Writers are the greatest devils of all. If you don’t believe me, try it out for yourself. See how it takes you over and makes you relish in the control you now have; the power. See how it makes you go just that tiny, teeny-weeny bit insane. Ever seen those villain redemption movies? I hear Disney has taken a liking to them. Well darling, I’m here to tell you that those are my proof. See those screenwriters, with the need to justify their own ghastly imaginations and machinations? See how popular it is? Because the Devil isn’t just about being nasty. He’s about making others do his dirty work.
But doesn’t Good always win out over the Devil and his Evil in the end? Isn’t that what stories are for? For the hero to win and the villain to lose no matter how much we like them?
The thing is, you could just as easily say that Evil will always come back for Good to defeat. Does that make Evil the true winner? You have to admit that in some ways, Evil has more persistence than Good.
Beatrice stands behind me, ready to do my bidding. Her eyes water, ready to spill over and ruin her thickly applied mascara, but I don’t care. It sells after all. My fingers hover over the keyboard, conflicting with themselves.
Klay stalks in from where he was waiting by the door. “You needed me?”
“Yes dear, I did,” I say without looking at him. “As always.” He nods, dressed in a fully black suit like usual, which complements his dark hair. Obviously there isn’t any other color for villains to wear. Some even have a name which implies it. And the reason they’re all so similar is because we like them that way.
Beatrice mutters in indignation.
“No, don’t think I’ve forgotten you,” I smirk, hands typing quickly now. “No, I definitely haven’t.”
“The fact that he’s here shows that clearly enough!” she yells. I hear Klay’s bootsteps cross the floor behind me. He’s supposedly the epitome of all that’s morally wrong in the world. And yet here’s another shred of proof for you: it’s the so-called “evil” ones that draw us in. The ones you idolize, the ones you swoon over, the ones fans can’t help loving.
I turn to the two behind me. “Please,” I begin, being as patronizing as I possibly can. “I need you to talk to each other, not to me. This novel won’t write itself.”
“Of course.” Klay bows to me. The villains are always the obedient ones. And the ones who are always way too charming for their own good.
Beatrice sticks her nose in the air. Born of wealth and privilege. Just the way I made her. “I won’t go with you until you tell me where you put Mac!” I sigh to myself. I really must find a better name than Mac. It just makes Beatrice sound like even more of an idiot.
“Seriously, you don’t still think you care for him?” Klay asks her, putting on his silky tone and inching closer.
“Of course I do,” Beatrice insists. Then her expression shifts. “But that could change, if you would just tell me―”
I roll my eyes. “Stop.” They do. “You’re too cliché, this will never sell.”
“Well what do you suppose we do?” Beatrice asks, sounding offended. Offended. What an idiotic thing to be, considering I could have her dangling off the side of this apartment building as we speak. Ooh and maybe Klay could save her. Enemies to lovers is a well-loved classic.
I consider her for a moment. “You were hired to pretend to love Mac,” I tell her. “You did start to care about him but you care about your motives more.” A brief flash of pain crosses her face before it’s replaced with a cold glare of determination.
“Of course. I needed the money.”
“But you’re not completely out of this,” I say, smirking again. “You still have a heart. And unfortunately for you, you’re starting to care for this morally gray devil.” There’s that word again: devil. See how it keeps coming up?
Another flash of pain and then Beatrice cuts a sideways glance at Klay, who makes eye contact. Ah, a bit cliché still. But aren’t all romance tropes? And here’s more evidence for you: most enemies-to-lovers tropes are devilish thoughts, fabricated by people who can’t stand their own boring lives and must make others more torturous for their own amusement. But the characters aren’t real, you say? That doesn’t change the intent. Not to mention the success many writers experience―yet too many of us have not.
I turn back to my computer. “Continue.”
“Where are all your comrades?” Klay asks, all sly now. “No one to help you?”
“I didn’t tell them I was here,” Beatrice says, stony. Good, she’s better this way. No more of the crying, moldable piece of wax I had a few minutes ago. I have to make this good after all. There are expectations to uplift, things to get done, and editors to satisfy.
Klay is taken aback by this. “You didn’t bring Mac in?”
“No,” she says. “I turned him in last night. Got a fortune.” Too evil? Maybe. I add a catch in her voice. Klay looks startled at the statement but also, thankfully, slightly pleased. He might be the one character I wrote right.
“Come,” he says. “I have somewhere to show you.”
A knock sounds at my door. Is it Jasper? “Ash?” I start at the sound of my nickname. “I brought you some coffee since you’ve probably been up since four thirty again.”
I put my head in my hands, sighing. I don’t even have to look to know Beatrice and Klay are gone. Not that I don’t know where they went.
