I am itching to power through with my big project: my novel – the one that I am significantly getting through, the one that I am very connected with and the one that I feel is flowing incredibly well. However, the words of a prospective agent continue to nag me – “I can’t sympathise with your lead character”. I wish I could tell this man that some of the greatest lead characters in fiction have been totally unsympathetic, morose or cruel. Ebeneezer Scrooge, Patrick Bateman, Clarissa Dalloway, Macbeth, Becky Sharp, Hannibal Lecter – all anti-hero-type creations, that the story revolves around. I suppose you hit a bit of a hurdle when you choose to write a story about an unlikeable/unrelatable character AND you choose to make them the narrator of the story. You are very much inside their head in this instance. You can’t get away from their mindset.
Philippa Gregory did this in “Wideacre”, her first novel. The story is told by anti-heroine Beatrice Lacey, who spends the length of the novel doing dastardly things to the other characters in the book, for the sake of keeping the Wideacre estate in her family. The thing is, she does these terrible things TO her family. I’m talking incest, murder, emotional blackmail – all of it. And yet, this novel is one of the most compelling stories I have read.
My point: I am determined not to let this one agent put me off. I will continue to write the book I have been working on for some time now. However, this agent did also say he liked my writing style and that I should send him some more of my work. So I figured that before I continue with my main project, I should try penning something else to send him in the meantime.
The other morning I left my apartment, got into my car and drove to work. By the time I had reached the office, ten minutes later, somewhere, somehow, I had formed a plot for another novel in my head. It just fell into place. Title and all. That evening I fleshed it out, whilst on the treadmill, and last weekend I wrote the prologue for it. I seem to enjoy writing shocking protagonists – characters that do appalling things. In this case, however, I have created one that is forced, against her will, into doing such things. I am going to work on a few more chapters of this and send it to that same agent and see what he thinks. In the meantime, I thought it might be time to actually put some of my creative writing onto my blog – I’m throwing my words to the wolves. Read it – bear in mind that it’s a first draft of a brand new idea, so not exceptionally structured yet. Feedback is welcome and encouraged. I wonder what Mr. Agent would make of this…
(Note: I would be quick to point out that this has nothing to do with my own Grandmother!!!)
– – A
By the time I came to lacerate my grandmother into small pieces, I had stopped crying.
I suppose I was, by this stage, numb. I had spent the past few hours in a hysterical frenzy. It had been an afternoon of unimaginable distress, which had lead to an evening in which I had agreed to do things I never thought I would be capable of doing. Now I was in too deep to be able to retreat from the hellish scenario in which I found myself. As the ruby-tinted sun dipped lower behind the bank of trees that Gams had been so fond of, I realized I was approaching the blackest night of my life.
We were cutting in silence; the only sound to be heard was that of the sharp silver blade I was using against Gams’ newly cold skin, and the jagged sheep-foot knife that he was using. He was breathing heavily – his mannish, heavy exhalations mingling with the noise of metal slicing membrane. When we had dragged Gams into the outhouse at the foot of the garden, he had whipped out the knife that he’d used earlier in the day to threaten me. It was an ugly, well-worn piece of spiked, dirty metal that had felt hot against my skin and left a squalid line of muck along my throat, from where he had held it at my jugular. This man was no time-waster; and despite just committing the singular most horrific act that he could inflict on a grandmother and granddaughter, he wasn’t in the mood to dawdle. As soon as Gams’ newly dead body had hit the wooden outhouse floor, he had wanted to get to work. I had protested:
“No. I don’t want you to use that thing on her.”
He had looked at me with a sneer. “Are you going to help me do this?” he had asked.
My gritty, tear-soaked eyes had stared back at him with revulsion. I could barely utter the word: “Yes.”
He had smirked, his gaze locked on me. He chucked the silver carving fork and knife set (that he had looted from my grandmother’s French dresser) across the floor at me. His eyes stayed locked on me as I bent down to pick up the glistening instruments from the ground. Immediately he stood up, his six-foot five-inch frame filling the small outhouse, reminding me of his stature. His influence.
He looked at me with sick glee and nodded at the cutlery in my hand. “You try anything and you know you’ll be joining her. You really want to give me two bodies to dispose of tonight?”
I stared at him with abhorrence. “She doesn’t deserve to be picked apart by you and your piece of shit knife.”
He smirked, cruelly. “Hey; this did the job, didn’t it?” he said, twirling the sheep-foot knife between his dirty fingers.
I would have thrown myself at him with that fucking carving fork and stabbed him in the heart if I didn’t care. Which I didn’t – not about myself, at least. But I cared about Gams, and if I were to throw my own life away now, her death would have been in vain. My decision to murder her would have been pointless. Without a word, I knelt down beside my Gams and lifted the polished knife and fork over her right arm. The giant that stood above us knelt as well and continued to hack at her left arm.
“You know I’m still going to use this sheep-foot, don’t you? Just because you want Granny here to be mutilated with her finest tableware, doesn’t mean I’m going to sit back and let you take your sweet time giving her a proper dissection. I haven’t got all night,” he said, with relish.
A surge of anger swept over me and without looking at him I lifted the carving fork and plunged it into my grandmother’s lifeless arm. I then positioned the sharp, silver knife at her shoulder and began to slice. I didn’t say a word; I barely breathed.
I could feel him watching me. “You seem different. Calmer. You got a taste for killing now, eh?”
I continued to carve at my grandmother’s shoulder blade. As I slit the skin, I flicked my stare darkly onto the abominable man that knelt opposite me. “Just cut her up,” I snarled.
Ten minutes later and Gams’ butcher was busy cutting her right arm into smaller pieces and placing them into a wooden crate that he had evidently found somewhere.
This was the point I felt truly numb. My tears were long gone. I was disposing of my grandmother in the cold manner that her murderer was disposing of her. No shame, just blank, deadened emotionlessness.
The outhouse had a stained-glass window in it – only a small window, made up of red, violet and orange glasswork. As the sun morphed into its ruby bauble state and fell deeper toward the horizon, it cast blood-like streaks through the window, across the macabre scene I found myself in. By this point, my Gams’ murderer was detaching her leg from her torso. Having disconnected her right arm at the shoulder, I was now kneeling over it, severing the skin, sawing through the bone and separating the ligament into several pieces.
When I had finished the right arm, I shuffled myself down to her right leg. As I positioned the knife and fork at the top of the leg, I began to think about how this nightmare was far from over. There was still an obscene amount to take care of. It was unthinkable. My only option was to not think. So I continued to do what I had been made to do.
As I made the first incision into the leg, my eyes travelled up to Gams’ face. Her head had lulled to the side and her eyes were slightly open, staring at me vacuously. With a swift movement, I withdrew the carving fork from her leg, raised it above my head and pierced it into my grandmother’s left eye. Then her right. Two swift jabs.
The monster that worked on her other leg looked at me, slightly taken aback. Then he laughed and continued his task. Gams’ eyes were now two gauged-out hollows; two red caverns that had no life to them any more. She now looked like a witch – a blind, bitter, gnarled witch, who had been sent to Earth by the devil; and who deserved the disgusting fate that she was now receiving.