Of sociopaths and writers


I have never fantasised about taking a machete and filleting someone. The idea does more than turn my stomach, it makes my soul shudder. But as a writer I must be able to see beyond my own natural instincts and inhibitors and visualise the life of someone who has fantasised about such things. It’s very hard to do, but somehow writers manage it all the time. I’ve just started watching the series, Dexter (an adaptation of the novels, by Jeff Lindsay) and as creepy and disturbing as it is, I’m fascinated by the process of the development of the main character. I’m hooked. As a consumer it is easy to suspend your natural revulsion and accept what you are seeing, even if it is slightly uncomfortable. It is, after all, only fiction. But my imagination is bigger than that. Dexter isn’t a figment of writer Jeff Lindsay’s crazed imagination. He’s the product of observation and research, based on real people who exhibit similar predispositions; and perhaps the character is also the result of a slightly perverse fascination with the world of sociopaths. I understand, I’ve entertained those same fascinations. I went through a period where the only thing I read was true crime and forensic reports. I read them to ease an intense distress about that kind of violence. I thought by understanding the perpetrators of violence, I could begin to ease the burden of anxiety. Immersing myself in true crime has made me less skittish, but I still find the reality of violent sociopaths unsettling. I will never understand the desire to extinguish the life of another human being. This makes me wonder how Jeff Lindsay has been able to create such a lucid character and not get creeped out by his own mind. I guess he’s the kind of writer who is not afraid to explore the inner recesses of his mind.

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About Sharon

Writer, bibliophile, dreamer and student of everything
This entry was posted in ME ON WRITING, Storytellers and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Of sociopaths and writers

  1. I wonder if the reason why we are fascinated with the “dark side” of the human mind is because every person has the potential to go there if mental illness or environmental circumstances are pushed too far. At school, during history, the teacher says “it is vital for us to remember and learn about the Holocaust is to stop it happening again. This chapter of human history illustrates how an entire nation of people can carry out horrible crimes against humanity and yet be “normal” citizens in their own right.” Do we explore the destructive tendencies in others because through doing that it allows us to explore the destructive tendencies within ourselves?

    • Sharon says:

      You make a good point, Bethan. I often trouble over events like the holocaust. We are all guilty of being persuaded by society’s attitudes. In the case of the events like the holocaust it was safer to be seen as a sympathiser than to challenge the doctrine and risk losing your life and/or the lives of your loved ones. The holocaust stands in our minds as one of the most horrific and unforgivable acts in humanity’s history, but genocide still happens today and whole nations still choose to hide their heads in their hands.

  2. drtombibey says:

    In bluegrass music we sing killing songs to resist the urge to do in someone who likely deserves that fate.

    Dr. B

  3. jenniferneri says:

    wow – I amazed that your read those kinds of books to ease your mind! You are very very brave…I am a chicken!

    • Sharon says:

      Jennifer, I’m really not brave at all, just persistent in my belief I can overcome my fears. I still chew my nails when watching horror movies. I was never able to watch Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It still makes me shudder. Did you ever see Wolf Creek? Truly creepy.

  4. Linda says:

    JCO generally creeps me out, so I haven’t read much of her work … though I’ve vowed many times to do so. On the contrary, I’ve read all of Stephen King’s horror. I, too, used to read a lot of true crime, but it finally got to me. I do still watch the occasional TV programs on true cases, though they are not usually graphic, so it gives you distance.

    I’ve long been fascinated by the Lizzie Borden and Jack the Ripper cases. And one particular case of a Texas housewife and mother who flipped out and axed to death her best friend and then went on with her life like nothing happened always intrigued me. It’s such a frightening thought that some “being” like that could dwell within you.

    I’ve been meaning to watch Dexter, but keep forgetting. It’s in my Netflix instant watch queue now.

    • Sharon says:

      Linda, glad to know I’m not alone in my fascination with the “others” as they are often know. I was intrigued by Ed Gein, Jeffrey Dahmer and Australia’s Ivan Milat, the so-called “backpacker killer”. The ones that really creep me out though, are the women. I guess I’m old-fashioned (or misguided) in my belief in women as nurturers .

  5. Heather Conroy says:

    I was underwhelmed by Jeff Lindsay’s novel and I think the TV series is way better! Have you read any Joyce Carol Oates? Her novel Zombie put me in a cold sweat- she writes in the voice of a serial killer, and it is simply chilling. I was left wondering how she could go to that dark place and write wiothout being affected by it.

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