D is for Dexter

Hello, and welcome to Blogging A to Z, 2017! Thanks for stopping by.

My theme this month is 26 of the Best Characters in Fiction.

IMG_8320Full disclosure here… I once got a “talking to” at a job because I told co-workers I wanted to be a serial killer when I grow up. In my defense, most of the time, social workers and therapists have a dark sense of humor. But, lesson learned to be aware of my audience. Anyway…

This is on my list of “Ideas I Wish I Had First.” I actually do keep that list, and I don’t add every book I love to it, but this one is on it. Though I probably couldn’t have done as good of a job as Jeff Lindsey did with Darkly Dreaming Dexter.

If all you know of this character is from the TV show, then you need to run out and get the book or audiobook right now. Seriously. The TV show was great, but it was not the same thing. The first season takes a lot of it’s story from the first book, but it completely missed my favorite part of this character: his Dark Passenger.

That’s what Dexter calls the part of him that needs to kill. It whispers to him and gives him these murderous urges. Dexter’s adoptive father, Harry, helped him channel his urges into something different, namely killing bad people.

Dexter is the part of all of us (or maybe just me) that has that sense of vigilante justice, that wants bad people to get what’s coming to them. He’s the ultimate antihero, because he isn’t a good guy, but he does more good than bad.. doesn’t he?

At the same time, Dexter makes me laugh. He’s genuinely funny in the books, probably because he doesn’t mean to be. I relate to that so much, because I’m only funny by accident. (No, really, just ask my friends. When I *try* to be funny, I fail spectacularly.)

I love antiheroes and characters with moral complexity. It’s easy to love and relate to a hero, but an antihero spotlights the complexity of what it means to be human.

What do you think of Dexter, or antiheroes in general?


R is for Red Dragon

Unknown-6Red Dragon, by Thomas Harris, is technically part of the universe that encompasses Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal, though it takes place before either of those books.  It introduces Dr. Hannibal Lecter.

My absolute favorite character is Will Graham, who is a brilliant profiler who can get into the heads of serial killers.  This book kicked off a lifetime fascination with serial killers, and made me (for a long time) want to be an FBI profiler.  Ultimately, I didn’t go that direction with my career, which part of me has always regretted.

Red Dragon is about a man who believes that every time he murders someone, he is moving toward becoming “The Great Red Dragon.”  Will Graham is asked to come out of retirement to help the FBI catch him.

Will Graham is very good at his job, but he retired because connecting with the monsters in that way became too much for him.  The price was too high.  I’d never thought of people like him being tortured by their talent.  It made me wonder what secrets people keep behind their masks of competence.

This may also be the first book I read where the bad guy is sympathetic, and even likable at times.  Yes, he’s clearly insane.  Yes, he’s dangerous.  But he’s also tortured, complex, and has redeeming qualities.  It made me want to understand bad guys.

I love a bad guy who’s just pure evil, but I also love ones who are multi-dimensional.  Bad guys and good guys both have secrets and needs and whole other lives.

It’s a dark book, but if you enjoy this kind of thing and have never read it, it’s my favorite of the three.

“Fear comes with imagination, it’s a penalty, it’s the price of imagination.”
― Thomas Harris

Where Do Ideas Come From?

Dead Horse Ranch State Park, Arizona Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Dead Horse Ranch State Park, Arizona
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

I laugh sometimes when I watch movies, and the disclaimer comes up at the end that any resemblance to real people is unintentional.

I think that most writers are inspired by true events at some level.  I walk in the mall and see someone dressed in a certain way and think, “Hmm, I wonder if…”  I read the news and think “What if they…?”  A story grows from that tiny seed.  I’m not a visual person, so when I describe characters, I use other people as models, mostly actors and actresses, but still…

I starting thinking about this after the recent controversy between Stephen King and the BTK killer’s family.  The BTK killer’s daughter was angry by what she saw as exploitation by Stephen King in being “inspired” by those events.  He responded and explained that his recent movie, “A Good Marriage,” was inspired the the events, but that the story isn’t about the killer; it’s about a “brave and determined woman.

