i’m a stranger to my inner writing sadist

What do you do when you want to write a short story but coddle your characters so much that even the antagonist/villain becomes a milquetoast and nothing ever happens in the story world? I think I understand a story’s building blocks. I’ve read dozens of books on the subject. But applying that knowledge has been impossible.

I try to put on my sadist boots and go to town on these character creations. I try to create characters I don’t like. But the more I delve into even the most disagreeable characters, the more I can see why they might behave in a certain way. Then, they don’t seem so disagreeable any more. Then, I want all of my characters to get together and sing kumbaya.

design desk display eyewear
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There’s something almost pathological about my inability to incorporate unlikable traits, hurt my fake babies, or challenge them in any meaningful way. But not doing so means I essentially have no story. No story anyone would want to read anyway. And certainly no story I can get excited about writing.

I’ve been trying to crack this nut for more than one year now. One. Agonizing. Head-banging-against-the-wall. Year.

Because I’ve been unable to do this, I’m now trying to understand why I won’t torture these pretend people. It’s completely ridiculous. I don’t seem to have a problem heaping verbal abuse on very real, very aggravating traffic. Why should I have a problem releasing my inner sadist on fake people in a fake world? It’s maddening!

One day, I hope to create deeply flawed beings and heap on the abuse. So far, the only character I’ve been able to torture is me. I’m not amused.

longing has overstayed its welcome

low section of man against sky
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She studied the calendar. How many more years before her desire died down, she wondered. Before biology would loosen it grip on hormones that held her hostage. It was a taskmaster demanding carnal satisfaction, an appendage she neither wanted nor needed, a great distractor from dreams that mattered. It would never be satisfied, could never be satisfied, and wasn’t worth the effort. It was an albatross around her neck, a monkey on her back… The whole damn zoo clung to her in one form or another. All she could do was wait and long for the end of longing.

even the squirrels were suicidal

Here’s a bit of nonsense narrative I wrote today.

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It was a non-day, the kind of day that didn’t know what kind of day it was. The blame lay squarely with the weather which couldn’t make up its mind so it tried resting somewhere in the middle.

There were white cloud-like wisps hovering in the sky but they could hardly qualify as clouds nor could you say the sky was clear. There was light from the sun but no real evidence of a sun in the sky. The sound of howling winds filled the air but only the faintest breeze could be felt.

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Indecisiveness spread like a disease into every aspect of existence. It short-circuited electricity. Rocks disintegrated, then pulled themselves back together. Questions settled into bones, driving almost every living creature mad.

You’d think people would be happy in a world that didn’t exist in extremes but they weren’t. It made them nervous and unsettled. They had gotten used to subsisting on resolute certainty at the outer edges of possibility. Without the most fanatic options available, their identity vanished. They became unhinged.

Grown men flopped about nude on their driveways like beached whales. Women walked in circles around themselves gnashing their teeth until they were nubs and their hamburger gums dripped blood down their chins. The spectacle left the rare middle-of-the-roader cowering in basement corners.

The combination of unhinged humans and universal indecision proved too much for animals. They could barely tolerate humans on the best of days. Mainly they became suicidal.

Birds dive-bombed cars and houses, shattering their beaks and brains into shingles, glass and metal.  Even squirrels, those playful teasers that normally just dash across the path of moving vehicles, ran head-on into oncoming traffic. The only creatures left unaffected were cats. They didn’t give a shit. They curled up and slept through the day.

banana bread, anyone?

Virgil and Sharon Smith measure their day by television programming. As they tell guests during commercial breaks, “…two o’clock is Bonzai Gunslingers. Then at three we watch Entitled Rich 1950’s Girl Pseudodrama. After that is Guess the Price of This Crap…”

From morning to night their day is jam-packed.

Right now, it’s 8:23 on Wednesday evening. The Smiths are in the middle of watching the news on the only station they can trust: the Lion News Network.

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“And now for news on the lighter side… The stupid half of the country has fallen for another ridiculous story.”

Sharon straightened up in her comfortable chair. “Virgil, are you listening?”

Stormer, the Lion News host, continued, “Some people will stop at nothing to make our glorious leader’s greatest accomplishments look like failures. Everyone knows our great leader, who is better than any leader that ever was or ever will be, has completely transformed our relationship with the former Axis-of-Evil Club member.”

“Buncha dummies. Always picking on our guy when he’s the only one who could pull off making that little fella our new BFF,” Sharon said.

“This time the…” Stormer looks off-camera, “can we say ‘card-carrying idiots’?” He looks back to the camera, “Well, this time they think our new BFF has launched nuclear missiles straight for our beautiful, great-again nation.”

“Who’d be dumb enough to believe our new BFF would bomb us?” Sharon asked the TV.

Stormer continued, “We received a tweet moments ago from our divine ruler, who is better than Jesus and probably responsible for creating God, that reads,” Stormer looks down at a piece of paper, “‘There is no way DB would send bombs unless they were. Banana! BFFs FOREVER!!!!'” Stormer looks into the camera, “As a reminder, DB is short for “Da Bomb” which is the nickname our truly divine ruler gave to our new BFF. The missiles are apparently filled with mashed bananas, not nuclear weapons. It’s an inside joke between two fruit-loving besties.

“The gist is that those missiles are not weapons of mass destruction.” Stormer pauses and chuckles, “Unless you mean the delicious destruction they’ll do to your waistline.”

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“Virgil, get my bread pans out of the cabinet, would you?”

At the next commercial, Virgil found the pans and set them out on the kitchen counter.

They continued to watch their regular programming, enhanced by the warm glow of contentment which was based, in part, on always being right.

a new dining room table

I am eight years old in rumpled shorts and t-shirt meandering through an urban cavern of white painted ceiling and walls. False lights fail to mimic the sun in that space full of wood and animals. The salesmen are tigers in suits, smiling, gesturing. The furniture lay scattered about the floor: fallen, dead things polished to a high luster.

Mom leads us through the uneven aisles of cultivated carnage and lurking predators. We follow her like ducks crossing a road. We stop by a dead thing in the shape of a dining room table. She is a lioness surveying the carved wooden carcass. We gather around her, a flock of sheep, a church congregation waiting for words of wisdom to fall from her lips like rocks to bounce off our heads. Concussions all around.

black farmed sunglasses on rocks
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