In order to write evil characters, I must—at least for short spans of time—entertain evil thoughts. This is trickier than it sounds as I’m basically a nice person and I may be the last person likely to kill, torture, kidnap, steal or con. Do my fictional characters kill, torture, kidnap, steal or con? Yes. But is crime and evil in my nature? No. Sometimes I walk down the street or ride the subway and indulge in, or more accurately, explore dark thoughts more appropriate for my fictional evildoers than for nice, little, old me.
What kind of thoughts? Sometimes the only venom I can muster is my furious anger at bike riders speeding through cross walks against the light, but for the sake of fiction, I try on the violent feelings of nefarious characters looking for a “worthless” person to kill for the sake of killing, looking for a “sap” to con, or looking for a vulnerable target in the faces as they pass by. Which person on the subway platform could inspire a “push” onto the tracks? When a self-involved pedestrian walks as if I’m not there, could I punch him instead of stepping aside?
My rage—more often vented on robo-calls about “winning a trip to Disneyland” and the infuriating computer service scam (a caller tells me that I need tech support for my windows computer), I’ve been known to scream before I hang up—doesn’t translate into violence. But I try.
This is not all that easy. Much of the time I focus on the petty—“Does she really think she should be wearing that?” or the vaguely disgusted—“Nodding out at the Farmer’s Market?” (NYC may not have the meth problem that plagues much of the country, but heroin rises & falls in popularity as a street drug, a fact that continues to astonish me). Or turning my attention to observing street cons in action—the sales hucksters, Chess hustlers (yes, your read that correctly), and costumed character ‘tips-for-photos’ bids, that are part of life in the city.
Once in a great while I witness something scary—a mini brawl with nasty name-calling and fists flying outside the McDonalds on a Saturday morning. I’ve witnessed this often enough to conclude that this particular fast-food outlet inspires more violent behavior during sunlight hours than all the bars in the neighborhood do at night. When I stumble upon people involved in a violent argument, cops in mid arrest or people screaming at one another after a car or car/bike accident, I’m conflicted. Part of me wants to study the action and the other part wants to get away—fast! I try to observe from a safe distance, but…
Not being naturally devious, I tend to revert to my nice state-of-being and go back to polite conversations with neighbors in the elevator, amiable chats with strangers at wine tastings, benign comments in ladies’ rooms… Little do those innocent strangers know that a second or two before my sweet real self emerges, I’m imagining a lethal end or a terrible turn of events for their fictional persona?