Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Writerly World View

Rick's post last Tuesday, "Blade Runner Oscar Pistorius hits the wall," has had me thinking since I read it. This alleged crime has certainly puzzled and frustrated him.

He's a writer, for sure.

What qualities should a writer have? It's a question I'm occasionally asked. Not sure I know. Not sure there are a set of must-have personality traits. But I have seen similarities among a lot of writers I know. Most are interested to the point of being obsessed with the human condition, with trying to figure out why people act as they do. During an interview with Mystery Scene, author Sue Grafton once said, “Mysteries are about the psychology of crime and the psychology of human nature.” In short, most writers I know are arm-chair psychologists.

I'm intrigued by the human nature and the why dun-it component of both fictional and real-world crimes. And I think there's something else that drives writers, particularly crime writers, vanity. We believe our world view to be correct and worth sharing. In the New York Times' "Writers on Writing" series, James Lee Burke once said, “A real writer [thinks] he has a perfect vision of the truth, in the same way that the camera lens can close perfectly on a piece of the external world.” I plead guilty as charged.

Here's where Rick and I differ. He says he doesn't believe he'll write about the Pistorius situation. Not so with me. I'm certain I will – consciously or unconsciously – write about the traumas and rage that must have been present at the scene. Not explicitly or salaciously. But I, too, have a set of questions that I keep coming back to, questions about what really went on in that house that night, questions about the terror Reeva Steenkamp must have felt, about the rage Oscar Pistorius must have felt. Questions like, How does one go from being the hero of the Summer Olympic Games to a downfall as swift and sudden as the narrative of Oedipus?

For me, it comes down to the human condition: Was Pistorius's downfall really as swift and sudden as it seems? Did anyone see it coming? What could have possibly driven the two people in that house that night to the end? What conversations took place? What did each person feel?

So Pistorius and Steenkamp will show up in my work. Just not directly. And I believe they will appear in many other writers' works as well. It's what we do.

1 comment:

j welling said...

Lovely. Well said. Inspiring, even. Thanks.