I’m on the fourth novel now—almost finished actually—and I’m finding the conclusion difficult to write because Miss Havana might step out of her kinder, gentler character and revert, if only momentarily, to the heinous bitch she was in the beginning. This is hard for me because I’ve actually grown to like her.
Maybe the problem is that I identify more with the evil side of Miss Havana’s behavior than the nicer side. My wife would probably agree. Anyway, I have attempted to transfer Miss Havana’s evil to her daughter, Lilith. Like the evil Miss Havana, Lilith is easy to portray. In fact, she has become more disgusting with each book. Now she’s so bad even I have trouble with her. Does anyone really act like that? I mean, is it ever appropriate for an author to, say, to make fun of an anorexic for being skinny, even if it is done through an evil character? That’s what I mean by a problem with appropriateness—are there topics too taboo for comedy?
I wrote another blog on the limits of bad taste last year when I wrote The Training Bra. In that blog, Lucifer offered Lilith as a “sexual favor” to a couple of his henchmen, an encouragement for them to do his bidding. One of my reviewers thought it a little crass that Lucifer would consider a “rape for loyalty” exchange. Fathers are not supposed to act like that. I gathered opinions from a number of you, and the consensus was that “bad things happen to bad people.” As a result, Lilith got hers (and she didn’t take it gracefully).
Okay, Lilith got abused, no problem; she didn’t have a soul to mar anyway. Now the stakes have been raised. In The Trophy Wife, Miss Havana becomes God’s mate (at least to the extent that immaculate conception applies to mating). So now Miss Havana is on a giant pedestal and she has a very wholesome daughter named Angel. But bad things keep happening to Angel, precipitated (of course) by her half-sister, Lilith. Now, here is where I’m having my problem. Should terrible things happen to a really nice person? To kill or not to kill (violently), that is the question.
I actually planned on writing a five book series: The Substitute; Oh, Heavens, Miss Havana!; The Training Bra; The Trophy Wife; and Sisters. Now I’m wondering, if Lilith gets too darn mean in The Trophy Wife, will that discourage people from reading Sisters (assuming I really do write it)?
The specific scene that precipitated this blog concerned eating disorders. I originally planned to make skinny jokes about that, but then delved into the real issues surrounding the disability. Being the sensitive male that I am, that researched caused me to back off. The intent of the books is to make people laugh, not to trigger a purging episode or to make anyone feel bad. I suspect all authors struggle with this. It would be easy to go overboard on a sensitive topic—and everyone would hate you for it. I don’t want that. I don’t even want people to hate my characters. I want them to laugh at their ridiculousness, nothing more.
Up to now, the comedy in my Miss Havana novels has dealt with dicey issues, and the bad guys always come out on the short end of things; few innocent people or characters are harmed in the stories. However, with the books gradually depicting an improvement in the behavior of my main character, that has become harder. Now I am faced with a kinder, gentler ending … and I’m not sure I like it. Someone MUST die. That’s just the way it is. But this time, it could be the good guy.
Overall, to maintain a modicum of good taste, here are the rules I have attempted to follow (feel free to comment if you like):
a. Necrophilia. Jokes about such deviant behavior are okay, but the story should stop short of actually cracking open a cold one, even though the character would never have to say he was sorry.
b. Incest. Not cool. Threats are okay though, as is often the case between Lucifer and Lilith.
c. Rape. Used sparingly and reserved for the worst of the worst (for those without a soul to scar). Lilith gets passed around a lot, but she deserves it. I will say, in defense of defiling Lilith, she gives more than she gets—to the point that some demons refuse to take her when Lucifer offers her as a bargaining chip in some wacked-out scheme. Lucifer gets his too … when Lilith is in charge.
d. Killing of the guilty. Have at it. This happens on a continuing basis.
e. Killing of the innocent. Poop happens, but not in every paragraph. A few innocent people die in the rampages of the devil’s people on “the surface.”
