words and actions; what he says, thinks, and does is who he or she is (see Final Edge for the worst female killer in all the history of books! Laurelie Blodgett). Such characters are motivated by sick fantasies, mania, fear, psychological disorders, obsessions, phobias, actual physical deformities, actual illnesses just as are Shakespeare's worst villainous scum like Iago. They are motivated often by 'abnormal' beliefs, but often such 'abnormal' beliefs come out of popular cultural beliefs, legends, even religion as in anti-religious behavior on a grand scale. Some sick beliefs have a foothold in historical fact about mankind--as in cannibalistic behavior, perhaps even necrophilia--sex with the dead. Certainly there are enough scatologically disgusting elements about mankind and his history to provide fodder for many, many an aberrant behavior or belief system or 'nutty' fantasy, desire, want, goal.

I don't have to mention Stephen King and Anne Rice made a killing on abnormal behavior, do I? Still there is a fine line at work here. Abnormal can slip over into caricature and unintended funnies in the blink of a Cyclop's eye if one is not careful. How far from the 'norm' can our 'abnormal' Grandma Grimwood go before she becomes a twisted Dickensian comical granny?

In books about psychotics, sociopaths, organized and disorganized killers of every stripe there is great latitude in defining abnormal, but in all cases the sociopathic monster has to have its\his\her roots in humanity and where we've come from...from the primitive lizard brain to the present...roots are sunk deep. This is why the abnormal among us, in the end, are human after all. Humanity swings a wide arc across the rainbow from purity to the unspeakably vile and no author can turn away and not see this if the story demands it. Those who do turn a blind eye to the absolute end of the spectrum, the deepest rung in the pit miss an entire part of the human condition and it's like being color blind, missing an entire spectrum of the rainbow itself.

OK...believe it or not.  Am sorry as I had promised Abnormal Behavior.  Will have to hold on that...Pavlov chewed my notes. Will get to it. Meanwhile, next Friday right here I will take up Question #3 which is:  How does 'health and stress' play a role in fiction writing?

Catch my new ebook on Kindle - Killer Instinct, a Dr. Jessica Coran fact her first introduction, and by the way, do DO do leave a comment!
Rob Walker


Ann Best said...

Found you through Patricia Stoltey's blog, and glad I did. My favorite genre next to memoir is murder mysteries, and I will buy one of your books when I can afford it. Wish I had a kindle, but my disabled daughter and I live frugally on social security. My book to be published in 2010 is an autobiographical novel; falls more in the memoir range, though there have been times when I have experienced some murderous feelings, I have to admit, being human. Wanted to major in psychology when I was an undergraduate. Have always been fascinated by what makes people tick. Very much like your site. Intend to follow it.

Robert said...

Thanks Ann - I suggest you find one of my books on Amazon in paperback - used, pretty cheap. I was pleased to read your post here. I am also posting at a blog called Write Aide and another entitled Dirty Deeds-Advice which you can google.