I can’t even begin to imagine what the BTK killer’s family went through, but I do understand that drive to understand.  Most people avoid what scares them, but writers will often get inside things that scare them, that seem foreign or alien, and ask questions, make assumptions.  In the best stories, the characters drive the story, and most of the time, they go unexpected places and get there in unexpected ways.

I have a story that I’m currently working on, and the story was inspired by a PostSecret.  The story was meant to be a short story (under 2,500 words), but because the characters wouldn’t allow their story to be told that quickly, the story is currently topping 11,000 words, and I now have to decide if I want to go back and edit the beginning and hope that the story is told, or if I want to expand the story and just make it into a short novel.  I didn’t plan for it, and I tried to keep the story shorter.  As a result, I now have to do a lot more work than if I had just listened to the characters in the first place.

I sympathize with the family, but I believe King meant no harm.  Those of you who read my blog on Feel Good Fridays might be confused by my attitude on this, because I’m all about giving positive things most of our attention.  And while that’s true, I never meant to suggest that we should ignore things that go on in the dark.  The things that go on in the dark can be scary if we don’t shed light on them, if we try to pretend they don’t exist.  I try not to live in fear, because I truly believe that fear gives power to things, and that exposing them takes that power away.  Early man sat around the fire and learned that stories could chase away the dark more powerfully than fire.  They told scary stories for the thrill, yes, but also because telling scary stories is like whistling in the graveyard.  It’s a talisman, bravado, but also a way to understand and take some of the mystery away.

So gather ’round my fire, and I’ll tell you a story.

K is for Killing

Phoenix, AZ; Photo credit: Doree Weller

Phoenix, AZ; Photo credit: Doree Weller

“Do all men kill the things they do not love?”
-William Shakespeare

I have a confession that may surprise you… I’m not a killer.

No, really.  When I used to play Legend of Zelda, friends would gleefully cut down the chickens, and I felt guilty about it.  So guilty that I’m still remembering it 20 years (or so) later.  A friend told me that she liked to play the Sims, name them after people she was angry with, then starve them or not let them go to the bathroom until they died.  I thought it sounded like a great idea.  But I couldn’t do it.  Again with the guilt.

I cried when (spoilers) Ruth and Danny died in Lightning by Dean Koontz.  I cried pretty much the whole last book of Harry Potter.

I’ve killed off a few characters of my own, and it’s usually painful.  Depending on how long I’ve spent with that character, I’m in their head.  I know their wants and needs.  I know their secrets.  And then, because the book calls for it, I kill them.

It’s very difficult, even when I remind myself that death is part of the cycle, and that they’re not real.  Though they are to me.  Nevermind.

I used to tell people I wanted to be a serial killer when I grew up.  But maybe I wouldn’t be all that good at it, after all.

“He divines remedies against injuries; he knows how to turn serious accidents to his own advantage; whatever does not kill him makes him stronger.”
-Friedrich Nietzsche

Interview with Jeff Lindsay

I’m a big fan of the series, Darkly Dreaming Dexter, by Jeff Lindsay.  I love the Showtime version of Dexter as well, but there are certain elements of the books that the show just can’t top.  Centurion Agency recently interviewed him about Dexter, where Dexter emerged from, and his possible future.

In the article, the author says that he didn’t expect anyone to like the book.  Dexter has taken on the persona of almost a lovable character, which is interesting, as he really isn’t.  He’s a serial killer.  Yet how many people haven’t fantasized about killing the rude, the mean, and those who’ve escaped justice?  I have to admit, I cheered for Hannibal Lecter too.  He’s not a good guy by any means, but he does have rules he lives by.  Hannibal Lecter only eats the rude.  Dexter only kills bad people.  I don’t recommend becoming a serial killer to purge the world, but in fiction, it definitely has its strong points.

Check out this very interesting article.