f. Making light of sickness. This one bothers me. I haven’t made any jokes about cancer, eating disorders and the like, except in very tasteful ways. For example, two bulimics might barf playful comments at each other’s disease, but not at each other.
g. Religion and politics. Fair game in all circumstances. The books are comedy so the barbs can be hilarious.
h. Bestiality. Never in detail, but okay by reference. For example, when the farmer says, “Don’t believe those sheep. They’re all liars.”
h. Child abuse. Not permitted, except to point out its horror … and to take action against perpetrators (as when Miss Havana goes after the child sex traders).
Well, that’s about it. If it’s not on the list, then it probably happens somewhere in the novels. It’s item “f” that causes me the most trouble. People with sickness already have enough to deal with. It just seems wrong to attempt to get a snicker at their expense. So I haven’t.
Feel free to leave a comment; let me know what you think. I’m always open to new ideas.
The Substitute and Oh, Heavens, Miss Havana! are available from Solstice Publishing and at amazon.com/author/jameshatch. The Training Bra should be released soon. I will begin the editing process for The Trophy Wife sometime in the next two months. Sisters is still a gleam in my eye. I’ve given a short excerpt from The Training Bra below (from Lucifer’s POV when he’s just about to kill Shelly, Miss Havana’s host). Please enjoy.
We are about five hundred miles from
Omaha when Shelly whines that her legs are
cramping. Her cough is getting worse, she’s holding her stomach like she got
cramps and her bowels are growling so loud I can hear them from across the
front seat. She says she needs to stop. What a baby.
I’m torn. A cough with diarrhea is a bad combination, and a butt explosion could foul the car with a stinking mess. On the other hand, it will be far easier to dump her body if no one else is around when she croaks. I have just about decided to drive straight through when, to my surprise, Shelly bolts upright and screams, “You fucking idiot, she said stop the damn car!”
Oh, dear, I fear I’ve awakened a sleeping monster—the high-pitched shrill whine sounds like my ex. I glance over just in time to see her eyes flash red before Shelly’s body slumps back into the seat. Crap. Maybe I should stop. The heavily-salted French fries I gave Shelly for lunch might be pushing her over the edge.
I gleefully rub Dick’s hands together as I enter the motel office in
. The proprietor is a middle-aged
female with boobs far too small for her butt. From the back, she looks like two
Buicks fighting for the same parking space. I try not to stare as I offer a
friendly compliment. “Did you know nine out of ten men prefer a woman with a
big butt … and the tenth prefers the other nine men?” Laramie, Wyoming
She looks up with a deadpan expression. “Would you like me to call the police?”
“No, no, that won’t be necessary. How about just checking my new wife and me into your very best room? Anything to die for would be great.”
Her flatline expression doesn’t change an iota. Is it possible someone as outgoing and flamboyant as me has come through here before? She blinks before answering; at least I know she’s alive. “We have the bridal suite … if you have cash.”
I pay for three days, plus a big tip, and ask for extra “Do Not Disturb” signs while winking suggestively and giving her two thumbs-up. All she says is, “I need a hundred dollar deposit in case you damage something.”
I grin as I peel off another hundred. “No problem. Do you ever wonder if the bills you get have been in a stripper’s ass?”
She shakes her head as she slips my payment into a slot in the floor. “Your parents must be siblings.”
Well, that wasn’t very nice. Too bad I’ve already tipped her. Oh, well, with luck I’ll leave alone in the morning and won’t deal with her again.
I settle Shelly into the bridal suite and excuse myself to seek out food for the evening. She needs sleep to bring her to the brink of death, and I would hate to disturb her. Now that I’m free of the collar, I don’t have to play Lilith’s game any longer. As it has been from the beginning of eternity, I can go directly to Croco’s waiting line simply by killing my host. No one will miss Dick anyway. He’s such a dork.
Thanks for reading!
James L. Hatch