I've having trouble with crazy people lately. Not just with my apartment neighbor, who likes to exit the building and shout, "Fuck!" at the top of his lungs (I mean, REALLY at the top of his lungs) for no apparent reason and who I recently saw chuck an entire huge, open container of baked beans into our dumpster to prove some vague argumentative point to his goth girlfriend (who didn't really seem that impressed-maybe she hated five pounds of baked beans as much as he did? Had they just returned from some particularly volatile family reunion picnic thing with her vampire family?).
No, I having trouble with my own crazy person, my crazy little Jennifer Tompkin, villain of Special. We've gotten three very good-but-no-thanks responses from editors so far, and all three in some way mention her character as "too over the top" and lacking believability. So now I'm left pondering what changes to make, and it's exactly at this point in the writing process I wish I could just bury my head in the sand and fall asleep for about a thousand years.
Sadly, you can't really indulge in such luxuries if you want to sell a novel, so tonight I turned to an old friend for a good example on how to write a terrifying female villain, one Mr. Stephen King, author of Misery:
"'A ways,' she said vaguely, looking off toward the window. There was a queer interval of silence, and Paul was frightened by what he saw on her face, because what he saw was nothing; the black nothing of a crevasse folded into an alpine meadow, a blackness where no flowers grew and into which the drop might be long. It was the face of a woman who was momentarily untethered from all the vital positions and landmarks of her life, a woman who had forgotten not only the memory she was in the process of recounting but memory itself...in that moment he thought that her thoughts had become as much as he imagined her physical self: solid, fibrous, unchannelled, with no places of hiatus."
Okay, well, if you look past the clunky writing (you could do a whole blog of clunky King passages, if you were that kind of bored, mean type of person)but he does have knack for describing (and describing, and describing) a person both believable and believably crazy at the same time.
With that said, I do wonder what a market nervous NY editor in 2011 would make of a novel like Misery if you scratched King's name off it. From a certain angle, you could say the character of Annie Wilkes is one of the most over-the-top villains ever.
Or maybe that's just the devil in me?