The longer I live in this world, the more people I encounter whose only goal seems to be to upset others. These sociopaths vary in their degrees of intensity but there are a lot of them out there. We encounter them in our working lives and in our personal lives. And when we leave one behind, another one appears disconcertingly to take their unpleasant place.
I’m not fond of confrontations so when I come across these people, I tend to hold my tongue, partly to retain my own emotional health and partly because when I’m later holding my pen, my revenge will be more satisfying and more long-lasting than any face-to-face clash ever could be.
And that, of course, is why you should never mess with a writer. Because a writer will generally have the ability and the motivation to take his or her revenge in a form that could end up in print for thousands, tens of thousands, potentially millions of people to read and remember long after the initial incident.
Jeffrey Archer is a great example. He was an MP when he unwittingly invested his life savings in a fraudulent cleaning company, which ultimately went belly up and which drove him to the brink of bankruptcy. Although I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it as the fast track to riches these days, Archer wrote his first book, Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less, in order to pay back his creditors. The plot? A group of men cheated out of their hard-earned money scheme to get it back without the fraudster realising it, a million dollars exactly, not a penny more, not a penny loss.
Luckily, I’ve never experienced the sort of bad luck (or the sort of good luck) that Jeffrey Archer has but I’ve come across my fair share of sociopaths. I don’t need to write about them here because all you need to do is read my first book, Enemies Closer, to discover a few of them. They aren’t all in one character but spread out across several people. They are the villains, the incompetents, the minions and they often end up dead as a result of their own greed or stupidity. And if they don’t end up dead, they often end up the victims of injuries that make male readers pass out at just the idea of the things I describe. Cassandra Broderick, the main character in Enemies Closer, demonstrating to a male minion why women wear stilettos (or at least why she does) remains one of my favourite scenes.
I’m a fan of revenge but I’m also a fan of subtext. I love the Sara Bareilles song “Love Song”, which sounds like a woman telling a man that she won’t write him a love song just because it seems like a great way to express her love for him. I love it even more because it was actually inspired by Sara’s music label constantly asking her to write a pop song, a love song, and this was her unintentionally yet incredibly successful way of telling them to go jump.
A tip for making a sociopath think twice about making you their target: let them know that you’re a writer and that in your writing, you are God. You make all the decisions and everything you experience (good and bad) will end up in your writing. It might not end up making a difference but when you finally take your revenge, the sociopath certainly won’t be able to claim they weren’t forewarned.
And a few tips for taking your revenge in your writing:
*Disguise characters based on real people at least a little bit – your revenge will hardly be satisfying if it’s closely followed by a libel lawsuit.
*Take your revenge on each sociopath only once – any more than that and it starts to seem like an obsession. Besides, if there’s anything a sociopath hates more than being ridiculed, it’s being forgotten.
*Revenge alone isn’t a good enough reason to write – you also need to have a great story to weave it into. After all, writing success is the best revenge of all.