As a writer, I sometimes have to go places that scare the crap out of me…and given my high level of empathy, I live the situation, become the people, think and “do” things that make me wonder if I’m entirely sane. I often take inspiration from things I observe, or in some cases, from my own life. And when neither provides inspiration, I have to make my own. In Agent of the Dragon, for instance, I delved into my psychology background and examined the various therapeutic modalities. I took aspects of a few, blended them, then took them far beyond the therapy milieu and twisted them. Combining the result with recognized brainwashing processes, and applying “magic” to speed the process, I created a method for creating sleeper agents that makes the Manchurian Candidate seem like a knitting circle (Oh, wait…). It took a while for me to be able to look in a mirror without flinching after that.

Yesterday was another day where I had to delve into places that scare me. First, I had to get into the mind of a person who commits suicide. It’s not an unheard cry for help. It’s not a final attempt at regaining control of his life. He’s been put under too much emotional pain and forced to remain there as the pressure builds beyond his control. He doesn’t want to commit suicide, and yet he finds himself researching the least painful ways to kill yourself. He sees it coming and doesn’t really want to, but is unable to stop himself. Again, I have to delve into my psych background to get the dissociation necessary for this. In the process of coming to understand the character, I started to lose hold of the barrier between me and the character. As the character fought against the dark impulse to suicide…and failed…I too felt myself sliding down a greased hallway towards an open door that would slam shut irrevocably after I passed through. (Those who’ve read my blog from the first post will recognize THAT particular image.)

The second time I scared myself a bit was both less and more disturbing. In another scene, the character is speaking with one of the people primarily responsible for his emotional pain, someone the character considered a good friend. He is pushed too far, and instead of blowing up or attacking or even breaking into tears, his mind temporarily splits into a second personality. The first personality watches in horror as the second personality says, coldly (imagine Picard after being assimilated into the Borg crossed with Javert from Les Miserables):

“The Sean you knew is dead. And you have killed him. I warned him against you, but he was too tender hearted. He saw pain and wanted to heal it. Now I must protect his memory. Congratulations.”

This is something I seriously doubt I would actually say, and yet, I could almost feel the dual personality as I wrote it. I certainly have the pain in real life to fuel it, and I felt the mixture of pain, despair, and the irresistible urge to lash out at the person in question. Worse yet, I could actually see me using this against one or two specific people in real life. Not that my psyche would actually split, but that I would pretend it had. It is a statement designed specifically to cause as much pain, guilt, and suffering to the other person as possible. The words themselves are hurtful. The implication of causing such trauma that the mind’s best defense is to split greatly magnifies the impact. The unemotional delivery emphasizes the shift in personality, lending credence to the death of a personality. The lack of histrionics contrasts with the expected fireworks, and as any writer or actor can tell you, contrasts between what is expected and what is delivers a much more solid emotional punch than pushing over the top.

(At this point, I’d like to give a shout out to a very good friend of mine who helped me recalibrate myself, mentally and emotionally speaking. You know who you are.)

Everything I write in my stories is fiction. I just want to be sure that is understood. The inspirations for certain parts of the stories, however, are often heavily based in real life. I try to change the details so that any one situation is unrecognizable by anyone not directly involved, and those who were/are directly involved see only a situation that reminds them of an event or situation in their life. Based on the commonality of human experiences, I hope that many people will see themselves and their experiences in what I write. And I sincerely hope that my occasional trips into the realms of mental and emotional instability provide entertainment.

(Huh. I think I’m beginning to truly understand why Poe, among others, was an alcoholic and addict.)

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