Saturday, December 30, 2006

True Crime vs. Fiction

Last night, DH and I were watching NUMB3RS. I was fine with the charred body and the blowing up and even the horrible man that ... well, I don't want to even put the word in my blog, it horrifies me so much. BUT, the show was fiction, so I didn't have to fight a desire to run to the bathroom and throw up.

Then, in the middle of the show, a special report on Saddam Hussein kicked in. We had it taped on the DVR, so imagine me, in bed, pulling the covers over my head, putting my hands to my ears and screeching, "Fast forward it! Fast forward it! I don't want to hear that stuff! I'm in bed! Fast forward it!"

DH says, "But listen! This is important history in the making. I thought you were researching this stuff, anyway!"

I turned into a five year old, thumbs in ears, feet up to force the covers to block the vision of the TV. "I can't hear it I can't hear it I can't hear it I can't hear it--"

He hit the fast forward button, and I was fine. The image of a dead, charred body came back and I was fine: it was fiction.

Why do I bring this up? The other day, Allison Brennan said on her blog that the gals at Murder She Writes were going to try to bring in more readers (rather than writer-readers) on their blog. (Worth a look-see, if you haven't already!) In that vein, she mentioned they wanted to add in some posts about true crime.

Yikes! But that's when it dawned on me. A lot of the readers of thrillers/mysteries and thriller/mystery writing blogs are fans of true crime. I've seen it, but it wasn't until Allison mentioned it, that it connected for me.

That made me think, oh no! I hate true crime. I'm a big wimp and it makes me nauseous. It terrifies me and makes me uncomfortable and reading about it makes me feel like I'm watching something I shouldn't be watching.

Underneath this realization is a little fear asking me (as I commit myself to writing a novel next, little fears seem to be abounding all over the place) how I can write a novel with death and violence in it, if I can't even stomach the news of Saddam Hussein's death?

Gosh, please don't think I wanted him to live. I just hate the thought of him being killed, and something about people dancing just made me a little sick. Dancing! I know that throughout history, people cheered at hangings and burnings at the stake. There is something in that, something that I must suspect is in all human nature and probably even a little bit in me, that horrifies me.

And that same, horrified part of me can't read about true crime, even when I can read and rave over Darkly Dreaming Dexter.

Weird, huh?

I sense that this is connected to a fear I have. I'm more afraid of hurting someone else than I am of being hurt myself. Truly, if I were on the street, attacked, and in a life or death situation, I know that this silly fear could cost me my life. Where does that come from? Why is that? Funny enough, if someone tried to hurt someone I love, then I know I would turn into a mother lion. But until then ...

Maybe what scares me most is that we all have this inner switch. That there's something in humans that will make us cheer at a hanging, or that will make us kill another of our kind. Just writing about it makes me feel nauseous. Since I explore all feelings I don't understand in my writing, I can bet the very thing that makes me nauseous will show up in my novel. Huh.

6 bonus scribbles:

Bernita 12/31/2006 09:11:00 AM  

Yes, I have that inner switch...and gawd help anyone who ever finds it.
So far, the fail-safes have held.
I think it's a deep survival switch.

Allison Brennan 12/31/2006 09:55:00 AM  

Hi Spy! When I talk about true crime, it will be related to fiction, like elements of truth within the fiction.

I believe that people have a need to understand how evil works, which is probably why I'm drawn to true crime stories. Maybe if we learn to spot it, we can save those we love and ourselves. I also think that if we avoid it, we diminish the victims who suffered at the hands of violence and who deserve justice.

But I promise, there will be fair warning! I didn't even discuss this with the other murderous gals at MSW. It was something we talked about when we first started the blog, but we all go sidetracked. Go figure!

spyscribbler 12/31/2006 10:50:00 AM  

No warning necessary, Allison! Like I said, it's just a weird thing in me, and exactly as you said, I do have a need to understand how evil works.

I just gotta get over the pull-the-covers-over-my-head instinct, LOL.

Karen Olson 12/31/2006 11:09:00 AM  

I'm not a huge fan of true crime books, but being a former newspaper editor, I've read my share of crime stories in the news. And I came away from that knowing that while there is evil in the world, it's not as pervasive as it is in fiction. Most criminals are just stupid, but the Ted Bundys or Son of Sams stick out and become sort of celebrities in a way because they're not a dime a dozen.

And all we have to do is look back at the Romans and public beheadings and hangings (Saddam now among them, thanks to the media), to see that humans can want to see bloodshed.

spyscrbbler 1/01/2007 01:31:00 PM  

They still have them in Damascus. I knew a family who could see them every morning, out their front window.

Oh boy, there's a story in there, isn't there? Yes! I just got an idea for something I wanted to write! Thanks Karen!

writtenwyrdd 1/04/2007 06:36:00 PM  

Being horrified by read violence truly is different than that which is fiction. You just react to it your very own way.

I don't like true crime, either, and for pretty much the same reason.