Mark comes in with the coffee, cheerful as usual. One look at my face and he asks, “It’s not getting too dark in there again, is it? It’s okay to come back to the real world sometimes, you know; get those evil characters out of your head.”
Morally gray, I think. It’s hard to explain that I am the most evil of all my characters. Maybe someday I’ll just slip inside and tumble around and around and land in their world. And instead of getting crushed under the feet of that fantastical world, I’ll rise and gain the power I never had here. Then I really will order them all around.
“Am I evil?” I ask him, sipping my coffee. It had better revive me. I don’t tell Mark this but these days I’ve been getting up at four, losing myself in these people before the sun comes in and shows me reality.
“All writers are evil.” He smiles at me. “It’s a known fact.”
I give him a smile in return, then say, “But seriously, I just made one of them turn in her traveling companion for money and fall in love with a murderer.”
“Wow, that does sound exciting. I can’t wait to read it,” he says, kissing me on the head and taking my now empty coffee mug from my hand. At the door he turns around and adds, “We all think dark thoughts sometimes. Books are great because we can think them through and see why what happened isn’t suited for real life.” Fourth piece of evidence right there. From my very own partner.
You didn’t use to be like this, a voice whispers in my mind. Yes I did, I think, refusing to even consider that this career has changed me somehow; and not for the better. Even if I did, change was necessary. The books didn’t sell before. I go quiet, shoving away these thoughts, and feel the story return.
Soon enough Mac is laughing harshly behind me, grabbing my hand and pulling me to my feet. “If my entire existence is being rewritten because it was too boring before, you might as well make me another villain. There’s a reason someone wanted me caught, isn’t there?”
“Ooh. What. An. Idea,” I say, turning around to type a note into my computer. Tragic and shady past. Perfect.
He laughs another harsh laugh. “I thought I was good. But you really don’t care about my or anyone else’s well being do you?” Mac crosses his arms over his leather jacket, sparks jumping between his fingers.
“No, dear, I really don’t,” I reply, writing his words down as a perfect line for his approaching fight with Beatrice.
His little sister walks in and smiles at me. “Darling!” I exclaim, giving her a hug. She’s my favorite and it hurts to have to make her bait. Beatrice may not end up with Mac, but that doesn’t mean she feels complete apathy towards him― or that she doesn’t have a soft spot for his adorable, pig-tailed, younger sister. I hope she doesn’t die…
Mac rips her away from me, holding her close. “Stop doing that!” he yells.
“Doing what?” I blink at him.
“Pretending you care about her!”
“It’s my job, honey,” I say, giving him a falsely sympathetic smile. “But unfortunately I do care.” I don’t tell him how much writing affects me. He would just tell me that’s further proof I should stop messing with his life. After all, that’s how I made him.
He growls and pops out of my sight along with his sister.
“You’re conflicted,” a new voice says right behind me. I flinch but don’t whirl.
“I’m sorry Jasper.” I refuse to look at him and see his disappointment.
“You had Klay torture Alex right in front of me,” he says, voice pained. “And now Beatrice is in love with him. You might even give him redemption. She might even end up with him!”
“Don’t try to justify yourself. Of all of us, I know why you do what you do. But I came because you’re changing. It’s getting to you. You’re conflicted, yes, but in your head you’ve started thinking about yourself as a villain. Not our hero.”
“If I was your hero―”
“There wouldn’t be a story to write, I know,” he says, and walks around to stand in front of me. “You could at least be an anti-hero. Not a villain.” Jasper is taller than I am, but I don’t feel any smaller as he looks into my face.
I stare back at him and harden myself against the look in his eyes. “You’re a figment of my imagination. My conscience.”
“Then your conscience is telling you to improve!”
“Well it seems to be doing a better job of convincing me to do the opposite! There’s no one like you and the others in my world. Only dull, meaningless, morally gray people who will never be like the ones I invent. The people here need to see others, some like them, some not, going through fictional, oftentimes difficult, things. I need that.”
“You need to see us and others suffer.”
“Yes, humans are pretty twisted that way aren’t they? Now go away, I’m done with you.” One sorrowful look from his soulful brown eyes and then he’s gone. I really hope the powers of persuasion I gave him don’t affect me.
I collapse onto my desk chair and begin typing furiously. Because this is my job and I’m only at the beginning of this draft. This is my life. I relish in it, I chose it. Even the hard parts when it seems like I’ll never make it through.
I chose to be a villain. I chose to transform myself into someone who will make their characters suffer in order to create the best narrative. I chose to be the puppeteer. I chose to be one of the greatest devils of all.