Sunday, August 27, 2017

It Started With A Dare by Betsy Ashton

No, I didn't dare someone to act. A dear friend of mine dared me to act. Her challenge: bet you can't write a dark, psychological suspense story. That sounded logical enough, since I have been writing the Mad Max mystery series for a while now. Mad Max is anything but dark, although dark things happen to and around her. Still, me? Write a dark, psychological suspense? Especially when I was playing around with a romance that wasn't going anywhere fast.

I declined the dare. Until she made it a double-dog dare. Well, I'd show her.

I paced the house with my head flooded with ideas. What could I do that was dark? I understood digging into the psyche. After all, Max tells her stories and, to be truthful, she has to go into the dark places in her soul sometimes. No, a Max-like character wouldn't satisfy the dare. I thought about assassins. Nah. I hate kill shots from long distance. No pink mist for me. I thought about delving into the life of a drug dealer. Not interesting enough. Been done too many times.

When I thought about a serial killer, I had the same reaction as I did about drug dealers. Been done too many times. But what if I could find a twist, a different way of presenting a warped human being, a psychopath with a unique moral code, a personal rule book, if you will. But what would that uniqueness be?

I puzzled on this for weeks until I had an epiphany of sorts. First person singular from the point of view of the killer. Other than some television shows where the killer is the focus (think Dexter, which I have never seen), I hadn't read any books with the killer telling the story. Probably hundreds out there, but I hadn't read them. Think looking at the world through the lens of a hunter. Think moving in for a kill with calmness and total concentration.

Think: A woman! A female serial killer is as rare as a, well, female serial killer.

Would she be an Avenging Angel? A Vigilante? A Black Widow? Or would she be herself.

Once I knew I wanted to see if I could write from the point of view of a broken psyche, I was off to the races. Words fairly flew onto the page. I found so many different ways to kill people merely by reading my local newspaper. I tested different methods, just as my killer did. I gave her the ability to laugh at the world, especially the world of law enforcement. I gave her a chameleon's talent for blending into the crowd, for hiding in plain sight. I balanced the dark with light, so that the book wouldn't be a tutorial on killing. I gave her a few redeeming social characteristics. I gave her a cat.

And now that the unnamed, totally unreliable narrator is about to see print, I'm ready to kick the b*tch out of my head. Maybe I'll return to the romance. Maybe I'll go to something sunny. I know what when Eyes Without A Face debuts, I'm not going to write her sequel.

Have you ever taken a dare like this one?


Jannine Gallant said...

That'll show someone to double dog dare you, Betsy! Sounds fascinating, but I wouldn't want her in my head, either. No dares over writing for me. Sometimes I ask people for series ideas. (I could use something fresh and new for when I finish my current book.) But generally those ideas just spark my own. Good luck with your killer and with finding a much lighter concept for next time!

Rolynn Anderson said...

I dare myself with every book I write, including the one I just released. For reasons I can't tell you (spoiler), the male in this book takes center stage for a VERY long time. I had no idea if I could make the point of view anomalies work. The book I'm working on now has a character with a malady I can't possibly identify with...I have no idea how to tell her story, but I want to...I will.

Fact is, I think we double dare ourselves all the stretch...take risks...write fresh. Betsy, you've gone a far distance with this dare business, but as we know, it's the villains who upset the world of our hero/heroines...we have to understand them inside and out, and that's what you're doing. Congrats!

Leah St. James said...

Take that, double-dog-dare friend! :-) Sounds fascinating! I can't wait to read more about it. I actually enjoy writing from my villains' POVs more than the hero and heroine! (I'm not sure what that says about me....maybe I don't want to know!) Wishing you much success with the story!

Diane Burton said...

That's quite a challenge. Maybe we all need a challenge to shake up our writing. A while ago, I read Linda Howard's Kiss Me While I Sleep about at CIA female assassin. I rarely cry during novels, but that's the second Howard book that made me cry. I will be anxious to read how you write from a villain's POV. She'll have to have some redeeming qualities. Knowing your work, I'm sure you'll keep me reading long into the night.

Andrea Downing said...

Well, good for you, Betsy. A serial killer is certainly about as dark as it gets. Good luck with the book

Margo Hoornstra said...

Sounds fascinating. (Whoops! Just read Leah said the same thing, but I'll let it stand ;-) Now aren't you glad you took that dare? Way to stretch those writing muscles. Can't wait to read what you've done!

Brenda Whiteside said...

I'm not sure I could face that dare. Sounds intriguing.

Alicia Dean said...

Love serial killer stuff...yes, I'm dark! Good for you, taking that dare. :)