So. This week’s topic is “Being Bad.” After I got the Michael Jackson song out of my head, I wondered if I should write a little quiz about my own personal history of badness. If I did, it might go something like this:
True or false … has Jess Riley ever:
- cheated on a test
- imbibed something illegal, something that might be popular at a Phish show
- been ticketed for breaking the law
- been arrested
- gone to a strip club with friends
- lied to her parents, especially about taking their mini-van joyriding on a school night
- raided the workplace stash of office supplies
- gotten into a wicked slap fight with her cousin
- thrown a wild party while her parents were on vacation
- worn white after Labor Day
- cut her own hair, badly, for 14 years
- gotten a tattoo
- written purple prose
- thrown a friend into a garbage can
- participated in a riot
- failed to realize that the man sitting next to her during a five-hour bus ride was blind (“Hey, isn’t that a beautiful cloud? It’s shaped like Snoopy’s head!”), and years later, that the woman with whom she’d been conversing for hours was missing an arm (okay, this is really more about my powers of perception being bad)
- drunk-dialed a person who was completely wrong for her
- eaten an entire bag of Doritos / entire package of Girl Scout cookies in one sitting
- mixed crushed laxatives in with a batch of cookies to determine who was stealing her lunch from her locker
- danced or sung in such a way as to inspire pity from complete strangers
Only some of these “possible” youthful indiscretions are true. (I promise.) And years later, I feel I’ve graduated from Badness U and moved toward the light—I donate to charitable causes, I love my family and visit them as often as possible, I obey traffic signs and defer to other drivers, heck, I raised monarch butterflies in my bathroom last summer. My antics have gone from crimson to beige. Funny how age does that to you.
Now I reserve the badness for my characters, and oh my goodness is that FUN!
I’m currently writing about characters who are having affairs, running away from problems, lying to loved ones, smarting off to strangers, and getting into fistfights. Heck, some of the very minor characters in my Work In Progress (“WIP—WIP it Good!” Thank you, Devo) are even hardened convicts serving time for murder, robbery, forgery, burglary, assault, rape, and manufacture and/or sale of a controlled substance. Because who wants to read a book called The Very Kind Lady Who Knits Sweaters and Has a Loyal and Loving Spouse, Bright, Devoted Children, Thoughtful Neighbors, A Clean Driving Record, and No Visible Scars or Rashes Anywhere. Okay, maybe the elderly women who live next door to me would read that, but I would want to smother myself with an arsenic-dusted pillow after writing such a story. Snore City!
So have fun writing about the bad, but be careful living it. Because you might end up a character in someone else’s book. Or you could get fired. Or injured. Or divorced. Or arrested. And nobody wants that to happen. Unless you’re aiming to write one hell of a memoir.